BotSoc Launches ‘Learning About Cycads’

Written by Zoë Poulsen

Cycads are one of the oldest surviving plant groups on the planet. They have been around for more than 350 million years, surviving multiple mass extinctions and a plethora of environmental changes. They have been around since the time of the dinosaurs. Today they are sadly one the world’s most threatened plant groups. Of South Africa’s 38 cycad species (37 species of Encephalartos and one Stangeria species), three are now Extinct in the Wild, twelve are now Critically Endangered, four are Endangered, nine are Vulnerable and seven are Near Threatened on the Red List of South African plants. The greatest threat is illegal poaching and collection from the wild to supply the global horticultural trade.

Top: Encephartos princeps (Vulnerable) Above: Encephalartos woodii (Extinct in the wild, only known from male clones).

On 12th March, the Botanical Society launched their new educational resource ‘Learning About Cycads: A Guide to Environmental Activities’. This beautiful publication was produced in collaboration with the Western Cape Primary Schools Programme and funded by the Hans Hoheisen Charitable Trust. The book encourages learners to understand the age of Cycads, their life cycle and biology as well as conceptualising Cycads as threatened species that need to be conserved in perpetuity. This new publication is in line with BotSoc’s mandate through Target 14 of the National Strategy of Plant Conservation, which speaks to “The importance of plant diversity and the need for its conservation to be incorporated into communication, education and public awareness programmes”.

Top: Dr Farieda Khan, President of the Botanical Society introduces the event. Above: Debbie Schafer, Minister of Education for the Western Cape was the keynote speaker.

The launch event was held at Moyo’s at Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens. Dr Farieda Khan, President of the Botanical Society made the official welcome and opened the event. Comments Dr Khan: “As one of the oldest civil society organisations in South Africa, and certainly one of the oldest if not the oldest environmental organisation, the Botanical Society is keen to be part of the process of teaching the next generation of young people to play an important role in protecting the natural environment…and our indigenous flora in particular”.

The keynote address was delivered by Debbie Schafer, Minister of Education in the Western Cape. Debbie Schafer comments: “We need to educate our learners regarding their importance, and to protect and conserve Cycads and other plants…Environmental education in schools is therefore vitally important. Environmental education also raises awareness amongst learners about the importance of protecting the environment as well as the actions they can take to improve and to save it for future generations”.

Top: Dr John Donaldson, Chief Director of Applied Biodiversity Research at SANBI. Above: Andrew Stuart-Recking, Representative from Nedbank Private Wealth speaks on behalf of the Hans Hoheisen Charitable Trust.

Dr John Donaldson, Chief Director of Applied Biodiversity Research at SANBI, provided an overview of the plight of Cycads, biodiversity management and action plan and how we all have a role to play in their conservation. He highlights that according to climate change research, Cycads have been shown to response positively to elevated Carbon Dioxide levels. Sadly, however, research through repeat photography has shown that only 16% of Cycads recorded from historical photos in the 1940s are still present today, highlighting drastic population decline through poaching. Dr Donaldson then goes on to highlight what we are doing to conserve this imperilled plant group: This includes a national strategy for Cycad conservation and biodiversity action plans for all twelve Critically Endangered Cycads.

Top: Dr Zorina Dharsey, Executive Director of the Primary Schools Programme. Above: Carmel Mbizo, SANBI Head of Branch Biodiversity Science.

Dr Zorina Dharsey, Executive Director of the Primary Schools Programme is welcomed. The organisation provides teacher training and support across a range of fields from social science to environmental education. Comments Dr Dharsey: “Teaching and learning needs to be practical, it needs to be hands on and actively involve children integrated across sciences”. This is done through accessing the knowledge of and building partnerships with leading specialists in their fields, including a new partnership with BotSoc. “Not one species is more important than another, we are all connected…Each plant and animal species is important. So we come full circle in the Cycad book”.

In closing Carmel Mbizo, SANBI Head of Branch Biodiversity Science and Policy advice, on behalf of SANBI CEO delivers the vote of thanks. BotSoc would like to thank all collaborators, partners and funders involved in making this project possible.

Advertisements

Amazing Agapanthus: The Flower of Love

Written by Zoe Poulsen

Visitors to Kirstenbosch in the last couple of months will not fail to have noticed the spectacular blue and white flowers through the gardens flowering at present. These belong to members of the genus Agapanthus which bring on a stunning summer show for all to see. These gorgeous blue flowers are world renowned and globally cultivated, prized as both a garden plant and cut flower.

