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Adiantum capillus-veneris

(Maidenhair Fern)

This evergreen groundcover grows to 30 cm high and 20cm wide. It is suitable for all soils types but prefers a well-drained soil which is moist. It can grow in semi-shade or deep shade. It is an ideal plant for containers and is often used in a bathroom. They don't like to be in a draught. It is medicinal and is used for coughs, colds, pleurisy, bronchitus, catarrh and respiratory ailments and it is believed to be mildly diuretic. In Europe a drink called Capillaire was considered a favourite drink for the ladies of the court. It is made by boiling 3 cups of sugar in 3 cups of water, the juice of 3 lemons and 3 cups of fern fronds. Boil for about 30 minutes until thick. Cool and bottle. It can be taken neat as a cough syrup or diluted. It also makes a good, warm night time toddy if one is tired or cold. Dried leaves are burnt and inhaled for blocked sinus and fresh leaves are stuffed into the shirt for chest problems. The name is derived from the Greek 'diantos' which means incapable of being wetted. The leaves of the Maiden Hair fern shed water and will remain dry even in a rain shower.

Agapanthus inapertus

(Drooping Agapanthus)

This is a deciduous groundcover, (1m -1.2m), which is frost resistant, drought resistant and fast growing in the sun, shade or semi-shade. The blue or purple flowers open in summer and they attract birds and butterflies. It occurs naturally in very cold grasslands and makes a good garden subject. One must just interplant it with evergreen groundcovers so that there is not a gap in your garden bed during the winter. The name is derived from the Greek Agape so this is the love flower. Inapertus means 'not open' and refers to the flowers.

Agapanthus nana

(Miniature Blue||White Agapanthus)

An evergreen groundcover that grows to 25cm high and 35cm wide with grass-like leaves and sky blue or white flowers. It flowers in profusion in summer. It is frost resistant, drought resistant and fast growing. It thrives in the sun, shade and semi-shade. It is also an ideal plant for container. It attracts birds and butterflies. If it is mass planted it is impressive sight. It is also suitable for townhouse gardens. Use them in mixed borders, within flowerbeds or along pathways. The word 'nana' means dwarf or small.

Agapanthus praecox

(Common Agapanthus)

A well-loved, well used, dependable groundcover which is endemic to the Eastern Cape and Kwazulu Natal in South Africa. It is frost hardy, drought resistant and looks spectacular when mass planted. It was first described in 1679 in Europe and first planted there in 1692 where it is now a popular hothouse plant. There the common name is "African Hyacinth". Linnaeus called it an "African Lily". The name is derived from the Greek Agape so this is the love flower. Praecox means 'early' which refers to it's early flowering. Pregnant women wear pieces of the root made into necklace to ensure a healthy baby and ensure fertility. They also take a decoction of the root to ensure an easy birth and the newborn is washed in the same brew . The medicinal uses are as a result of the anti-inflammatory properties of the leaves that are used are bandages. The Zulu use it to treat heart diseases, paralysis and flu. They also wrap the leaves around their tired feet. It is also magical as it is used as a sprinkling charm against lightening. It’s a most useful plant which is undemanding and will grow in sun or shade and is water wise. It is also useful to stabilize a bank. The flowers are long lasting in a vase and they dry well for pot-pourri as they retain their colour. Large clumps can be divided after flowering. When replanted the leaves should be cut back.

Albuca nelsonii

(Nelson’s Slime Lily)

Albuca nelsonii is an evergreen, bulbous perennial, which grows in clumps and is 60 to 120cm high when in flower. The leaves are strap shaped and rather sappy. Its flowers are white with green stripes. They are produced from September to November. The leaves are attractive all year. This bulb needs very little water so are useful for a waterwise, drought resistant garden. They thrive equally well in sun or full shade. The flowers are ideal for the vase. The name is derived from the Latin 'albus' and refers to the white flowers.

Aloe arborescens

(Krantz Aloe)

This evergreen shrub is frost resistant and fast growing. It grows happily in the sun, shade or semi-shade. The lovely orange flowers open in winter and they attract birds and butterflies. This aloe makes a good thorny barrier and will thrive in a container. It is a wonderful medicinal plant and I’ve used the leaf sap successfully for an allergic reaction to Ornithogallum leaf sap. I cut the leaves in half, lengthwise and made them into bandages and they certainly did the trick. They are also used to treat Xray burns, burns and sunburn. Leaf decoctions are used during childbirth. It is also used by the Zulu as a sprinkling charm to protect against storms. The leaf sap is used to promote wound healing as it is anti-bacterial, anti-ulcer and anti-inflammatory, anti-carcinogenic and hypoglycaemic. The are numerous cancer cures using this leaf sap. Decoctions of the leaves are used in childbirth and to treat sick calves. In the Transkei it is used for stomach ache and given to prevent chickens from getting sick. One of our staff puts slices of the leaves in the birdbaths that our chickens drink from and her granny taught her that when she was little. This is the Aloe that was used in the Orient to treat irradiation burn victims of Hiroshima. The word Aloe comes from the Greek and refers to the bitter leaf gel.

Aloe now Aloidendron barberae (bainesii)

(Tree Aloe)

This well-known tall Aloe is a favourite with landscapers who want to make a statement in a garden. It is an architectural plant that can grow as tall is 18 meters with a trunk of 1m in the wild. It is fast growing and likes water. The flowers are pinky orange and occur during winter. These flowers attract the sunbirds. The plant is also used for nesting sites of other birds. Protect them from frost for the first few winters. It is successful if planted in a succulent or Aloe garden or rockery. They are susceptible to leaf scale which is a grey. I use Spray and cook which suffocates them. One could also use an insecticide. They can then be removed from the leaves with a soft brush or cloth. Medicinally the sap is used to treat burns, skin irritations and insect bites. Don't plant it too close to walls, pathways or decking as the stem expands with age. The word Aloe comes from the Greek and refers to the bitter leaf gel.Robert Allen Dyer (1874) named this Aloe in honour of Mary Elizabeth Barber 1818-1899 who was a botanist, entomologist, painter and poet. She was a noted authority on South African flora. This is a protected plant in South Africa.

