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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.

Cassine aethiopica

(Kooboo-Berry)

An evergreen medium sized tree. The leaves are thickly textured and create dense shade. The flowers are white and are produce in summer, followed by bright red edible fruit. It is useful for screening. Plant it in full sun. It’s a useful tree as it produces brown dye from the bark, it’s medicinal and the hard wood is used for household items. It is also browsed by game.

Cassinopsis ilicifolia

(Lemon Thorn)

This small evergreen tree is water wise and will thrive in the sun or semi-shade. Little white flowers open in summer and they are followed by little yellow fruit that look like miniature lemons and they attract insect and fruit eating birds like bulbuls, starlings, barbets, pigeons, guineafowl and francolins. The tree is also used for nesting sites and the leaves are browsed. It can be utilized for informal hedging/screening or thorny security barriers. It is an ideal tree for small gardens and looks great near a pond. As it does not have aggressive roots it can be planted in a container, near a building or paving.If the leaves start to drop, this is an indication that it is water deprived. The name comes from the Greek opsis=resemblance as the genus resembles Cassine.

Celtis africana

(White Stinkwood)

This medium deciduous tree, is frost resistant, drought resistant and fast growing in sun or semi-shade. if well watered it will grow 2 meters a year. It occurs from the Cape Peninsula to Ethiopia. Tiny yellow, sweetly scented flowers occur in summer and they attract insect and fruit eating birds. The fruit is also eaten by monkeys and baboon. The tree is also browsed by game like kudu, nyala, bushbuck, impala and grey duiker. It is also used for nesting sites and a tall perch from which to lookout. Butterflies like the African Snout, Blue-spotted Emperor and the Foxy Emperor as well as several moths are also attracted to this fodder tree. It is a popular bonsai subject and the wood is used for furniture, construction, flooring, mine props, toys, ladders, boxes and crates. It is also used for firewood as well as charcoal production.It can be planted in a container. The common name is as a result of the unpleasant smell when the wood is first cut. It is magical as is used to protect against lightening by mixing the wood shavings with crocodile fat. The medicinal uses are numerous, treating a fever, headache, sore eyes and pleurisy. The bark is made into rope. It is always found where there is underground water or streams. Plant it 6 meters from buildings or pools. This is a protected tree in South Africa.

Combretum bracteosum

(Hiccup Nut)

The hiccup nut is a usually a shrub or small tree which scrambles into nearby vegetation. It grows up to between 2 and 4 m high, although if it has support from other trees it can reach up to 8 m. It spreads to between 4 and 5 m wide. The showy, scented flowers are bright red but differ from those of other Combetum in that the petals are obvious and are responsible for most of the colour. Flowering occurs in spring, followed by the edible fruit which is not at all like the other Combretums as it is nut shaped. Hence the common name. It is not known whether the nuts cause or cure hiccups. The nuts are edible once roasted. It likes a warm summer with a moderate of high rainfall. It should be planted in a full sun or semi-shade and it an ideal plant for screening and hedging. It also attracts birds and Striped Policeman and the Spotted Sailor butterflies and a moth specie as this is their larval host.

Combretum erythrophyllum

(River Bushwillow)

This is a medium to large deciduous tree with reddish autumn colours. Flowers are cream to pale yellow, slightly scented and open in September to November. The fruit are small, 4-winged and a greenish brown colour, ripening to yellowish brown and drying to a honey-brown. They stay on the tree for a long time. The fruit is poisonous and results in hiccups. A popular shade tree, surprisingly drought and frost resistant and fast growing, reaching 4-6 m in three years. The gum has interesting antibiotic properties and is applied to sores. It is non-toxic, elastic, producing a non-cracking varnish. Ornaments, cattle troughs and grain mortars are made from the wood, which is yellow, tough and easily worked. It is also used as fire wood. A dark, rich brown dye is extracted from the roots which is used when tanning hides. The dried fruits also work well in flower arrangements and are eaten by pied barbets. It has non-aggressive roots and attracts birds. It is the larval host plant for several butterflies like Liordes Hairtail, Red -tab Policeman, Two-pip Policeman and the Orange-barred Playboy. I just love these charming butterfly names! It is an ideal tree for wetlands as well as game farms as it is browsed by Kudu, Bushbuck, Eland, Giraffe and Elephant. It is often used as a street tree, in large gardens and along rivers. There are many medicinal uses. Root bark and stem bark are used to treat a cough, infertility, leprosy and VD. The bark is taken during labour to ease childbirth, to treat infertility and as an aphrodisiac. The leaves are used for coughs and abdominal pains.The roots, which some regard as poisonous are used as a purgative, to treat venereal diseases and as a prophylactic for V.D. The roots are fed to dogs by the Zulu to fatten them up.

