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Kniphofia praecox

(Red-Hot Poker)

This is a must for a stunning winter garden. It is an evergreen groundcover which is frost resistant and fast growing. Plant a clump of them in the sun, in a moist area or a wetland. The orange-yellow flowers make a stunning display in winter and attract birds and butterflies. It is suitable for small gardens and the flowers are long lasting in the vase. Named for Johannes Hieronymus Kniphof ( 1704-1763) a German physician, lecturer, professor of medicine, then dean and rector till his death.

Lampranthus sp

(Vygies)

A valuable addition to any garden as their iridescent flowers are seen in spring and summer. Their striking colours are a highlight after the drab winter garden when only the Aloes are in flower. They are all drought resistant and creep along the ground creating a carpet of striking colour. They attract butterflies and are useful in rockeries, along a path or in a hanging basket. They are frost resistant and fast growing. The leaves vary from dull ,dusty green to a bright, light green. The name is derived from the Greek lampros = bright, shining; anthos = flower; referring to the light reflecting off the glossy petals.

Ledebouria petiolata was Drimiopsis maculata

(Leopard Lily, Spotted-Leaved Drimiopsis, Little White Soldier)

This deciduous groundcover has flat, fleshy leaves which have darker translucent spots on them. The flowers are small bright white buds that turn pale green. It thrives in semi shade or deep shade. It grows to 25cm high but is dormant in winter. It is a frost resistant and drought resistant. An ideal plant for indoors and has been used in this way for decades in Europe and the UK. It occurs naturally in forests and grasslands from the Eastern Transvaal to the Transkei. It is used medicinally for stomach trouble in children. The name is derived from the Greek drimys = acrid as the roots cause inflammation and Latin as maculata = spotted which refers to the purple spots on the leaves.

Melinus repens

(Natal Red Top)

A perennial tufted grass with attractive, hairy inflorescences. Spikelets are covered with long velvety, red, pink to white hairs. It flowers from September to June. It grows in sunny, dry places, in all type of soil but prefers a well-drained soil. It is very pretty when in flower. The birds use the seed heads as nesting material. Named from the Greek meline - name for grain (millet) Melinis is Greek for quince-yellow. The word 'repens' means creeping which refers to it's growth habit.

Mentha longifolia

(Wild Spearmint)

An evergreen, fast-growing, perennial herb that creeps along the ground and spreads rapidly. It can reach up to 1.5 m high in favourable conditions, but is usually between 0.5-1 m high and even shorter in dry conditions. The small flowers of Mentha longifolia are crowded into spikes at the tip of the stems. This wild mint flowers throughout the summer and the flowers are white and mauve. They are heavy feeders and water lovers. Mint grows in semi-shade and full sun. They do well in pots where they are contained. It is mostly the leaves that are used, usually to make a tea that is drunk for coughs, cystitis, colds, stomach cramps, asthma, flatulence, indigestion and headaches. Wild mint leaves have been used topically to treat wounds and swollen glands. Some farmers make a bath of mint "tea" to wash their dogs to rid them of fleas. It can be used in the kitchen as a substitute for the exotic mints. I make a glass jug of cold mint tea which is refreshing on hot summer days. It is the larval host plant of the Bush Bronze and the Tsomo Blue butterflies.Mentha is the Latin name for mint from the nymph Minthie, mistress of Pluto, daughter of Cocytus, who was turned into mint by the jealous Proserpine.

Othonna carnosa

(Othonna)

A fast spreading, evergreen succulent with cylindrical grey green leaves ,an evergreen groundcover that grows about 10cm. Lovely for a large sunny rockery or for holding soil on banks or gentle slopes. The daisy shaped flowers opens all year long and it attract lots of bees and other insects. It is the larval host plant for the Painted Lady butterfly. It is a drought resistant plant that is easily grown and requires little attention but be careful not to over water. The name is derived from the Greek othonne = linen, cloth; referring to the soft texture of the leaves.