 

Above: Agapanthus praecox ‘Purple Delight’

The genus Agapanthus belongs to the family Agapanthaceae. The genus was first described by L’Heretier in 1788. It was initially placed in the Liliaceae family, then moved to Amaryllidaceae. It was then moved to the Alliaceae family alongside the genus Tulbaghia but was later moved back to Amaryllidaceae and then latterly placed in its own family. This is because the compounds responsible for the strong garlic aroma that typifies other members of the Alliaceae family are notably absent from Agapanthus.

The genus name Agapanthus is derived from the Greek words ‘Anthos’ meaning ‘love’ and ‘Anthos’ meaning flower. Members of the genus are also known as the Blue Lily, African Lily or strangely in Europe and America as the Lily of the Nile. In the case of the latter it is likely that this name has its origins in a miscommunication about where the plant material originated from when it was first brought to Europe from South Africa. In Afrikaans they are known as Agapant, in Xhosa they are called isicakathi and in Zulu they are known as ubani.

Above: Agapanthus ineptus subsp. pendulus ‘Graskop’

There are currently around ten different species of Agapanthus recognised and the most commonly cultivated of these is Agapanthus praecox. There are three different subspecies and a plethora of different cultivars and hybrids available in various shades of blue, purple and white of various different sizes. In the wild Agapanthus praecox subsp. praecox is found in the Eastern Cape. Agapanthus praecox subsp. orientalis is also found here but is also distributed further north into Kwa-Zulu Natal. The relatively diminutive Agapanthus praecox subsp. minima is distributed from Knysna to the Eastern Cape. It is relatively easy to grow, tolerating even very poor soils and strong coastal winds.

Plants of Agapanthus praecox are often misidentified as Agapanthus africanus. This species is in fact much smaller and far more difficult to cultivate. It grows on rocky sandstone slopes from the Cape Peninsula eastwards to Swellendam in the eastern Overberg from sea level to 1000m asl where they even experience frost and snow from time to time. It is more commonly known as the Cape Agapanthus or Kleinbloulelie in Afrikaans. Flowers are most commonly deep blue but rare white forms are occasionally seen. They are pollinated by wind, bees and sunbirds. In 2003 a new paper was published lumping Agapanthus walshii with Agapanthus africanus leading to them being recognised as two different subspecies.

Bee visiting Agapanthus praecox at Harold Porter National Botanical Gardens

Despite being poisonous and causing mouth ulcers when ingested, members of the genus have a significant variety of different medicinal uses. It is considered to be the plant of fertility and pregnancy. In Xhosa culture a necklace of the roots is worn as a charm to bring healthy, strong babies into the world. Zulu people use the plant in the treatment of heart disease, coughs, colds and chest pain. It is also used to ward off thunder by those scared of thunderstorms. It is also sometimes used as a love charm.

So come visit us at Kirstenbosch and see the stunning blooms of the ‘Flower of Love’. Membership of the Botanical Society of South Africa gives you free unlimited entrance to all our national botanic gardens. So why not sign up or gift a membership to a friend or loved one? We look forward to welcoming you.

Grewia-licious – Indigenous edible shrubs for your garden

by Life Green Group and BotSoc

These six Grewia species of South Africa are not only a must have for a bird garden, attracting numerous fruit-eating birds, the fruits they produce are also edible to humans. In traditional cultures the fruit of certain Grewia species are used to brew alcohol and eaten as a sweet treat.

All Grewia species are incredibly resilient and easy to grow and a must have for any South African garden with their attractive yellow or purple blooms. The genus Grewia was named after English physician Nehemiah Grew and forms part of the Malvaceae family.

Purple flowering Grewia species

Crossberry (Grewia occidentalis)

The Crossberry has a very wide distribution range and is found throughout South Africa, Lesotho, Swaziland, Zimbabwe and Mozambique. It is the tallest species of Grewia, reaching six to ten metres in height under ideal conditions. In cultivation it requires pruning to stay neat and tree-like. This species is a rewarding shrub that produces beautiful purple blossoms for most of the year.

