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Carissa bispinosa

(Num-Num)

A small evergreen Highveld tree which is water wise, and is happy in the sun, shade or semi-shade. The fragrant white flowers occur in summer and they attract insect and fruit eating birds as well as butterflies. This thorny bush is ideal for formal pruned hedging, informal hedging/screening or a thorny security barrier. It is medicinal as the roots are used for toothache. The fruit is edible and is enjoyed by monkeys, people and birds.All the Carissa have edible fruit. It is rich in vitamin C, calcium, magnesium and phosphorus. The tree is browsed by game. It makes an ideal tree for small gardens, provided that it’s not planted close to a pathway because of the little thorns.

Carissa macrocarpa

(Large Num-Num, noem-noem)

This small evergreen tree grows to about 4 meters and is water wise. It flourishes in the sun or semi-shade. Fragrant white flowers occur from spring to mid-summer and they attract insects, butterflies and insect eating birds. It is also used for nesting sites. This shrub is useful for formal pruned hedging, informal hedging/screening or thorny security barriers. It is suitable for containers and coastal gardens as it tolerates wind and salt spray. It is a low maintenance plant. The fruit is highly nutritious as it is rich in vitamin C, calcium, magnesium and phosphorus. All the Carissa have edible fruit. It is eaten raw or cooked to produce a jam, chopped into salads, jelly or bredies. They produce pink dye. Macrocarpa means 'large fruit'. The root is used medicinally for coughs, a tonic or for VD. I stick is used in a hut to repel snakes and they are planted near the homestead for protection. In West Africa the roots are used to flavour stews and a piece of root and leaf is placed in water containers to keep it fresh. On the Highveld do plant it in a protected spot as they are frost tender when young.

Dovyalis caffra

(Kei Apple)

This small 5m evergreen tree is frost resistant, water wise, fast growing in the sun or semi-shade. The cream flowers are rich in nectar, which attracts butterflies, and are produced in spring and are followed by apricot fruit which attract birds - insect and fruit eaters like the Louries and black eyed Blackeyed Bulbuls. It should produce fruit when about 3 years old.It makes a safe nesting site. It is useful for an informal hedge/screen or a thorny security barrier as they retain their lower branches and can be planted close together as they do not have aggressive roots. The fruit is also useful as it is rich in vitamin C and although sour it is tasty and is eaten raw or used for jelly and jam making. It is eaten by Monkeys and Baboon. The trees are also browsed by game. The Kei Apple will do well in a container and is popular for bonsai. The branches are also used in flower arrangements.The oval leaves are shiny, dark green with a smooth margin. It is successful if planted in a coastal garden or in a Highveld garden. This tree was first grown in Europe in 1870 but is now grown worldwide, in California, the Mediterranean and Australia. Plant it 2 meters from buildings and pools. The name is derived from the Greek dovyalis = spear refering to the long thorns.

Ehretia rigida

(Puzzle Bush)

This deciduous tree/shrub is frost resistant, drought resistant and fast growing in the sun or semi-shade. It is usually multi-stemmed with tangled branches which give rise to its common name. It produces masses of fragrant, lilac flowers in spring. They attract bees, flies, beetles, wasps and butterflies. These are followed by edible orange berries which ripen to black and they attract birds – insect and fruit eaters like Crested francolin, Guinea fowl, Hornbill, Barbets, Bulbuls and Starlings as well as humans and wild animals. It makes a wonderful nesting site for birds and is browsed by game. It is useful for formal pruned hedging, informal hedging/screening or thorny security barriers. The branches are used for bows and fishing baskets as they are flexible. It has medicinal properties to treat cuts, relieve pain and gall sickness in cattle. The magical uses are a good luck charm on hunting expeditions, rain making ceremonies and protection for huts and crops from hail damage. The Afrikaans common name of “deurmekaarbos” is very descriptive. The wood is hard and is used for stampers. Named for George Ehret (1708-1770) a German botanical artist. His unique style and clarity of illustration drew the attention of people like Sir Joseph Banks. Over 3000 of his illustration survive in private collections and Natural History Museums.

Euphorbia ingens

(Common Tree Euphorbia)

An upright, succulent tree with a dark green crown which is well rounded and often shaped like a hot-air balloon. Grows up to 12 m. The branches are segmented with spines running along the ridges of the segments. It produces small, greenish yellow flowers on the ridges of the topmost segment of every branch from autumn to winter. The fruit is a round 3-lobed capsule which turns red to purple when ripening. These plants are easy to grow and make a wonderful addition to a succulent garden or rockery. As it is a succulent it needs little to no maintenance, being a very drought hardy plant. It does best in the open sun. Because of its poisonous latex/sap no pests seem to bother these trees. The latex of this tree is extremely toxic and can cause severe skin irritations, blindness and severe illness to humans and animals if swallowed. Grass is soaked in the latex and used as fish poison. it is also used medicinally in small amounts to treat cancer. The wood is used for boats, doors and planks. The trunk is first burnt to solidify the latex before it is cut as the latex in the eyes can cause blindness. It can be used for hedging and screening and an effective thorny barrier. It is frost tender. The fruit is enjoyed by monkeys while porcupine and cane rats eat the roots. The name is derived from the Greek eu=well and phorbe=pasteur referring to the Greek physician Euphorbus.