Combretum zeyheri

(Large-Fruited Bushillow)

This medium-sized, semi-deciduous tree grows very slowly to 10 meters and is frost sensitive. It often has twisted trunks and the bark is light grey, smooth to fissured in patches, sometimes flaking. The leaves are large and bigger than many of the other Combretums. The yellow flowers occur in summer. The roots are used for basket weaving and to make necklaces for young girls and it is used medicinally to treat coughs and stomach pains.

Crassula ovata

(Pink Joy, Money Plant, Penny Plant, Dollar Plant, Tree of Happiness)

This is a sturdy, branched, compact, rounded, evergreen succulent tree is thought of as a shrub growing from 1 - 3 m tall. It has glossy, dark to grey-green oval leaves on short, stubby branches and a robust stem or trunk. The leaves are often edged with red, more so if the plant is in full sun. The flowers are pink and the flowering time varies according to the climate. It is drought resistant. The stems soon become gnarled and stout, suggesting great age. It is grown all over the world, most often as a pot plant. The Khoi eat the roots. It attracts bees, wasps, flies and beetles. This is the larval host plant for the Tailed Black-eye butterfly. Slice a leaf in half and strap it to a wart and leave on overnight.It is magical and in the USA, Germany and the East it is planted into square, porcelain tubs to bring financial luck which gives rise to it's many common names. Named from the Latin 'crassus'= and 'ula'= diminutive referring to the fleshy succulent leaves.

Croton gratissimus

(Lavender Fever Berry)

This is an attractive and versatile deciduous shrub or small tree for the home garden. It is capable of becoming a large tree in certain instances and it may reach 10m high if there is sufficient heat and rain. It is a slender tree with fine, drooping foliage and a crown which spreads upwards in a 'V'-shape with drooping terminal branches. The elongated leaves are green above and the lower surface is silvery with little brown scales. They are aromatic when crushed hence the latin name gratissimus which means most pleasant. It bears small cream to golden yellow flowers in summer that are visited by bees. Fruit is formed between September and November and is a three lobed capsule. First green then it turns yellow as it matures. In late autumn the capsule dries out and explodes flinging the seeds some distance from the mother plant. The fruit is enjoyed by birds. It is a drought resistant and requires sun to semi-shade. It’s an ideal plant for containers. The root is used medicinally as a purgative or an enema for fevers. The root is also a protective charm and is used as an aphrodisiac.The bark is used for abdominal disorders and is rubbed into incisions on the skin for pains in the chest. The leaves are placed on hot coals and inhaled for insomnia. They are also placed in baths for fevers and bleeding gums. Despite being a poisonous tree, there are many medicinal uses. Powdered leaves are used to make perfume. The wood is heavy and termite resistant so is used for huts, fence poles and sticks. It is the larval host plant to the green-veined emperor butterfly.

Cussonia paniculata

(Highveld Cabbage Tree)

This small evergreen tree is drought resistant and grows in the sun. It is not suitable for coastal gardens. The green flowers open in Summer and they attract numerous insects, which in turn entice the insect eating birds. This structural tree has thick stems and drooping grey leaves and it attracts birds, butterflies and the Emperor Moth. The leaves are browsed by game like kudu as well a cattle and goats. The baboons and birds eat the seeds. The thick, aggressive, tuberous roots are peeled and eaten raw as an emergency food or as a source of water. It has medicinal properties as a decoction of the leaf is used to treat mental disease. Is ideal for a small garden provided that it is not planted closer than 5 meters from a wall as it has aggressive roots. Named for Pierre Cusson 1727-1783 who was a French Jesuit, mathematician, physician, professor and botanist who travelled extensively and wrote many publications. Paniculata refers to the flowers that are arranged in a loose cluster. Plant as an accent plant in a large garden, or in a rockery amongst Aloes and succulents a the grey foliage is a lovely contrast.

Cussonia transvaalensis

(Transvaal Cabbage Tree)

Small to medium-sized tree up to 5 m, with attractive, coarsely textured grey-green foliage. The bark is corky and deeply longitudinally fissured. The small, green flowers are borne in dense finger-like structures in spring-summer and they are pollinated by insects. The flowers are followed by the production of small, purple-black berries, which are relished by many species of fruit-eating birds. It requires well-drained soil and a warm garden as it is frost tender. It can tolerate more water in the garden than what it gets in the wild and makes a lovely garden subject. It attracts birds. Named for Pierre Cusson 1727-1783 who was a French Jesuit, mathematician, physician, professor and botanist who traveled extensively and wrote many publications.

