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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.

Sutera cordata

(Wild Phlox)

A very versatile plant which grows naturally in the Eastern Cape. It likes sun, shade and semi shade as well as moist places. It trails along the ground and produces masses of white flowers with a yellow centre. It is pollinated by bees. It would also look great in a hanging basket. Named for Johann Rudolf Suter (1766-1827) a Swiss physician, botanist, politician and professor. He published a book on Swiss plants which led to his doctorate and professorship. Cordata means heart-shaped and refers to the leaves.

Tecoma capensis

(Cape Honeysuckle)

Fast growing, evergreen shrub that copes well with drought conditions and wind. It can grow to 2m and responds well to pruning. There are many colours available now from yellow, orange, salmon, pink and red and they flower from spring through summer. It also attracts the sunbirds, bees, butterflies like the Zebra Blue, insect eating birds and is used for nesting. I’ve seen it pruned into a formal hedge. You may need to cut it back slightly in spring if the frost has caught the tips during the winter. It also has medicinal uses and the bark infusions are used for fever, pain, insomnia, chest problems, dysentery, bleeding gums and pneumonia . Powdered bark is rubbed around the teeth to heal bleeding gums. The nursing mothers wear a necklace of pieces of stem. The leaves are browsed by stock as well as kudu, nyala, bushbuck, klipspringer and duiker. It is ideal for coastal gardens. Cattle and sheep graze the plant and the flowers and seed pods are used for pot pourri. Eve Palmer said in A Gardener's Year "...it doesn't care a button for heat, cold or drought, and is beautiful and fast". The name is derived from the Mexican term fro plants with tubular flowers.

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.

Vachellia robusta (Acacia robusta)

(Splendid Acacia)

This is a very upright tree and it has dark green foliage that grows more erect than other Acacia species. The leaflets are also larger. The white, scented ball shaped flowers open in spring and it starts flowering when it is about six years old. The flowers attract insects for the insect eating birds. It has a pair of straight thorns.This is an ideal garden tree and it is fast growing, about 1m per year. The bark is used to make twine and it is eaten by Rhino. The bark is also used for tanning. Baboon and monkeys eat the young shoots and the gum. It can be used for security hedging /screening. It attracts butterflies like the Hutchinson Highflier as it is the larval host. The weavers eat the seeds and the leaves are browsed by kudu. The roots are apparently poisonous but the tree is used medicinally as it is inhaled for chest complaints and applied for skin ailments. It is also used magically to get rid of snakes. It has aggressive roots so don't plant it closer than 3 meters to a building or a pool. 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.

Vachellia sieberana (Acacia sieberiana var. woodii)

(Paperbark Thorn)

This tree occurs in Northern Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Transvaal, Swaziland and Natal. It is easily identified by its dense, widely spreading foliage, a flattened crown and flaking bark. The fluffy, scented white pompom blooms are conspicuous against the deep green, feathery foliage. The papery bark is exceptionally attractive and peels off in flattish strips, displaying yellow under bark. The bark is highly flammable and sensitive to fire, so perhaps it’s best not to build a braai under it. Legend has it that one should write one’s wishes on a piece of bark and blow it away. This apparently guarantees that your wishes will be fulfilled. The bark shelters insects which are foraged by insect eating birds. The Buffalo Weavers nest in these trees. Pied and Crested Barbets like to make nesting holes in the bark. The bark is also used to create a grey dye. It will remain evergreen in a moist habitat but in cooler or drier parts it is semi or completely deciduous. The paired, white thorns are joined at the base and grow up to 100 mm in length. The light brown pods have a musty or fruity smell and are 100 to 200 mm long. The pods are browsed by game and the Grey Hornbills crack open the pods to eat the seeds but the leaves contain prussic acid which is dangerous to stock. A wonderful nesting and lookout site for many birds, and is a ‘food basket’ for a variety of birds, beetles, bees and other bugs. It is the larval host of the Black-striped Hairtail, Common Scarlet and the Silver-spotted Grey. It is medicinal as an infusion from the roots is used as an antiseptic and a bark decoction is a painkiller. It is also used to wash children who have a fever, stomach ache, acne, gonorrhoea, colds, tapeworms and diarrhea. The leaves are a vermifuge. The wood is used for general timber although easily damaged by insects. It is fasts growing and would make useful firewood and timber. It is often seasoned under water for 6 months to make it more durable. The gum is clear and of a good quality. Soot is added to the gum to make ink.It has been recorded as growing to about 200 years. It has aggressive roots so don't plant it closer than 7 meters from buildings and pools. This is a popular bonsai subject. Branches fall from these trees. All thorn trees drop their thorns so it is not suitable for a lawn. 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.

Veltheimia bracteata

(Bush Lily)

These beautiful flowers look a bit like an Aloe. They stand about 50cm tall and are a striking pink-red or yellow in colour. They are deciduous during mid-summer. These are shade loving bulbs growing naturally in the coastal forests of the Eastern Cape. They are happy growing in a pot on a patio. Named for August Ferdinand von Veltheim ( 1741-1801] a German mineralogist, with interests in geology, Archaeology and civic matters. He was an inspector of mines and wrote a geology. He developed a beautiful botanical garden at the Castel in Harbke and was a patron of botany. He received an honoral PhD and was appointed a count by the king of Prussia.

Zantedeschia aethiopica

(White Arum Lily, Pig's Lily)

Commonly called 'Pig's Lily' as the tubers were boiled and fed to the pigs. Porcupines also enjoy the tubers. The leaves are also cooked as a pot herb, then braised with onions and chilli. A much loved evergreen groundcover which is fast growing in the shade or semi-shade. The large white flowers occur in spring and they attract birds and butterflies. There’s a multitude of uses for this much loved flower, either in wetlands, near water features or in containers. It has medicinal uses as the warmed leaves are used on sores, boils, insect bites, for gout, ulcers, headaches and rheumatism. The leaves must not be crushed as the juice is an irritant. Leaf, root and stem extracts show antibiotic properties.The leaves produce a yellow dye. The flowers are long lasting in a vase. Named for Giovanni Zantedeschia (1773-1846) an Italian physician, pharmacist and botanist. He was particularly interested in the flora of Northern Italy where he discovered and described many new species.

Zantedeschia aethiopica 'Green Goddess'

(Green Arum)

This is a deciduous Arum that grows to about 1 m tall. It has dark green lance shaped leaves and the flowers are also large and open in spring. They are streaked with green and are very graceful in a flower arrangement. They grow in moist conditions in semi shade and will thrive on the water’s edge or even submerged in the water. The sap may cause skin irritations. The flowers are suitable for the vase. Named for Giovanni Zantedeschia (1773-1846) an Italian physician, pharmacist and botanist. He was particularly interested in the flora of Northern Italy where he discovered and described many new species.

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