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Juncus effusus

(Common Rush)

Juncus effusus is a clump forming wetland plant that is a striking vertical addition to any garden or container planting. It grows to 70cm high and 30cm wide. Upright, fanning, deep green, rounded stems make a great accent in container or water gardens. It can be planted at the edge of that is about 20 cm deep. Inconspicuous golden flowers appear on top of the stems in summer. It provides food and shelter for birds and other wildlife and it is also used to make traditional sitting mats. It thrives when planted in sun and is an ideal plant for a wet land garden or around a water feature. They attract birds and butterflies. The name is derived from the Latin jungere=to tie together, bind; referring to the ancient practice of using rushes to bind into ropes.

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.

Kiggelaria africana

(Wild Peach)

This medium sized, well shaped and reasonably robust tree has smooth pale grey bark that becomes rough with age. It is found from the Cape Peninsula to Tanzania. The variable leaves of this evergreen tree may resemble those of the peach. The tiny, bell-shaped flowers which bloom from spring to summer, are yellow-green, with male and female flowers on separate trees. The hard, round, knobbly, greenish yellow capsule which forms in late summer to mid-winter splits to expose shiny black seeds, enclosed in an oily, sticky, bright orange-red coat. The birds like pigeons, doves, woodpeckers, louries, hornbills, robinss, shrikes, starlings. thrush, white - eyes and mousebirds can’t resist these seeds. This tree is said to attract lightning, but some people use it to protect their homes. It is frost hardy and drought resistant and it needs to be planted in full sun. The wood is used for furniture. It is a larval host for the Garden Acraea and the Battling Glider butterflies. This tree is always found where there is underground water or streams. The roots are not aggressive so plant it 4 meters from a building or a pool. Names for Francois Kiggelaer (1648-1722) a Dutch botanist, plant collector, traveller and curator of Simon van Beaumont's garden in The Hague.

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.

Leonotis dubia

(Forest Leonotis)

This deciduous shrub grows about 2m x 1.5m. It prefers to be planted in full sun and is frost and drought hardy. The flowers in a small loose clusters among the leaves and open in autumn. They attract the sunbirds. It also be planted in a container. It is medicinal as it is used as a tonic to build the immune system and as a treatment for nervous conditions. It attracts birds, butterflies and other insects. The name is derived from the Greek leon = lion; ous, otis= ear; alluding to the resemblance of the corolla to a lion's ear.

Leonotis leonurus

(Wild Dagga)

Another drought hardy, evergreen shrub that is very dependable. It is common and widespread throughout South Africa and grows amongst rocks in our grasslands. It is fast growing and there are yellow, orange or white flowering forms. The flowers are good for the vase but you do want to leave many on the bushes as they attract the sunbirds and the insect eaters. They are also good for a butterfly garden as they are the larval host for the Bush Bronze butterfly. They flower in autumn and will need cutting back at the end of winter. A must for a bird garden as once you get to recognize the sunbirds chirping, you will be very pleased that you are making them happy. It has been admired since 1652 and was growing in the Chelsea Physic Garden in London in 1712. It is called Wild Dagga as the Khoi smoked the dried leaves and it was said to be narcotic. It is considered to be a miracle plant as it is used medicinally to reduce blood pressure, for arthritis, sores that will not heal, athletes foot and nits. The leaves are used for headaches, coughs, colds, convulsions, weak joints, cataracts, hemorrhoids, a diuretic and for obesity. The roots are used for snake bite and to keep snakes away. The flowers are used for asthma, haemorrhoids, headaches, chest problems, bronchitis, tapeworm, TB, jaundice, skin diseases, muscular cramps, bee and scorpion stings. A wealth of uses. It is now planted in Australia. The name is derived from the Greek leon = lion; ous, otis= ear; alluding to the resemblance of the corolla to a lion's ear.

Lessertia frutescens was Sutherlandia frutescens

(Cancer Bush)

This is an evergreen shrub of 1,25m x 1m which is frost resistant and drought resistant. It is very fast growing and easy to grow. It will tolerate all soil types and requires very little water. The bright orange-red sweet pea shaped flowers open in spring to summer and it is one of the most multi purpose and useful of South African medicinal plants. The Khoi and the San people living in the Cape were the first to use this plant medicinally. It's common name indicates is use in cancer treatment. A tea is made from the flowers, pods and leaves for treating intestinal cancer. It is also made into a wash for sores, and drunk to reduce fevers, treat chicken pox and blisters. The botanist Thunberm wrote in 1772 that a decoction of the roots and leaves is used as an eye wash. It can also be taken for flu, liver problems, bladder ailments, rheumatism, diarrhoea, backache, as a daily tonic and stomach problems. The leaves, stems and fruit capsules can be boiled and the water added to the bath to bring down fevers and side effects of flu. It should not be used by pregnant women as it has been known to cause abortions. It also attracts birds and is the larval host plant for the Brown Playboy and the Lucerne Blue butterflies. Can take frost and is grown outdoors in England. The leaves and seeds are smoked as a dagga substitute. Named for Jules Paul Benjamine Delessert ( 1773-1847 ) a French banker, industrialist, philanthropist and botanist. with a notable herbarium and botanical library and he was an entrepreneur. He was made a baron by Napoleon. The old name of Sutherlandia came from James Sutherland (1639-1719) a Scottish botanist and the first superintendent of the Royal Botanical Gardens in Edinburgh and Professor of botany at the University of Edinburgh. In 1683 he published a book which led to his doctorate and professorship. Frutescens means 'growing in a shrubby way'.