The fruits are consumed by Bulbuls, Barbets, Mousebirds and other fruit-loving birds. The fruit is also used to ferment beer and when dried and added to milk it makes for an excellent milk sweetener. In Zulu culture the wood of the Crossberry is used to make Assegai spears.

Read more about other indigenous purple flowering trees that make a great addition to your garden by clicking here.

Karoo Crossberry (Grewia robusta)

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Grewia_robusta_-_Karookruisbessie_-_hedging_bush_of_South_Africa.jpg
Grewia robusta

Like the Crossberry the Karoo Crossberry also has wonderful purple blossoms and flowers from August to December. Grewia robusta is frost resistant and adaptable to most soil types. It is however best to grow them in moist clay and loamy soils and partially shady areas.

Grewia robusta makes a good screen plant and makes a great addition to any bird-friendly garden. Its plum-like fruits have a slightly acidic flavour but are pleasant to eat, both cooked and raw.

Yellow flowering Grewia species

Brandybush (Grewia flava)

https://www.flickr.com/photos/berniedup/11422947756/in/photolist-ippA2T-ipprsE-ippAp7/
Grewia flava ©Bernard Dupont

The Brandybush gets its name because its fruit can be distilled into a type of brandy or beer. This is the smallest of the South African Grewia species. It does not have an aggressive root system making it a good garden specimen. In North West Province, Northern Cape and Limpopo wild animals rely on it for food. It has grey leaves that contrast with its bright yellow flowers and spreads readily.

White raisin (Grewia bicolor)

The White Raisin is a frost-hardy shrub that reaches nine metres in height. It can grow in most soils and is a water-wise choice. This species epithet ‘bicolor‘ refers to its bicolour leaves which are lighter on the bottom and darker on the top. The canary yellow flowers of the White Raisin are smaller than the rest of the Grewia species.  It flowers from October to March.

Sandpaper raisin (Grewia flavescens)

grewia_flavescens_g_pilosa-_khatkhati_in_hyderabad_ap_w_img_9130
Grewia flavescens

The Sandpaper Raisin has sweetly perfumed, bumblebee yellow flowers.  It is tough and adaptable, relying on wild animals for germination.  It can handle all types of soil and like the Giant Raisin, prefers a more temperate environment. It is multi-stemmed and makes for a wonderful screening plant.

In Namibia the fruit is soaked in water to make a refreshing drink. It is also an essential bird garden plant for attracting frugivorous birds.  For more information on how to attract fruit-eating birds to the garden click here.

Giant raisin (Grewia hexamita

The Giant Raisin occurs on the Kwa-Natal coast and has the largest flowers of the Grewia family.  It grows to about five metres in height. This shrub is one of the most attractive Grewia species because of its large bright yellow flowers, rounded bushy crown and dark glossy leaves. Like all of the Grewia species the fruits can be fermented into moonshine. Birds and butterflies are attracted to its large scented flowers. It flowers all year round, especially in summer. The Giant Raisin grows best and is more suited to a tropical environment with good rainfall such as Kwa-Zulu Natal. It is not easy to predict germination of seeds for this particular species, but once the seeds germinate, the plants take around three years to produce their first fruit.

Why not go ahead and plant your own Grewia species to enhance your green space?

Happy Gardening to all out readers!

 

Do you realise just how special our backyard really is? Facts about The Cape Floral Kingdom

Written by Catherine Clulow

All too often we take for granted what’s right under our noses. Today we share some facts to remind us just how special our backyard really is. The facts shared in this blog are from SANBI Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden, a wonder to visit to enjoy our amazing biodiversity and natural heritage.

So what is a Floral Kingdom? Floral Kingdoms are the largest natural units for flowering plants. Regions that share the same combination of plant families form part of the same floral kingdom. There are six Floral Kingdoms in the world: Holarctic, Neotropical, Palaeotropical, Australian, Cape and Antarctic.

What is so special about the Cape Floral Kingdom?

  • It is the smallest of all the Floral Kingdoms.
  • It is the only Floral Kingdom to fall completely inside the borders of a single country.
  • It occupies about 90,000 square kilometres: Only 0.04% of the surface area of the Earth.
  • It contains nearly 9,000 species of flowering plants: About 3% of Earth’s species.
  • Two out of three species in the Cape Floral Kingdom are endemic to this area, meaning they occur nowhere else on Earth. This is the highest level of endemism in the world.
  • The Cape Floral Kingdom is a UNESCO World Heritage Site owing to its unparalleled ecological diversity.

