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Podocarpus falcatus now Afrocarpus falcatus

(Outeniqua or Common Yellowwood)

An attractive evergreen tree that grows to 15m x 12m. It is a protected tree in South Africa. It is frost hardy, wind resistant and requires water as it naturally occurs on misty mountain slopes with high humidity. In 1976 it was listed as SA National Tree and one needs a permit to fell these trees. It is often used as a Christmas tree. Although it has the smallest leaves of all the Podocarpus species, it grows to be the tallest. This is the famous 'Big Tree' of the Knysna Forest. It is slow growing at first but once established grows fast. It looks impressive lining a driveway as an avenue and it can be used as a windbreak or screen on a farm or as a container plant on a patio. The fruit are eaten by bats, birds, monkeys and bush pigs. The bark is burnt in a kraal to prevent the cattle from straying. It is an important nesting and food for the endangered Cape Parrot, and is visited by Louries and Pigeons. The fine grained wood is used for ceilings, floors, doors, boats and furniture. The ripe fruit is edible and the sap is used medicinally for chest complaints. Plant it about 5 meters from a building and a pool. This is a popular bonsai subject. The name is derived from the Greek podos = foot and karpos - fruit, referring to the fleshy foot , the receptacle, on which the fruit develops.

Podocarpus henkelii

(Henkels Yellowwood)

This handsome, medium sized tree is moderately frost hardy. It is a protected tree in South Africa. This is a highland forest species that grows best on moist sites with high rainfall and deep soils. It is a very neat, decorative tree suitable for both home gardens and large landscapes. It makes and excellent specimen tree for lawns and is a good choice for an avenue. It is also suited for formal gardens, as it responds well to pruning. It has male and female reproductive organs on separate plants. Male Podocarpus henkelii cones are erect, pink, and 2-3 cm long and are solitary or in clusters of up to 5. Female cones are solitary, but the stalk is short. The seed is large and roundish and 1,5-2 cm in diameter and olive green to yellowish green when ripe. Louries, pigeons and parrots eat the fruit. It attracts butterflies. It is a magical tree as the bark is chewed and spat out into the wind while the loved one's name is repeated. The roots are not aggressive so it makes a good bonsai. Plant it about 5 meters from a building and a pool. The name is derived from the Greek podos = foot and karpos - fruit, referring to the fleshy foot , the receptacle, on which the fruit develops.

Podocarpus latifolius

(Real Yellowwood)

This is a slow-growing, large, evergreen tree, which grows to between 20 and 30 m tall. It occurs naturally on misty mountain slopes with a high rainfall so it needs lots of water. It is a protected tree in South Africa. It is very long-lived and is able to withstand some frost. The unusual textural appearance of the leaves makes it a good contrast or background for other trees. The colourful receptacles of the female tree are most attractive. This tree would make an interesting container plant and can withstand short periods indoors. The leaf size and interesting bark are good characteristics for bonsai. It produces greenish flowers in spring and the wood is used for furniture. When the berry-like receptacles ripen, birds such as pigeons and turacos feed on them. They are also eaten by monkeys, bushpigs and sometimes by people. The bark is used in traditional medicine. Plant it about 4 meters from a building and a pool. The name is derived from the Greek podos = foot and karpos - fruit, referring to the fleshy foot , the receptacle, on which the fruit develops.

Polygala fruticosa

(Heart-Leaved Polygala)

This is a neat, evergreen rounded shrub up to 1 m tall. The young leaves of this indigenous evergreen are tinged with purple, the shade echoed by the deep purple, winged flowers. Peak displays of flowers occur from spring to early summer, giving an unequalled show. It also produces a scattering of blooms throughout the year. Bees are particularly attracted to the nectar that the flowers produce and are the main pollinators. Seeds are enclosed in papery, flattened capsules that remain on the bush for quite some time during and after flowering. This hardy plant requires no special care. Good, enriched soil, full sun or semi-shade and plenty of water, will ensure rapid, healthy growth. It has excellent waterwise properties, and once established it will tolerate fairly heavy drought. Perfect as it is waterwise garden. It attracts birds and butterflies. The name is derived from the Greek poly=much and gala = milk as it is believed that cows that eat this plant produce more milk. Fruticosa means shrubby.

