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Vachellia xanthophloea (Acacia xanthophloea)

(Fever Tree)

This large sized deciduous tree is fast growing in the sun or semi-shade .It also grows well in a swampy, low lying areas and clay soils. It was originally thought that the tree caused malaria, hence it's common name. It was the swampy conditions that caused the malaria. The fragrant yellow flowers open in Spring and smell like vanilla which attracts insects and insectivorous birds. There is also a white flowering form. First hand experience shows that it has an aggressive roots system, although some books claim that they are non aggressive. Plant it 6 meters from a building or a pool. The beautiful yellow bark makes it distinctive and highly sought after, but be aware that they are frost tender when young. It is a useful tree as it has medicinal bark, edible gum and the timber is used for boxwood, furniture and carving as it is hard and heavy. Elephants eat the young branches and giraffe, monkeys and baboon eat the leaves, flowers and the pods. Weavers like to build their nests in these trees, probably because the thorns help to protect them. The bark is used as a good luck charm and it is used medicinally, mixed with dried roots to treat malaria and to treat fevers and eye complaints and the bark is rolled into small balls and chewed for a cough and sore throat. Branches are used to protect fields from hippo. This is a popular bonsai subject. Unfortunately this fungal disease is rather common on Fever Trees. The fungus has been identified as a rust, similar to Uromyces. The suggestion is to totally spray the trunks with triazole type fungicides. (Defender or Bumper 30 ml per 100 L water) Probably the most popular treatment is a total drench with Trichotec --- Trichoderma spp. A living fungi that is antagonistic to many other pathogenic fungi. After the drench it is essential to cover as much of the treated trunk with newspaper to shield the Trichoderma from ultra violet light for a few weeks. Preventatively - be careful as weed-eater damage can initiate an infection. If this is not successful, call an arborist for their opinion and treatment. 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. Rudyard Kipling's story 'The Elephant's child' immortalised the specie with 'The banks of the great grey-green, greasy Limpopo River, all set about with Fever Trees'.

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.

Aponogeton distachyos

(Waterblommetjie)

An evergreen, very fast growing water plant that grows to 30cm tall. The flower is interesting in that it is really a forked inflorescence bearing tiny, white, flowers with brown anthers and it flowers in summer. The flowers are edible and are the main ingredient in the traditional South African Tomato bredie stew or they can be added to a soup. They can also be chopped raw into a salad of celery and cucumber. It is traditionally made with 1 kg of lamb to 1 kg of flowers. The following is then added: half a kg of potatoes, 2 onions, 1 cup of dry white wine, salt, sugar and pepper. They can also be used in soup or cooked as a vegetable in lemon butter and it tastes rather like asparagus. The fruit is high in vitamins and minerals. Bees are attracted to the flowers and may be one of the main pollinators. It grows in shade, semi-shade and even full sun. An ideal plant for water gardens. Medicinal as the stems are used on burns, scrapes and sunburn. The stems are also fed to pigs and goats. The name comes from the Celtic 'apon'=water.

Aristea ecklonii

(Blue Stars)

This evergreen groundcover, is frost resistant and fast growing in the sun or semi-shade. It has blue flowers in summer that attract birds and butterflies. It is ideal for wetlands and moist places in the garden. Show them off by mass planting for a dramatic effect. It is also medicinal as the leaves are used as an enema for fever, coughing and internal sores. It is also magical being used as a protective charm. Ideal for small gardens or for pots on a patio. The name is derived from the Latin 'arista'=a point as the leaves are sharply pointed.

Chlorophytum bowkeri

An evergreen groundcover that grows 10 cm. When in flower, the plant produces long, thin stems which carry white flowers. It flowers all year round. It an ideal plant for containers and hanging baskets. Mass plant in the shade or semi shade for a lovely effect. If it does get frosted, it will bounce back in spring. It is also a medicinal plant. The name is derived from the Greek 'chloros' meaning yellow green and 'phyton' meaning plant, referring to the green leaves and greenish flowers.

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.

Crinum bulbispermum

(Orange River Lily)

This deciduous groundcover is frost resistant and fast growing in the sun or semi-shade. The stunning pink flowers are sweetly scented and are a show stopper in spring. They attract much admiration, as well as butterflies. This is a Highveld wetland plant so it would do well in a damp spot. It is the provincial flower of the Free State. It is magical as it is planted to protect the home from evil. It is used medicinally to ensure an easy delivery and to stimulate breast milk. It is also used to treat colds, rheumatism, varicose veins, reduce swelling, blood cleansing, kidney and bladder problems, sores, boils, acne and as a poultice for septic sores. Juice from the leaf is used for earache and a roasted slice of the bulb is placed over the ear to ease the pain. A brew of the leaves in water is used for malaria, rheumatic fever and kidney problems. It produces masses of seed and propagates easily from seed. The name is derived from the Greek 'krinon'= lily.

Crinum macowanii

(River Lily)

The large, beautifully scented bell shaped pale pink to dark pink flowers, sometimes darkly streaked are displayed at the top of a long stalk (about 1-1,2m) above a clump of strap–shaped green leaves are seen in a spring to summer. As the plant is dormant in winter, it needs to be kept dry in winter.It is similar to Crinum bulbispermum but it has black anthers. It’s an ideal, frost hardy plant for wetland gardens and requires full sun. The bulb is used traditionally for kidney and bladder diseases, itchy rashes, tuberculosis and rheumatic fever. The leaves are used as bandages for swellings. Like the Crinum bulbispermum, it is also a protective charm. The name is derived from the Greek 'krinon'= lily. This specie is named for Dr Peter MacOwan (1830-1901) an academic, plant collector and professor who moved to South Africa for health reasons. He was, in 1869 the director of the Cape Town Botanical Gardens and curator of the Cape Government Herbarium. He was one of the first Professors of Botany at UCT..After his retirement he worked at the Albany Museum where many of his specimens were preserved.

