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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 major

(Tall Aristea)

This evergreen ground cover grows to about 1.5m x 1m in wetland situations, so it is perfect for a pond or dam. It would also be lovely next to a water feature where it will get extra water. The stunning blue flowers open in Summer and make a spectacular display especially if mass planted. There are very few blue flowers compared to other colours in our South African flora. They attract birds and butterflies. It is a handsome, structural plant which is well worth planting. The name is derived from the Latin 'arista'=a point as the leaves are sharply pointed.

Berula rotunda was erecta

(Toothache Root)

This perennial aquatic plant grows in shallow, clear flowing water near ditches, ponds, lakes and rivers. It grows to heights of between 30cm and 1m and has white flower heads in summer. The leaflets have toothed edges. The characteristic features are a pale ring at the base of the leaf stalk and a smell of parsnip or carrot when crushed. It is frost hardy and should be planted in sun. As this a water-loving plant, plant it in a wetland garden, near a water feature or dam. The rhizomes are used for toothache.

Crinum campanulatum

(Water Crinum)

A deciduous groundcover that grows about 40cm high, but it requires some effort as one should leave it in the pond during summer and remove it from the water in winter to prevent the bulb from rotting. It is a true aquatic species that needs to be placed under water in order to flower. It requires full sun and is an ideal plant for water gardens. The name is derived from the Greek 'krinon'= lily.

Cyperus prolifer

(Dwarf Papyrus)

This is an evergreen water-loving, attractive, medium-sized groundcover that grows to 30cm high and 15cm wide. It has very inconspicuous leaves, represented by red-brown sheaths at the base. It should be planted in full sun. It is an excellent plant for the containers and is ideal for small wetland gardens. The name is derived from Latin 'cuperos' and Greek 'kypeoros'= sedge or rush.

Cyperus textilis

(Emezi Grass)

This evergreen groundcover grows to 1.5m high and 1m wide. It is an attractive accent plant for a dam or pond. It forms a clump of bare stems, each topped by a rounded head of narrow spiky leaves. The stems are used to make traditional sleeping mats, baskets and twine. It is frost resistant with brownish flowers in summer. Plant it in the sun or semi-shade in a wetland or next to a water feature where it will get sufficient water. It attracts birds which use it for nesting. The name is derived from Latin 'cuperos' and Greek 'kypeoros'= sedge or rush.

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.

Isolepsis cernua

(Fiber optic grass)

This little sedge gets it's name from the fact that the tiny white flowers look like little fiber optic lamps. It grows to about 30 cm wide an will thrive in either the sun or the shade but it must be kept moist. it can even be planted in water. It is perfect for a water feature where it will be splashed or even in a pond. The 'moplike' tufts are upright when the plant is young and they become longer with age. They can be given a 'haircut' if necessary. The name is derived from the Greek isos - equal; lepsis = scale; referring to the glumes of the flower.

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.

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.

Lobelia alata

This a very fast growing variable sprawling perennial groundcover with prostrate branches that root at the nodes and it grows about 20cm. Some of the branches become erect and may reach a height of 450 mm or even taller if growing up through other vegetation. The little flowers may be white or varying shades of blue or mauve. It flowers from November to June. The fruit is a capsule containing a number of small seeds. This is a fast growing species especially in warm, damp conditions. Bees have been seen visiting the flowers and are presumably the pollinators of this species. It is a very attractive,lovely looking groundcover for wetland areas and dry condition. Mystically it is used to attract love and stop storms. Named for Masthias de L'Obel (1538-1616) a Flemish botanist, traveller and plant collector. He studied medicine and was physician to William, Prince of Orange. he left the Netherlands to escape the civil war and went to England to be King James's physician. He wrote describing 1500 plant species.

Marsellei macrocarpa

(Water Clover)

This fern grows in dams, ponds and streams that are seasonally dry, so tit is deciduous. When the rains arrive, the spores germinate or the dormant rhizomes produce fronds with the characteristic clover - like leaflets. The leaves grow up and float on the surface of the water. As the rains decrease and the water levels drop the soil hardens and the plant becomes dormant again.

Scabiosa africana

(Pincushion)

This is a fast-growing groundcover that has finely divided grey-green foliage. It covers 30 x 30cm in full sun and semi-shade. It produces a pretty mauve flower in spring and autumn on long stalks about 40cm tall. Plant these in a mixed border and use the flowers for the vase. The flowers attract butterflies and birds. The name is from the Latin scabios=rough, scaly and from the Latin scapies-roughness, scurf, itch, referring to leprosy; alluding to the plant's supposed ability to cure cutaneous diseases and as remedies for relief from 'the itch'.

Typha capensis

(Bulrush)

These plants are deciduous and grow to about 2 m tall. They are often seen on the verge of a dam, wetland or river where the roots filter the water. It is frost resistant, fast growing and has brownish flowers in summer. Birds use these as nesting sites and humans utilize it for many things eg the rhizomes are used for meal and the leaves are useful for brooms, weaving, mat and basket making and thatching. It is also medicinal as a root decoction is used in childbirth, for urinary tract problems and for the treatment of VD. The brown woolly flower is used to staunch bleeding and this is also done by the Chinese and the American Red Indians. Tea from the root is also used for diarrhoea, dysentry, and enteritis.The hollow stem is made into a flute. They are used in the kitchen as the new shoots are edible as are the thicker older roots which are ground and boiled and made into flat cakes. The Tswana pick the young flower stalks and fry them in fat. Some farmers feed their pigs and cattle the roots and stems in times of drought. The brown flower stalks are also used in flower arrangements. The name is derived from the Greek typhos=marsh; referring to the plants natural habitat.

Wachendorfia thrysiflora

(Blood Root)

Wachendorfia thrysiflora or Blood root has very distinctive leaves that are pleated. The flower spike can grow to 1.5m and is covered in star shaped yellow flowers. It occurs in the winter rainfall areas so would need watering during the winter on the Highveld. It has beautiful red colouration on the bottom of the stems and their roots are red as indicated by their common name. A very dramatic plant and worth planting near a pond, water feature or dam. This an easy plant to grow and is ideally suited to marshy or swampy conditions in full sun or semi-shade, but will also grow in soil that is not waterlogged provided it gets ample water particularly during winter and spring. A generous mulch of compost is also very beneficial. It is evergreen if it is given water all year round, but if given total summer drought it may die down and go dormant. Wachendorfia thyrsiflora is invaluable in difficult, permanently wet areas, is an attractive addition to the water garden where it can be planted at the waters edge or where the water overflows, and it makes an excellent backdrop to the herbaceous border. It attracts birds and butterflies. Named for Evert Jacob van Wachendorff (1702-1758)

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