Polygala myrtifolia

(September Bush)

This attractive, small, evergreen shrub is able to adapt to most gardens as it is drought and frost resistant. A tough shrub suitable for coastal gardens, fynbos gardens, low maintenance and water-wise gardens. In a new garden it is excellent as a fast growing windbreak or a formal hedge.It will grow in full sun to semi-shade. Its growth is a bit more lax, producing fewer flowers in the shade, but it grows happily in the difficult pockets that change from full sun to semi-shade with the seasons. It blooms throughout the year with a peak in spring ( August to October) when the plants flower profusely. The flowers are pollinated by carpenter bees.The fruit is a small, winged capsule which is enjoyed by doves. It is good for containers as its roots are non aggressive and it attracts butterflies like the Pea Blue..It is medicinal as the leaves are made into a poultice to treat gout.

Polygala virgata

(Purple Broom)

This erect, slender, eye catching, evergreen shrub grows to a height of 1,5 to 2,5 m. A single stem is formed at the base of the plant and slender hairless branches occur at the top. It is fast growing, hardy and can be grown in any garden in South Africa. Once established in the garden it will tolerate drought, wind and some frost. With its beautiful sprays of flowers it will be an accent plant in a shrubby garden or rockery. Planted in good enriched soil in a sunny or semi-shade position in the garden. The purple tuft of hairs is a distinctive characteristic to identify all Polygalas. Peak flowering time is from September to February. The fruit is a two-celled capsule and the seed is small, black and oval shaped.Simple leaves are alternately arranged on younger branches and usually drops before flowering. The leaves are narrow in shape, dark green with a velvety texture and 10 mm in length. It grows naturally on bushy hillsides and along stream banks. It grows in sandstone, clay or limestone slopes and along forest margins. The leaves and stems were traditionally prepared and used as blood purifiers. It is anti viral and is used to treat Herpes simplex. The plant is grazed when in reach of stock and game. The beautiful flowering sprays can be used in a vase. The shrub is a buzz with bees, insects and bumblebees which are attracted to the bright purple magenta flowers. It is the larval host plant for the Long-tailed Blue butterfly.

Portulacaria afra

(Elephant's Foot, Spekboom)

Nature's wonder plant that purifies the air. A friend of mine has one growing in a pot in every room in her home. The porkbush is an attractive, evergreen succulent shrub or small tree that can reach 2 - 5 m in height, although usually around 1.5 - 2 m in a garden situation. It is protected. It has small round succulent leaves and red stems. Small star-shaped light pink to deep red flowers are borne en masse from late winter to spring although flowering in cultivation is often erratic. They are a rich source of nectar for many insects, which in-turn attracts insectivorous birds and is used as nesting sites. Bees use the nectar to make honey. It also attracts butterflies. The fruit are like inflated paper lanterns and are mauve or rose coloured. They thrive in warm situations on rocky slopes, in bushveld and dry river valleys. This bushy tree makes a lovely screen or hedge. The leaves of the porkbush can be eaten and have a sour or tart flavour. It is heavily browsed by game and domestic stock and highly favoured by tortoises. The porkbush is useful for preventing soil erosion. Traditional uses also include the increasing of breast milk for lactating mothers. The leaves are used to quench thirst, and sucking a leaf is used to treat exhaustion, dehydration and heat stroke. There are many medicinal uses as crushed leaves can be rubbed on blisters and corns on the feet to provide relief. The leaves are chewed as a treatment for a sore throat and mouth infections while the astringent juice is used for soothing skin conditions such as pimples, rashes and insect stings. The juice is also used as an antiseptic and as a treatment for sunburn. The leaves are excellent fodder for most domestic animals and game such as grey duiker, klipspringer, impala, bushbuck, nyala, kudu and elephant. A sprig is placed on top of Tomato Bredie as it is cooking and this imparts an elusive and tangy taste.