Crinum moorei

(Moores Crinum)

This evergreen bulb grows about 1m high and 1m wide. It produces fragrant pink flowers in summer and the leaves die off after flowering. This Crinum does not tolerate direct sun. It will tolerate light frost but should be in a sheltered position to protect the dormant bulbs from harm. The flowers are perfumed, more so in the evenings. Plant the bulbs in shade or semi shade with compost and fertilizer and mulch well after planting. Ensure that you leave sufficient space between the bulbs as they produce new bulbs around the mother plant. Water deeply and regularly during the months of spring and summer for best results. It is used medicinally for urinary tract infections, to treat cattle, cleanse the blood, treat infected sores and for acne. It attracts insects eating birds and butterflies. An ideal plant for wetland gardens. The name is derived from the Greek 'krinon'= lily.

Crocosmia aurea

(Falling Stars)

This deciduous bulb’s flowers grow to 1m so they are frost resistant. It is fast growing doing well in shade, semi-shade or sun. The orange flowers in summer attract birds, the insect eaters, as well as butterflies. It is great for wetlands as well as containers that are well watered. The corms are used medicinally for dysentery, diarrhoea and infertility. The flowers are long lasting in the vase and very beautiful in the garden. It is ideal for small gardens. The name is derived from the Greek 'krokos'= saffron and 'osme'=smell.This refers to the scent when dried flowers are placed in water.

Cunonia capensis

(Red Alder)

It is a beautiful and versatile, evergreen specimen tree with dark green serrated, glossy leaves and contrasting reddish leaf-stalks. The yellow and reddish growth tips are enclosed by two large stipules pressed together forming a spoon-like shape, from which it gets its common name 'Butterspoon Tree'. A relatively small tree, growing well in both sun and shade, it has a non-invasive root so can be planted 2 meters from a building or a pool. It requires a moist, mild climate and a generous supply of water. This water-loving tree is particularly suitable for marshy, water-logged gardens, to enhance natural water features, to grace streams and dams and is a good choice for large pots on a patio where it will grow beautifully for years. Trees planted in drier areas will need frequent watering, and shelter from sun, heat, cold/hot winds and frost. They prefer a cool moist space. The large bottlebrush-shaped flowers that appear in autumn are sweetly scented and attract insects and butterflies. The fruits are small, brown, two-horned capsules which release very fine, sticky seed. The wood is used for furniture. Named after Johann Cuno 1708-1780 who was a botanist, merchant and poet.

Dierama pendulum

(Harebell or Angel's Fishing Rod)

This deciduous bulb grows to 1m x 1m in the sun. It is frost resistant. The sprays of pink flowers occur in summer and it is a show stopper when in full bloom. As it occurs in wetlands and along our rivers it is suitable for a bog garden or near a water feature. Burning in winter promotes flowering. The corms are placed in gourds as a charm for a good harvest. They are also crushed and used on bruises. The flowers are are mixed with hot water and the juice of the Sour Fig (Carpobrotus) leaf and applied to bites, stings and rashes. The bulbs are also medicinal as they are used as a purgative or an enema. The name is derived from the Greek 'diorama'=a funnel which refers to the shape of the flower.

Dietes grandiflora

(Large Wild Iris)

This evergreen groundcover is frost resistant, water wise and fast growing in sun, shade or semi-shade. The white flowers open in summer, and they attract birds - insect eaters and butterflies. It is suitable for wetlands and can even be planted in the water. It is clump-forming and is ideal for small gardens. It is believed that when in flower, rain will follow. The name is derived from the Greek 'dis'=two and 'etes'=an associate referring to the flower spike that lasts 2 years. An associate as the flowers are similar to Morea and Iris families.

Dietes iridioides

This evergreen groundcover has sword-shaped, dark green leaves in a loose fan. This prolific flowerer carries its flowers on a wiry, arching stem. The flowers are white with mauve markings, dainty and new flowers open continually during spring and summer. It is drought-resistant and will thrive in semi-shade as well as full sun, often where little else will grow. It tolerates both wind and frost. There are many medicinal uses as infusions made from the rhizome are taken orally or in enemas to treat dysentery, are used during childbirth, for hypertension and as a tonic for goats. Roots are used for first menstruation. It is also an ideal plant for a wetland garden. The name is derived from the Greek 'dis'=two and 'etes'=an associate referring to the flower spike that lasts 2 years. An associate as the flowers are similar to Morea and Iris families.

Falckia repens

(White Carpet)

Very fast growing, evergreen groundcover that grows to 5cm high. It can grow in sun or shade and looks great when squeasing in between rocks or when cascading down over a container. It also is useful between pavers, provided that it gets enough water. The flowers are white or pink and flowering time is from late September to December. An ideal groundcover for wetland gardens. Flat growing, attractive, indigenous alternative to "Daisy Lawn". The word 'repens' means creeping which refers to it's growth habit.

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