Setaria megaphylla

(Broad-Leaved Bristle Grass)

This evergreen groundcover grows about 1m tall in the wetlands, sun or semi shade. It is frost resistant, fast growing, and bears white flowers in summer. It makes a very attractive back drop to a wetland garden as the leaves are a pretty green and interestingly 'pleated.' Birds strip the leaves for nest building and the seed eaters enjoy the fruits. The leaves are palatable and are browsed by game. It is the larval host plant to the Long-horned Skipper, Lesser-horned Skipper, Twilight Brown and Gold-spotted Skipper butterflies. Strangely, it is also eaten by dogs. It is used traditionally to treat bruises. The name is derived from the Latin seta=a bristle and aria = pertaining to: referring to the bristly awns in the involucrum. A leaf-like structure occuring just below the flower.

Tulbaghia simmleri (Tulbaghia fragrans)

(Fragrant Wild Garlic)

This very pretty, fragrant mauve or white flower is on a 25 cm spike and opens in winter. It is cheerful to have one in your garden during the brown, dry Highveld winter. The leaves are wider than the Tulbaghia violacea and not as pungent. They are also edible and the flowers are successfully used in a vase. It grows best in the semi shade and is used medicinally for fevers, cold, asthma and TB. This family was named by Linnaeus after Ryk Tulbach who was Governor in the Cape from 1751-1771. He was born in Holland and worked for the Dutch East India Company. He moved to the Cape when he was 16 and started work. He collected bulbs, birds and plants. The town of Tulbagh is named after him. This particular Tulbaghia is named after Paul Simmler who was a successful Chief Gardener in Geneva.

Tulbaghia violacea

(Wild Garlic)

This is a popular evergreen groundcover which is frost resistant, drought resistant and fast growing in the sun. This is a perfect choice for small gardens. The mauve flowers open in summer and attract birds and butterflies. It is traditionally used as a snake repellent and there are many traditional medicinal uses. It is antibacterial, antifungal and is used to treat TB and intestinal worms. An infusion of the tuber is used as a love charm and the leaves are rubbed onto the forehead to treat a sinus headache. It is also magical as it is planted after the birth of a child to protect from evil. The leaves are delicious chopped into a salad or omelet and the flowers are also edible and look lovely in a salad. The rhizome can be added to stews and soup. The early colonists like Jan van Riebeeck ate both the leaves and the rhizomes, in fact he called it a leek. It is grown abroad and is known as "Society Garlic".There is a recipe for Wild Garlic Mashed Potato which is delicious with fish. Fry onions and chopped wild garlic leaves and add this to mashed potato. This family was named by Linnaeus after Ryk Tulbach who was Governor in the Cape from 1751-1771. He was born in Holland and worked for the Dutch East India Company. He moved to the Cape when he was 16 and started work. He collected bulbs, birds and plants. The town of Tulbagh is named after him.

Typha capensis

(Bulrush)

These plants are deciduous and grow to about 2 m tall. They are often seen on the verge of a dam, wetland or river where the roots filter the water. It is frost resistant, fast growing and has brownish flowers in summer. Birds use these as nesting sites and humans utilize it for many things eg the rhizomes are used for meal and the leaves are useful for brooms, weaving, mat and basket making and thatching. It is also medicinal as a root decoction is used in childbirth, for urinary tract problems and for the treatment of VD. The brown woolly flower is used to staunch bleeding and this is also done by the Chinese and the American Red Indians. Tea from the root is also used for diarrhoea, dysentry, and enteritis.The hollow stem is made into a flute. They are used in the kitchen as the new shoots are edible as are the thicker older roots which are ground and boiled and made into flat cakes. The Tswana pick the young flower stalks and fry them in fat. Some farmers feed their pigs and cattle the roots and stems in times of drought. The brown flower stalks are also used in flower arrangements. The name is derived from the Greek typhos=marsh; referring to the plants natural habitat.

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