Portulacaria afra prostrata

(Elephants Foot)

Dwarf Elephants Foot is another very versatile plant that grows in full sun to deep shade. It produces lavender coloured flowers in summer. It is water wise and has arching, trailing branches with reddish brown stems. It would be ideal in a pot, to scamper over the edge, a hanging basket or even retaining walls. I saw it flourishing in the baking hot sun in the Kruger Park, in a retailing wall at one of the rest camps in very harsh conditions.

Prunus africana

(Red Stinkwood)

This is a medium to large (10 - 20 m) handsome, evergreen tree with a spreading crown. It can become huge under frost-free conditions, but is usually medium-sized in gardens. The main stem is straight, with dark brown bark, cracking in a characteristic oblong pattern. The white flowers are scented, small, and borne singly or in sprays up to 70 mm long in October to May. The fruit is spherical, dull purplish brown, about 10 mm in diameter, in branched bunches (Sept. to Nov.). The bark is exploited in Africa on a large scale for its medicinal value. In South Africa the bark is used to treat chest pains. The bark extracts have become popular in Europe for the treatment of benign prostate hypertrophy. It is also reputed to be very poisonous and to have magical properties. The close-grained, reddish brown wood is occasionally used for furniture, although it does not season well and splits and twists, so its use is limited. The growth is rapid, up to a metre per year if the climate is temperate and the rainfall is good. It a very good tree to attract birds and butterflies. This is a protected plant in South Africa.

Psychotria capensis

(Black Birdberry)

This is an evergreen shrub or small tree, 3-8 m, with a slender stem, horizontal branches and pale brown bark. The leaves are shiny, light to dark green above and paler below which are smooth and leathery. They are fairly large, 70-150 x 15-60 mm and often drooping. This very decorative shrub is a must for all frost-free gardens. It is not suitable for a Highveld garden.Not only is it a year-round attraction, either in fruit or flower and it is also easy to grow. Growing equally well in sun or shade, it is perfect for those difficult, summer-shade winter-sun spots under large trees. Plant in groups or repeat plant throughout the bed. Given a thick layer of mulch it will grow in any soil and only requires additional watering in summer and in dry conditions. It is also successfully grown in containers on balconies and patios. Golden yellow flowers are borne in flattish, terminal branched heads up to 80 mm in diameter from spring to midsummer (August to January). They are visited by bees and butterflies. The flowers are followed in late summer to winter (January to July) by large, flat clusters of pea-sized, shiny yellow fruits ripening to red or black. Birds such as the bulbuls, starlings, robins, mousebirds, white-eyes and barbets find the berries irresistible. It is used medicinally as a root infusion is given for gastric complaints. The wood is hard and fine grained. The name is derived from the Greek psychotria = vilifying, referring to the healing properties of this plant.

Ptaeroxylon obliquum

(Sneezewood)

This evergreen, medium sized tree is water-wise, extremely hardy and durable. Leaflets are distinctly asymmetrical in shape. Foliage sometimes colours in autumn and winter, but the tree is not always deciduous. The young foliage is browsed and enjoyed by game including various antelope and giraffe. This is a moderate to fast grower (0.4 to 1 m per year). It will withstand moderate frost and is very drought-tolerant, but will perform better where rainfall is higher. It appears to prefer shale or limey soils, but grows in most well-drained sandy or rocky soils. The tree is used traditionally both for medicine and ritual purposes. Bark is used as a snuff to relieve headaches. Pieces of wood can be placed in cupboards to repel moths. The resin from the heated wood has been applied to warts and powdered bark added to a wash to kill cattle ticks. The wood is reported to "burn like paraffin" giving a bright, hot fire. It was also used as tinder to make fire by friction. Flowers are small, sweetly scented, with four petals, opening white with an orange centre and are produced from August to December. Male and female flowers occur on different trees. The fruit is an oblong capsule, notched at the tip and splits open to produce winged seeds. This is the larval host plant to the Citrus Swallowtail butterfly. Plant it about 4 meters from a building and a pool. The name is derived from the Greek ptairein = to sneeze and xylon - wood, referring to the freshly cut wood that has an irritant which causes sneezing