Aloe dyeri

(Shade or Dyers Aloe)

This large evergreen groundcover is one of the largest spotted aloes. It is frost resistant, fast growing in the shade or semi-shade. It has red flowers in late summer or autumn which are very striking, especially if mass planted. They attract birds and will be successful if planted in containers. It occurs in Mpumalanga but copes very well with the cold on the Highveld. The word Aloe comes from the Greek and refers to the bitter leaf gel.

Apodytes dimidiata

(White Pear||Birds-Eye)

An evergreen small tree which has non-invasive roots and glossy, bright green leaves. This small, bushy tree is an excellent choice for a shade tree as it provides deep shade all year long. It would be good for screening. The small, white flowers are fragrant and they open in summer. They are pollinated by bees. The flowers are followed by attractive fruits which are favoured by Rameron pigeons, redwinged starlings, pied barbets and black-eyed bulbuls. The fallen fruit is eaten by thrush and guineafowl. It is frost sensitive initially so protect while it is still young. This tree is valued by the Zulu as it is said to ward off evil. It is medicinal as an infusion from the root bark is used as an enema for intestinal parasites and the leaves are used in the treatment of ear inflammation. It attracts butterflies. The leaves and bark are browsed by Black Rhino and the fruit is eaten by monkeys and game. The bark is often covered in orange or multicoloured lichen. It responds well to pruning and makes a lovely hedge.It is wind resistant and will do well in pots. The wood is used for furniture, flooring and rifle stocks. The leaves are boiled and used as a pot herb and eaten with porridge. More than enough reasons to plant this tree!

Asparagus densiflorus mazeppa

(Foxtail Fern)

An evergreen small, semi-woody plant with fern-like shoots, native to coastal dunes, rocky outcrops or woodlands from the south eastern Cape to southern Mozambique. The cultivar Mazeppa forms broad, arching shoots with fine, needle-like foliage and a conifer-like appearance. The tiny, white flowers are followed by attractive, bright red berries. It adapts well to a wide variety of situations in warm, temperate or tropical climates. It makes a perfect, low maintenance and drought tolerant ground cover for full sun or shade. It also makes an excellent house plant. It’s an ideal plant for container or hanging baskets. It attracts birds. The name is derived from the Greek asparagos=shoot or sprout.

Asparagus densiflorus-sprengerii

(Basket Asparagus)

An evergreen groundcover, which is water wise and fast growing in the sun, shade or semi-shade. The white flowers open in spring and they attract butterflies. The flowers are followed by red berry that attracts fruit eating birds. They are useful for containers and hanging baskets. The bright green, glistening foliage is attractive and is ideal for small gardens and is used in flower arranging. The name is derived from the Greek asparagos=shoot or sprout.

Asparagus falcatus

(Sickle Thorn)

This interesting,evergreen ground cover grows to about 2m, clambering up trees in our forests. It is frost resistant and very fast growing. It will grow in either sun or semi-shade. The little white flowers open in Autumn. It attracts birds and can be used for containers. This asparagus thrives in dry shade so is perfect for a water wise garden. The thorns on the stems are sharp so it can be used as a thorny barrier. The name is derived from the Greek asparagos=shoot or sprout.

Asparagus virgatus

(Broom Asparagus)

A fast growing, evergreen groundcover that grows to 1m high. It is drought resistant and it an ideal plant for containers. It thrives well in semi-shade and it produces white flowers in spring. It attracts birds and does well under trees. It is traditionally used as a sprinkling protective charm and love charm. Medicinally it is used to treat syphilis and intestinal worms. The name is derived from the Greek asparagos=shoot or sprout.

Asystasia bella was Mackaya bella

(Forest Bell Bush)

This small evergreen tree is water wise, fast growing in shade or semi-shade. The delicate mauve or white flowers occur in summer and they attract birds, carpenter bees and butterflies. The glossy dark green leaves help to create an informal screen. The wood is used to make fire by friction and it is an ideal tree for small gardens. It makes a stunning display if planted in a pot and can also serve for screening in a semi-shade area. Can be planted along a stream bank. The River Bell is a desirable garden plant as the roots are not aggressive and it is the larval host plant for the Blue Pansy butterfly. Named for James Townsend Mackay (1775-1862) Scottish horticulturist and curator of the Durban University's botanical garden fro 1804 until his death. He was a professor, active field botanist and author.Dublin university honoured him with a LLD and a PhD in 1850 for his service to botany.

Asystasia gangetica

(Creeping Foxglove)

This reliable, evergreen groundcover is frost resistant, drought resistant and fast growing in the sun, shade or semi-shade. It has white flowers in summer which attract birds and butterflies. It is the larval host plant for the Clouded Mother-of-Pearl butterflies as well the Blue Pansy, Brown Pansy, Yellow Pansy and the Common Diadem. The Mother of Pearl is a beautiful green to mauve colour and is spectacular in flight but when settled on a plant it disappears as it looks like a leaf. It is suitable for containers, hanging baskets and small gardens. It spreads rapidly and is good for mass planting. The leaves are used for spinach and I’ve used the flowers in a vase as they are long lasting .

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