Dais cotinifolia

(Pompon Tree)

This small, fast growing, drought and frost resistant tree has a lovely rounded, leafy crown. It can be single- or multi-stemmed, with the brown stems covered in small speckles of whitish cork. In very cold areas they are deciduous, but in warmer climates they only lose their leaves for a short time at the end of winter. The trees flower in early summer and the new flower buds look like lollypops. This is a wonderful tree for the garden as the flowers last for a month and they are useful in flower arrangements. Place a thick layer of mulch or compost around the base of the tree as this helps to keep the soil moist and cool, suppresses weed growth and slowly releases nutrients into the soil. It attracts butterflies. The bark is stripped and used for whips, binding or plaited into rope. They do not have aggressive roots so can be planted 2 meters from a building or a pool and is suitable for townhouse gardens. It is fast growing, at about 1 meter a year. It prefers full sun and doesn't seem happy near the coast. An admirer who saw a tree in flower, took seed back to Holland where it was grown in 1757. It was named by one of the greatest botanists, Linnaeus.

Deinbollia oblongifolia

(Dune Soap-Berry)

This small evergreen tree is drought resistant and fast growing in the shade. It produces white/cream flowers in Autumn which attract insects and insect eating birds. The round yellow fruit is eaten by people, monkeys and birds. It is the larval host to many butterfly species like the Emperors, Playboys, Foresters and Hairstreaks. It’s useful for containers or bonsai as it has non-aggressive roots. It is an attractive garden plant which can also be used indoors. Traditionally the seeds are used to make soap, the leaves are eaten as spinach and browsed by game and the roots used medicinally for gastric complaints. Named for Peter Vogelius Deinboll 1783-1874, a Danish entomologist, clergyman, Parliamentarian and collector. His insect collection is the oldest in the Natural History Museum in Oslo.

Dichrostachys cinerea

(Sickle Bush)

This is a small deciduous tree which is water wise and grows to 5 metes, happily in the sun. The pink/yellow flowers are fragrant and appear in spring and resemble a ballerina with a pink skirt and yellow legs. The name Dichrostachys means two coloured spikes. The Shona name, Mapangara means 'the tree that provides tassels for the chief's hat'. In Botswana it is called 'the Kalahari Christmas tree'. The fine foliage resembles that of the Umbrella Thorn, The tightly twisted pods also resemble those of the Umbrella Thorn.The leaves and pods are eaten by Rhino, Monkeys, Giraffe, Bushpig, Impala, Nyala, Kudu, Elephant and Buffalo so it's great for a game farm. It makes a great thorny, security barrier but the spines are lethal to tyres. Durable hard wood is used for termite resistant fencing posts, and firewood which burns slowly. The inner bark is tough and pliable and is used to make twine and strong rope. The flexible branches are used as hunting bows in the Kalahari. All parts of this tree are used medicinally. The leaves are used for sore eyes, wound cleaning, headaches and toothache while the roots are chewed and placed on snake bites and scorpion stings. This is useful to know when one is hiking in the bush.The root is considered to be a pain killer and is used after giving birth. This tree is used for urinary problems, eye wash, catarrh, bronchitis, pneumonia, a purgative, sore throat, VD, syphilis and an aphrodisiac. It is drunk as a tea or used topically. The dried leaves and roots are burnt and the smoke is inhaled to relieve chest complaints and a blocked nose.It is drought resistant and a good bonsai subject. It attracts many insects and therefore the insect eating birds. It is anti-witchcraft and is planted at the homestead as a protective charm. A medicine horn filled with dried parts is used to protect one from snake bite. The roots are non aggressive. This is the larval host plant for the Satyr Emperor and Topaz Blue butterflies and 3 moth species. The name is derived from the Greek 'dis'=two and 'chroos'=colour and 'stachys'= spike referring to the bicoloured flower.

Diospyros lycioides var guerkei

(Transvaal Bluebush)

Found throughout the country, other than the Western Cape and the Karoo. It only grows to 3-5 meters so is great for a townhouse garden where space is limited. It has stunning autumn foliage and is deciduous. The flowers are visited by butterflies and insects so they attract the insect eating birds. Perhaps its best attribute is the little red fruit, which are produced in abundance. They are relished by fruit eating birds, Dassies, Bushbuck and humans. It is the larval food plant of the Mooi River Opal butterfly and 26 moth species.The roots produce brown dye and they are used medicinally as a purgative, for epilepsy, to dislodge thorns and for eye troubles. The roots are extremely hard and are known to blunt plough blades. We recently had an enquiry from Australia for the twigs which are used as toothpicks!The roots and twigs are antimicrobial. An excellent bonsai subject. The name is derived from the Greek dios = divine, pyros=a grain of sand referring to the fruit which is divine to eat and is used to make jam.

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