Pteris dentata

(Toothed Brake)

A very attractive fern which forms a clump of bright green fronds that are finely dissected and lacy. It is an evergreen groundcover that grows about 1m x 1m and it is a very fast growing. It is suitable for a moist wetland garden and it thrives in shade or semi-shade. An ideal plant for containers provided they are in the shade and kept well watered. The name is derived fro the Greek pteris=fern, from pteron = wing, feather; referring to the shape of the pinnae: the symmetrical fronds resemble wings.

Pteris vittata

(Banded Fern)

This fast growing and attractive fern has fairy broad leathery fronds that are up to a meter long. It is a beautiful fern which likes to be planted in light shade under trees or anywhere in the garden where it get a little bit of sun. It requires lot of watering especial in hot ,dry weather and its half hardy to frost. The name is derived fro the Greek pteris=fern, from pteron = wing, feather; referring to the shape of the pinnae: the symmetrical fronds resemble wings.

Rapanea melanophloeos

(Cape Beech)

Rapanea melanophloes Cape Beech The steady and graceful Cape beech is suitable for a large garden or it can be used as a hardy screening plant, as it is dense, evergreen and sends out suckers to form bush clumps. It requires low maintenance, if planted in the right area. Do not plant it next to paved areas, where roots and new suckers can sprout. This is a hardy tree which is useful for a coastal garden and windy areas. When young, the leaves are pale green and maroon. Small, whitish or creamy yellow clusters of flowers appear in June to December. The fruits are spherical in shape, green when young and purple when matured. It is not common to find flowers and fruit on the same tree. Fruits start appearing three months after the flowers. The flower attracts bees and flies and the fruit are eaten birds like guinea fowl, pigeons, louries and barbets. Baboons, bushpigs and vervet monkeys also enjoy the fruit. The wood is very hard and is used for furniture and violin making as it is very similar to the European Beech. It is used medicinally for stomach and heart complaints and as a charm to ward off evil. The roots are non aggressive. The name is probably derived from the Guinean name meaning unknown.

Rhamnus prinoides

(Dogwood)

Grows in most parts of the country to 4-6meters. It makes a rounded, evergreen screen which is attractive with its glossy green leaves which are browsed by game. The leaves are used in beer and wine making. The inconspicuous flowers are greenish, blooming between November and January, in small clusters. They are loved by the bees, the Forest-king butterfly and other insects which attract the insect eating birds. The fruits are about the size of a pea (about 5 mm in diameter), roundish and clearly divided into three compartments. They appear between December and June. They are fleshy and green, turning red and then purple as they ripen. The fruit is loved by many bird species like starlings, bulbuls, barbets and francolins, so it's a great addition to a bird garden. The wood is white to yellow, often streaked with brown, pink, red or green and is hard and heavy. It is too small to be generally useful, although walkingsticks may be made of it. It is tough and frost resistant and grows well in moist soils. It is evergreen and is good for small gardens and hedges, especially in cold areas. It is widely used as a protective charm to ward off lightning and evil influences from homes and crops and to bring luck in hunting. It is also used medicinally to cleanse the blood, to treat pneumonia, rheumatism, sprains, skin complaints, respiratory infections, stomach ache, and as a gargle. It has non aggressive roots and will grow well in containers. Plant it about 3 meters from a building and a pool. The name is derived from the Celtic ram, and later the Greek rhamnos= tuft of branches.

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