Leucosidea sericea

(Ouhout)

Ouhout. Troutwood is a perfect name as it occurs along rivers where trout are found. The “Ouhout” refers to the bark which looks old even at a young age. It grows to about 4 meters, is evergreen and is fast growing if it has enough water. It is useful for nesting and attracts butterflies and insects. It is said to have aggressive roots, but I have not experienced that.The margins of the leaflets are deeply serrated. The crushed leaves have a strong herb-like smell. The flowers are greenish-yellow in colour, star-shaped, and grow in spikes at the ends of young shoots in spring. The fruits are nut-like. It usually grows in damp conditions, on deep, sandy or clay or rocky soil. It is frost resistant and it is ideal to use as a nurse tree to protect less frost hardy plants in winter. The tree is browsed and the wood burns slowly. It is also used to start fires. Useful used as fencing poles. It is used medicinally as the ground leaf paste is used for eye problems, a vermifuge and as a protective charm to protect people in the home. The name is derived from the Greek leukos=white; idea= appearance; referring to the overall hairiness of the leaves.

Melianthus comosus

(Small Melianthus)

An evergreen, attractive multi-stemmed shrub where all the parts of the plant produce a strong, unpleasant smell when bruised, hence the Afrikaans common name, ‘Kruidjie-roer-my-nie’. The large, grey-green, serrated leaves are clustered towards the tips of the branches. The small, nectar rich bird pollinated flowers are borne in short clusters, followed by four-winged bladder capsules which are often as a decorative addition to flower arrangements. An ideal plant for a low maintenance and water wise garden. It is suitable for mixed borders and should always be cut back after flowering. It also attracts birds and as it is the larval host plant, it attracts the Arrowhead butterflies. It is medicinally used as a poultice for sores, snake bite, swelling, painful feet and bruises. The root bark is used to make a tonic and it is used in the bath to promote sweating. Named from the Greek meli , the latin mel=honey; ; anthos =flower. The honey flowers contain abundant nectar, but judging by the stink, I would not expect edible honey.

Melianthus major

(Giant Honey Flower)

This evergreen shrub grows to about 2.5m high and 3.5 wide. It is an easy garden plant and is grown worldwide for its attractive foliage. It prefers a warm, sunny position with good drainage. Although quite tough and adaptable, it will flourish in deep, rich soil, especially if given plenty of water. It grows fast and will make a show within a few months. It is particularly attractive in spring when in flower and sporting its new lush leaf growth. The name comes from 2 Greek words meaning honey flower.The flowers produce nectar which attracts bees, wasps, sunbirds and the Arrowhead butterflies. It is also the host plant for 1 moth specie. Cut it back after flowering to encourage new growth. Although the leaves are toxic they are used medicinally as a topical aid for pain, aches, rheumatism and backache. A gargle is used for sore throats and the liquid is used on snakebites. Warmed leaves can be bound over boils and abscesses to bring them to a head. Four leaves boiled in a big pot of water is used to treat sores and ulcers. A mixture of Meliathus , Artemesia, Khaki Bos and Leonotis leaves are brewed in boiling water and once cooled it is used to control aphids and fruit fly. An ideal plant for small garden. Named from the Greek meli , the latin mel=honey; ; anthos =flower. The honey flowers contain abundant nectar, but judging by the stink, I would not expect edible honey.

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.

Merwillia plumbea (was Scilla natalensis)

(Blue Squill)

This very fast growing, graceful bulb grows to 50cm x 20cm. It is deciduous, growing during summer and dormant in the winter and should be kept dry during that period. This is an easy plant in cultivation and is ideally suited to the rockery but will do equally well in a container. It can also be used to good effect planted in clumps or drifts in the mixed border. It is lovely used in an indigenous meadow, planted amongst indigenous grasses. Each individual flower is not long-lasting, but there are so many of them opening in succession that the inflorescence will last for up to a month in the garden, and it is a useful cut flower. It requires a sunny or semi-shaded position. The lovely rocket shaped spikes of misty-blue flowers open in summer and are displayed on long stalks. It is traditionally used to heal internal tumours, boils and sores. The bulbs are hung and take 5 months to dry. The powered bulb is used to treat fractures and sprains. The cooked bulb is eaten as a laxative. It is analgesic and anti microbial. It is also used as an emetic to rejuvenate the body and promote fertility in women.It attracts butterflies. Named for Frederick Ziervogel van der Merwe ( 1894-1968), a South African botanist and medical doctor. His medical degrees were achieved at Trinity College in Dublin, Liverpool University and Wits. As a medical inspector he travelled widely and he had an interest in botany, particularly the Aloe and Scilla families. His other interest was collecting sheet music of Africana value. He also wrote the first Afrikaans dictionary of medical terms. The name is derived from the Greek skilla=squill or sea leek and the Greek skyllo=injure which refers to the poisonous bulb. This is a protected plant in South Africa.

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