Phoenix reclinata

(Wild Date Palm, Wildedadelboom)

This small evergreen tree is relatively frost resistant and grows in the sun or semi-shade along river banks where it stabilizes the embankment. Yellow flowers in summer are replaced by orange seed which attracts birds - insect and fruit eaters. Plant it near a water feature as an accent plant. It can also be used for informal hedging/screening or thorny security barriers. This tree is protected in South Africa. The large leaves are woven to make baskets and mats and the sap is trapped for wine and beer making. The roots produce an edible gum which children enjoy and they contain tannin. The fibres from the fruit stems are used for brooms and the leaf midribs are used for hut building and to make fish kraal fences. Special skirts made from the leaves are worn by Xhosa boys when undergoing their initiation rites. The fruits are nutritious and edible and apparently taste quite similar to the commercial date. It is used to make beer and wine. The spines are used in traditional medicine and the tree is used to treat pleurisy.The roots are eaten to aid healers. Birds, monkeys, elephant and baboons eat the ripe fruit. bushpig, nyala and bushbuck feed on fallen fruit. This is possibly a means of seed dispersal. It is the larval host for the Palm-tree Nightfighter Butterfly. The wood is light and of no use. The Caterpillar of the Skipper butterfly feed off the leaves. The Palm Swift bird uses the tree for nesting. Certainly a very useful tree. Plant it 4 meters from a building or a pool. The name comes from the early Greeks who called a Date Palm a Phoenix. The 'reclinata' comes from the Latin "bend down' or 'bend back' which refers to the arching leaves.

Scutia myrtina

(Cat-Thorn)

This small evergreen tree/shrub/creeper is frost resistant, water wise and fast growing in the sun, semi-shade or deep shade. The yellow flowers occur in summer, and then become fruit which attracts fruit eating birds. It is also used for nesting sites. It is the larval host plant for the Forest-king Emperor and the Rufous - winged Elfin butterflies. it's most important use is as a security barrier. The Cat Thorn has hooked thorns which make it an effective barrier. The leaves are used medicinally and it is browsed by game. The name is derived from the Latin scutum=a shield. this refers to the calyx that surrounds the fruit like a shield.

Senegalia mellifera (Acacia mellifera )

(Black Thorn)

A deciduous, thorny shrub or small tree with sweetly scented white/pink pompom flowers in early spring. These attract insects and bees.The scent is strongest at night so it also attracts moths. It has attractive wood which is hard, termite proof and is used for handles of tools, fencing posts and fuel . The sapwood is yellowish. The wood ash is used to straighten hair and as a dye a it produces a red-brick colour. In India the wood is used to build temples and in ritual fires. The magical uses in South Africa are numerous. A sprig is placed over a bed to war off evil. It is used in money and love spells and the burned wood stimulates psychic powers. It is both frost hardy and drought hardy. Plant in the full sun and as it has aggressive roots don’t plant it too close to a building. The twigs are used as toothbrushes and it attracts birds for nesting. If planted close together and pruned it will make an impenetrable, thorny barrier. The gum is enjoyed by children, animals and birds. The roots are used medicinally for stomach pain, syphilis, sterility, pneumonia, an aphrodisiac and malaria.. The leaves and short pods are nutritious and are eaten by stock as well as game like black rhino, springbok, steenbok, giraffe, grey duiker, gemsbok, eland, wildebeest, kudu, eland, impala and giraffe. It is the larval host for the Silvery Bar butterfly. It is named from the Greek 'acanth' meaning thorn and 'mellifera' meaning honey bearing.

Vachellia hebeclada ( Acacia hebeclada )

(Candle Thorn)

This beautiful, deciduous small tree, 5m is very variable. The flowers are scented and are creamy yellow pompoms that open in spring. It is frost hardy and drought resistant. It should be planted in full sun and is an ideal plant for hedging/screening. The roots are aggressive so it should be planted 5m from buildings and pools. They have been measured at 35 meters deep in Botswana. It attracts birds like the shrikes and robins. . The seed pods stand up along a branch, hence the common name. There are pairs of hooked thorns. They are hard, woody and covered in fine hairs.They and the leaves are eaten by stock and game. In the Kalahari it is a host plant to desert truffles. Named for Rev George Harvey Vachel (1798-1839) a British priest and plant collector. He was chaplain to the British East India company in China where he collected plants. The Motswana call it 'The house of the Lion' as it is favoured by lions as a shade tree. The wood is hard, durable and is used for implements. In India the wood is used to build temples and in ritual fires. The magical uses in South Africa are numerous. A sprig is placed over a bed to war off evil. It is used in money and love spells and the burned wood stimulates psychic powers. It is used to treat leprosy and the roots are used for diarrhoea. The roots are also ground, mixed with fat and used as a hair treatment in Namibia. The name is derived from the Greek 'acantha' which means thorns and the Greek 'hebe' which means hairy and 'klados' which is a branch so it refers to a 'hairy branch'.

