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Elegia tectorum (Chondropetalum tectorum)

(Cape Thatching Reed)

This evergreen shrub is frost resistant, water wise and fast growing in the sun or semi-shade. It gets a bit “leggie” if there is not enough sun. The dark brown flowers occur in summer. It is useful for wetlands and attractive if planted in a container. It is used for making brooms and for thatching roofs. It is ideal for small gardens but do make sure that you plant it with as little root disturbance as possible. I’ve seen it planted in front of a garden wall and the shadows it casts are quite enchanting.

Cyperus alternifolius

(Sedge)

An evergreen shrub that grows to a height of 1m. The bracts are symmetrically arranged in an umbrella formation and held atop elegant stems that sway with the breeze, giving a tropical feel to the garden. It is a versatile plant ,easily grown and makes an excellent ornamental waterside or marginal plant for water gardens. As an indoor pot plant they are useful for a conservatory, or as interior plant for commercial offices, hotels and malls. Ideally in containers should be stood in water. Its fascinating shape makes it a great plant for landscaping, and as an accent plant or an informal screen. As a background plant, it combines well with other foliage plants or flowering plants in garden beds or borders. It is impossible to over water the ‘Umbrella Plant’ as it enjoys damp and boggy conditions. It can be grown in shallow water of small fish ponds as a water filtration marginal plant. It is excellent for a tropical water garden, a bog garden or wetland. The tall bracts are also excellent when used in fresh or dried floral arrangements. It is similar to Cyprus textiles and it is used to make baskets, twine and mats. The name is derived from Latin 'cuperos' and Greek 'kypeoros'= sedge or rush.

Cyperus papyrus

(Papyrus)

This very fast growing evergreen shrub grows about 2m high and 1m wide. It forms clumps of tall bare stems, each topped with a mop-like head or crown of thread-like flower spikes. This is the plant that the ancient Egyptians used to make paper. The dried, split stems are woven to make traditional doors and mats. They are also used medicinally as they are bound over wounds. Plant it near water or in the water in full sun. It’s an ideal plant for containers. The leaves are an interesting addition to a flower arrangement. Cut it back if damaged by frost. The name is derived from Latin 'cuperos' and Greek 'kypeoros'= sedge or rush.

Gomphostigma virgatum

(Otterbush)

Gomphostigma virgatum Otterbush This evergreen shrub grows to 1 x 1m and is both frost resistant and fast growing. It is happiest in the sun and its grey foliage makes a pleasant contrast in the garden. The delicate, fragrant white flowers occur all year and they attract butterflies. As it grows along our rivers it is useful for wetlands or near a water feaature. It is medicinally used to perk up tired people! The name is derived from the Greek gomphos=club, which refers to the club shaped stigma.

Hypericum revolutum

(Curry Bush)

This multi-stemmed shrub or small tree is fast-growing, evergreen and grows to 3 m high and spreads about the same width. The stems have reddish brown, scaly bark and drooping branches. The evergreen plant's leaves release a curry-like smell when crushed and after rain. The fresh, green foliage and bright yellow flowers are reasons to have this delightful plant in your garden. Flowers are single and bright yellow, up to 50 mm in diameter. Flowering time is in summer and autumn. The fruit are reddish brown capsules enclosing the seeds. The wood of this plant is used as timber and for building material in some African countries. Medicinally, it is used to treat stomach ache and the leaves are cooked and strained to heal sores and VD, backache from kidney infections. It is said to be ‘nature's firebreak’, as it does not burn well and therefore protects forests. It can be planted in the full sun to semi shade, in well-drained soil and needs to be watered regularly. It would do well along a stream or near a water feature. A regular light pruning will to keep it neat. It can be used in containers, for mass planting as an informal hedge and as a pioneer plant. It deserves a place in any fragrant garden and it attract birds and bees. The name is derived from the Greek hyper=above, eikon= a figure, icon, image. From the ancient practice of placing flowers above an image to ward off evil spirits.

Juncus krausii

(Matting Rush)

This perennial herb grows to a height of 1.5 m and grows in large colonies where it occurs naturally. Its leaves are tough, round and spine-tipped, and the sheath is shiny black. The purplish brown flowers appear between October and February and are topped by spine-tipped bracts. It can grow in many soil types ranging from sandy soils to clay provided there is enough water. It is also used to make traditional mats. The name is derived from the Latin jungere=to tie together, bind; referring to the ancient practice of using rushes to bind into ropes.

Phragmites australis

(Common Reed)

This evergreen reed grows to about 3 meters tall and is found in wetlands and dams. It is frost resistant and has a multitude of uses. Flowers are produced from December to June. It plays very important role in protecting the soil from erosion, filters water and offers shelter to many bird species and other animals. It is even used to make paper, baskets and is used in the chemical industry. They are tied together and used to make walls for houses. The rhizomes are edible and the hollow stems are used for pipes and musical instruments. The seeds are used to make ointment for burns. Weavers use these to build their nests on. The Bushmen of the Kalahari make their arrow shafts from this plant. The name is derived from the Greek phragmites =growing in hedges, from phragma = a fence, hedge, from phrassein = to enclose.

Thunbergia natalensis

(Natal Bluebell)

A deciduous shrub that grows to 1,2m x 90cm. This fast growing shrub prefers a lightly shaded position under trees and forms an attractive and dense shrub. The slightly hairy leaves of the Natal Bluebell shelter attractive tubular blue to blue mauve flowers, each with a white to yellow throat. Brides traditionally take a remedy prepared from this plant to guarantee a happy marriage. The stems of the plant are eaten by the long tailed tree mouse. It prefers moist conditions, so water well in summer or plant alongside a dam or water feature where its roots can reach some of the excess moisture. It attracts butterflies. Named for Carl Pehr Thunberg (1743-1828) a Swedish botanist, physician, Professor of botany and medicine. He visited the Cape to study Dutch and the flora of the Cape (1772-1775) . He collected 3100 specimens in the Cape.and published Flora Capensis. He then went to Japan, Jarva and Sri Lanka for 15 months. He wrote about his travels and Flora Japonica. He presented his herbarium of 23,510 specimens and 25,000 insects to the University. He was made a knight of the Royal Order and received many honours.

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