The Fynbos Biome is a part of the Cape Floral Kingdom. Fynbos is one of its main vegetation types.

What’s so fine about Fynbos?

  • Fynbos is the vegetation that is found growing naturally on the mountains and lowlands of South Africa’s Cape Floral Kingdom and is unique to the area.
  • The name comes from the Dutch ‘fijn’ and ‘bosch’ meaning fine bush, referring to the very small leaves and flowers of many of the species.
  • Fynbos constitutes 80% of the vegetation of the Cape Floristic Region/ Cape Floral Kingdom.
  • Fynbos is characterised by the presence of three main plant families: Restios, Proteas and Ericas, as well as seven other plant families that only occur in fynbos.
  • It’s amazingly diverse, and exceptionally rich in species, and occupies a relatively tiny area of land of similar size to Portugal and Malawi.
  • Over 7000 species occur in 41 000 km2, and 80% of them occur nowhere else on Earth.
  • The Cape Peninsula alone has 2 600 species, more than the total number of species in the British Isles, in an area smaller than London.
  • Comparing species diversity with other heathland communities in Australia and California, and with the rest of South Africa:

Cape Floristic Region/Cape Floral Kingdom: 94 species per 100 km2

Australia: 14 species per 100 km2

California: 12 species per 100 km2

The rest of South Africa: 8 species per 100 km2

Marvel in the Cape Floristic splendour, how can you not? Appreciate and safeguard our amazing biodiversity. We live in a truly special place and need to remember that and remind each other from time to time.

King Protea (Catherine Browne, Botanical Society of SA)
©Catherine Clulow

The Botanical Society of South Africa (BotSoc) is an NGO focusing on biodiversity conservation and awareness and environmental education and for over 103 years has been working with passionate partners and people to conserve the natural heritage and flora of Southern Africa. BotSoc’s mission is “ To win the hearts, minds, and material support of individuals and organisations, wherever they may be, for the conservation, cultivation, study and wise use of the indigenous flora and vegetation of southern Africa, for the benefit and sharing by all”. Find out more about BotSoc here and consider joining the BotSoc family.

Go out and learn about, appreciate and enjoy The Cape Floral Kingdom and be proud of it!

An Introduction to Aloes of Limpopo

Written by Sandra Lennox and Catherine Clulow

With water restrictions underway in South Africa, there is a far stronger need to encourage water-wise gardening and promote indigenous plants. Today we are talking about the rich variety of different Aloe species found in Limpopo Province. These unique and beautiful plants are hardy, drought tolerant and water-wise.

1. Aloe lettyae

This is a grass aloe, easily recognised by spots visible on both the upper and lower leaf surfaces. Plant population dynamics and conservation of this species are currently being studied thanks to funding from the Botanical Education Trust.

fig-1-aloe-lettyae-2
Aloe lettyae endemic to the critically endangered Woodbush Granite Grassland. Leaves are spotted on both the upper (adaxial) and lower (abaxial) surface. © Pat Lennox

This rare summer-flowering Aloe grows amongst the spring flowers of the Woodbush Granite Grassland and may be seen while on one of the hour long wild-flower walks during the annual mid-September Spring Festival, led by the Friends of Haenertsburg Grasslands (FRoHG). The rare Aloe plants were photographed one cloudy and cool day, while accompanied by eco-enthusiasts from nearby towns as well as the dog Pluto, who watched closely.

The land had been burnt and several plants were in flower, belying the fact that there had been little rain. This shows that underground storage organs such as bulbs and tubers are an important part of the survival of these grassland species, hence clearing land for example for firebreaks irreparably destroys the integrity of the flora. The grasslands have established over a long period of time.

Coincidentally meanwhile the CITES convention had started in Gauteng, to discuss the preservation of endangered species such as elephant, pangolin and rhino. While scientists and policy makers talked, there are those who walked, appreciating the priceless value of the grassland wildflowers. Rare and endangered plants with medicinal value have been listed for the Woodbush Granite Grasslands (Dzerefos et al. 2016).

