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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.

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.

Calamagrostis epigeos

This is a tufted rhizomes perennial, occurring in clamp ditches or grazed grassland. It thrives in moist, light shade, but will adapt to a wide range of conditions and it can also grow in heavy clay soil. The flowers are attached to branches rather than to the main axis of inflorescence and there are no hairs on the surface of the leaf sheath. A very beautiful grass that has a long flowering season starting in Spring and continuing right through till the end of summer. This grass is not eaten by Dassies as reported by one of our customers who is trying to create a meadow of grasses!

Centella asiatica

(Pennywort||Waterhearts)

This evergreen groundcover grows to 15cm high and spreads. It produces cream flowers in summer and should be planted in sun, shade or semi-shade. It’s an ideal plant for wetlands as it thrives in moist soil and will be suitable for containers where it will scamper over the edge. It is used in traditional medicine to treat cancer, skin ailments like oily skin, blemishes, coarse open pores, eczema, psoriasis, varicose veins and thread veins, fever, diuretic, purgative, TB, leprosy, syphilis and to aid the memory. It is excellent for treating sunburn and gives aging skin back its elasticity. In Australia one or two leaves is chopped into a salad and eaten daily. This is said to be the right dose to aid the memory as large amounts eaten at a sitting are said to have a narcotic effect however in South Africa the leaves are cooked and eaten as spinach. It is the larval host for the Uranus Opal butterfly and one moth specie. A face cream can be made by simmering half a cup of aqueous cream with half a cup of finely chopped leaves in a double boiler for 20 minutes. Strain and cool. Add 3 drops of tea tree oil. Fill a container and enjoy the benefits. It can also be made into a lotion by boiling 3 liters of water with 3 cups of leaves for 10 minutes. Strain and cool. This can be used for aching legs, varicose veins, swellings, infections and rashes. Cheap as chips and worth a try. It was recorded in the French pharmacopoeia in 1884 and is used in Hindu medicine, Ayurvedic medicine in India and Traditional Chinese Medicine. It is reported to be antibacterial, antifungal, anti-allergic and hypotensive. Laboratory studies have found it to be mildly tranquillising, anti-stress and anti-anxiety.The name comes from the Greek kentron=a spur or sharp point and ella=diminutive referring to the small pointed styles.

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.

Combretum erythrophyllum

(River Bushwillow)

This is a medium to large deciduous tree with reddish autumn colours. Flowers are cream to pale yellow 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. 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.

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 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 and as a poultice for septic sores. Juice from the leaf is used for earache and a roasted slice on 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 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.

Crinum graminicola

(Grass Crinum)

A deciduous summer-growing bulb with a 45cm stem holding several white to pinkish-rose flowers with a very deep rose stripe on each petal opening during summer. It is slow to mature and takes a minimum of eight years before it flowers. The leaves are comparatively narrow for the large size of the plant. It is very difficult to propagate so enjoy seeing them in our grasslands. The name is derived from the Greek 'krinon'= lily and graminicola means 'growing among grtasses'.

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.

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