Vachellia karroo (Acacia karroo)

(Sweet Thorn)

Previously known as Acacia karroo. This very popular deciduous tree is frost resistant, water wise and fast growing in the sun or semi-shade. The bright yellow pompom flowers occur in spring and they are honey scented which attracts insects and they attract insect eating birds. It is favoured by honey farmers. It is also a popular tree for nesting sites. This tree has pairs of straight thorns.The leaves are eaten by mammals, bush babies, rhino, giraffe, eland, kudu, sable, gemsbok, impala, springbok, nyala, and monkeys. I once watched vervet monkeys carefully picking the top 4 leaves off of the branches which could be a prickly affair. They also eat the flowers. The Xhosa use the leaves to feed their goats. This is a useful tree for thorny, security barriers but do remember that it does have aggressive roots so allow 7 meters from a building or a pool. There are a host of medicinal properties using all parts of the tree. The roots are used for infant colic. The gum is used to draw abscesses, splinters and to treat thrush and is also eaten by people, bushbabies and monkeys. It was once exported as Cape Gum. It was also used as glue. Ground bark is used for stomach ache, dysentery, diarrhoea, loss of blood and ailments as a result of sorcery. The thorns are used for heart pains and magical purposes. Crushed roots are mixed with food to treat infant colic. The roots are used to treat body pains, dizziness, convulsions and VD, It is also used as an aphrodisiac. Parts of the tree are also used to kill parasites in fowl runs. The bark is used to tan leather red and it makes strong twine. It makes excellent firewood. The seeds are a coffee substitute. The wood is hard and is used for building, furniture and fuel. In India the wood is used to build temples and in ritual fires. The magical uses in South Africa are numerous. A sprig is placed over a bed to war off evil. It is used in money and love spells and the burned wood stimulates psychic powers. Simon van der Stel wrote of the Sweet Thorns in Namaqualand 'These trees are never found except where surface or underground streams run. ' It indicates fertile soil and good grazing. It is useful in a garden as the roots fix nitrogen in the soil. It is the larval host for many butterflies like the Common Hairtail, Black-striped Hairtail, Otacilia Hairtail, Talbot's Hairtail, Black Heart Common Scarlet, Natal-spotted Blue, Thorn - tree Blue, Topaz-spotted Blue, Silver-spotted Grey and the Burnished Opal. This is a popular bonsai subject. Named for Rev George Harvey Vachel (1798-1839) a British priest and plant collector. He was chaplain to the British East India company in China where he collected plants.

Ziziphus mucronata

(Buffalo Thorn)

This medium sized, deciduous tree is frost resistant, drought resistant and grows in the sun. It is protected in the Free State. It has non aggressive roots, so you can plant it 4 meters from a building or a pool. This is a great bird garden tree as it attracts the insect, fruit and nectar eaters as well as being used for nesting sites. It is the larval host plant for the Black Pie, Dotted Blue, Hinza Blue and the White Pie butterflies. Useful if used as an informal hedge/screen or as a thorny security barrier. Game farmers need to plant this important fodder tree as it is browsed by giraffe, eland, kudu, sable, wildebeest, nyala, impala, klipspringer, springbok, grysbok, steenbok, dik-dik and warthog while the fruit is eaten by baboons, monkeys and warthog. The fruit is highly nutritious and are also enjoyed by guineafowl, francolins, parrots, louries and coucal. The raw fruit is edible, or it can be cooked into a porridge or roasted and used as a coffee substitute. It is also used to brew beer. Their nutritious leaves are cooked as spinach and the wood is useful for fuel, hammer handles, and spoons. Saplings are made into whips by removing the bark from the sapling.It is an important medicinal tree as the bark infusions are used for a cough,respiratory ailments and to purify the complexion. Root decoctions are used for pain, toothache, infertility, purification and lumbago. Leaves and shoots are used as a gargle for measles and scarlet fever. The flowers are used as a fish poison. It has many magical uses as the trees are said to ward off lightening and those sitting under a tree during a lightening storm will be safe. Branches are placed on the graves of chiefs to protect them. The branches are also used for cattle kraals and in rituals to return the spirit of the dead to their hometown. The wood is used to carve bowls and spoons and the thin branches are used for fencing posts, roof struts, grain mortars and gates. The zig zag shaped young branches epitomize one’s path through life which is both good and bad. The leaves are 3 veined to remind us that our relationships with God, the environment and our fellow man needs to be in balance. The forward pointing thorns remind us to reach for our goals and the re-curved ones remind us to look back and reflect on where we have come from. The name is derived from the Arabic zizouf= the name for the lotus or 'jujube' tree. The tree has dark red edible fruit from which the Victorian sweet, 'jujube' was made. The latin 'mucro' means sharp point and refers to the thorns.

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