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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 krausii

(Forest Bushwillow)

This is a medium to large tree that is mostly evergreen but can be deciduous or semi-deciduous. The beautifully decorative leaves turn bright red to purple in winter, dropping just before flowering, which starts around August and continues through to November. The mature leaves are silvery white below and glossy green above. The green flowers open in spring. It is reasonably drought resistant and cold resistant and is fast growing. The young stems are pliable and used in basket-making. The wood is tough and yellowish in colour but the sawdust can cause a skin irritation. The root is used medicinally as anti diuretics, lotions for eye infections, as well as an antiseptic. It stimulates the appetite and strengthens the spinal column. Root powder is put into wounds to encourage healing. Plant it 5 meters from buildings and pools.

Combretum molle

(Velvet Bushwillow)

Velvet bush willow is a small to medium-sized deciduous tree that grows to 13 meters with a rounded crown. It has grey bark when young and this becomes grey-brown or almost black when older. Young leaves are attractive with a light pink or orange colour. Its flowering time is Sept.–Nov. The flowers are in dense axillary spikes with a greenish yellow colour, strongly scented and attractive to bees and other insects. The fruit is light green with reddish shade which turns red-brown when dry. Dried fruit is used in flower arrangements. It is used medicinally as the boiled root decoction is used for abortions, and to treat constipation, infertility, diarrhea, bleeding after childbirth, convulsions, fattening infants, backache and for difficulty walking which is caused by sorcery, headaches, stomach aches, fever, dysentery and swellings, and as an anthelmintic for hookworm. The leaves are chewed, soaked in water and the juice drunk for chest complaints. They are also boiled and used as a hot compress for wounds and snake bites. It can also be used as an inhalant in a hot steam bath to treat headaches. It is termite-proof and can be used to make fence posts, implement handles and bowls for grinding peanuts and mealies and mortars. Red fabric dyes are made from the leaves, whereas dyes made from the roots are yellow-brown. It is browsed by game. It is the larval host plant for the Guineafowl and Morant's Skipper butterflies. Canaries strip the bark for nesting. A very useful tree.

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.

Cryptocarya latifolia

(Broad-Leaved Quince)

An evergreen, medium tree with a dense crown. The bark is grey-brown, smooth with fine vertical fissures. The leaves are leathery, dark green with fine hairs above and greenish brown below. The white flowers are small and borne in branched sprays and they open in spring .The spherical fruit ripens to black. It should be planted in sun or semi-shade. It is medicinal and magical and it also attracts mammals. The name is derived from the Greek 'kryptos'= hidden and 'karya'= a nut as the succulent fruit is hidden.

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.

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 spicata

(Common Cabbage Tree)

This small evergreen tree is fast growing in the sun. The green/yellow flowers open in Autumn. This decorative tree is a lovely form plant with bright green leaves crowded at the tips of the branches and long bare stems. The fruit are fleshy and purple when ripe and they attract birds and butterflies. Ideal for a small garden but it does have aggressive roots so don’t plant less than 5 meters from a wall or a pool. It requires good drainage and thrives on lots of compost. The Leaves are browsed by elephant and kudu and people eat the roots to obtain moisture. The roots and bark are also eaten by black rhino, baboon and bushpigs. It is frost tender in cold gardens. An infusion of the root is used medicinally for malaria, stomach complaints and V D. The roots are also chewed for virility and strength. They taste similar to sugar cane. The grated bark is used in hot water to make a poultice for cramp and muscle spasm. This solution is also used to bath newborn babies to ensure a strong child and prevent skin rashes and pimples. Some folk believe that it one is planted near the homestead, it will ensure fat, healthy children. Dried flowers are added to snuff. The leaves are used as a fish poison but are palatable to cattle and goats. Named for Pierre Cusson 1727-1783 who was a French Jesuit, mathematician, physician, professor and botanist who traveled extensively and wrote many publications.

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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