2. Aloe greatheadii var. greatheadii

This is the spotted aloe with spots on the upper leaf surfaces. This species is relatively commonly and is an important plant for bees as the pollen has a high protein and lipid nutritional content.

fig-2-1-aloe-greatheadii-flowering-in-mamabolo-mountain-bushveld-near-houtbosdorp-limpopo
Aloe greatheadii var greatheadii in flower on a granite ridge near Houtbosdorp and Moketsi, Limpopo. The leaves are spotted on the upper surfaces. © Pat Lennox

The spotted aloe, or kgopane (Setswana) produces its spectacular flowers in the winter months (June-July). The plants are stemless, occurring singularly or in groups of up to 15 plants, up to 1.7 m high. The dark, shiny green leaves present with spotted, elongated markings arranged in bands on the upper (adaxial) surface, while the leaves are light green and  not spotted underneath (abaxial surface). The one to three inflorescences are branched. Each raceme presents 30-40 pale pink to bright red flowers. Aloe greatheadii var. greatheadii is pollinated by bees and birds. Wind distributes the seeds.

This species occurs in the Grassland and Bushveld Biomes, in open woodland and in overgrazed areas, at altitude from 1,000 to 1,660 m. It is distributed throughout the Free State and northern KwaZulu-Natal. Aloe greatheadii is named after Dr. J.B. Greathead who collected the type specimen with Dr S. Schönland. The bitter sap is medicinal and is used as a treatment for burns, sores and wounds. The young leaves are chopped and boiled for use as an antiseptic.

In the garden, seeds of this species can be germinated in a mix of sand, compost and river sand. Cover with pebbles. Keep in a dry and warm environment. Avoid drying out the growth mixture. Plants are frost and fire tolerant and are used as soil binders on mine dumps.

3. Aloe marlothii

This is a very large, single stemmed Aloe often seen in large stands along the road between Polokwane and Tzaneen, interestingly this is unusual as explained later.

fig-3-3-aloe-marlothii-in-mamabolo-mountain-busveld-near-houtbosdorp-limpopo
Aloe marlothii in the Mamabolo Bushveld near Moketsi, Limpopo. © Pat Lennox

The large, single stemmed Aloe marlothii occurs in bushveld vegetation on rocky ridges from sea level to approximately 1,600 m at warm temperatures with infrequent frost. It is commonly known as the Mountain Aloe, Bergalwyn (Afrikaans), inhlaba or umhlaba (Zulu), Aloe marlothii is distributed from the north-western, northern and north-eastern part of Southern Africa and is rewarding to cultivate.

Aloe (Greek) refers to the product of dried juice from the leaves, Alloeh (Sanskrit) and Allal (Hebrew).  The species epithet refers to the botanist H.W. Rudolf Marloth. These Aloes are associated with the African iron age archaeological sites on the Polokwane (formerly  Pietersberg) plateau where the distribution is an anomaly in terms of climate and ecology. The dense stands consist of 80 to 100 year old plants.

It is thought that plants were introduced as seeds near the Ndebele villages as the spiny leaves were used to prepare hides for dresses, dried leaf ash may be added to snuff, the flower nectar is edible and leaf decoctions may be used as a vermifuge. The succulent Aloe marlothii plants are suited to drought conditions, as water is stored in stems and leaves, though kudu browse the leaves during dry conditions, thorns protect the rough leaf edges from browsing, dried leaf bases defend the stems and the plant height enables escape from browsers while surviving drought.

4. Aloe arborescens

This is the most commonly cultivated of the Southern African Aloes. The Aloe leaf gel can be used to heal sunburn.

aloe-arborescens_kransaalwyn
Aloe arborescens © Callidendron nursery

This species is commonly known as the Kranzaloe (Engl.), Kranzalwyn (Afr.), ikalene (Xhosa), inhabane or umlabana (Zulu).  It occurs on cliffs in mountainous regions, rocky ranges and outcrops and in dense bush. It occurs in summer rainfall regions and has the widest distribution of the Southern African Aloes, from the Cape to the eastern coast, KZN and northern South Africa, from sea level to higher altitudes.

The cliff dwelling form was formerly known as Aloe mirabilis. Aloe arborescens tolerates drought and it is moderately frost resistant. This is one of the most widely cultivated Aloes in the world. It is one of the first Aloes collected for cultivation from South Africa. The inflorescences are unbranched and flowers emerge during winter (May to July). These are commonly orange, rarely pure yellow or a combination of orange and yellow. The nectar is edible to birds such as sunbirds as well as bees.

Aloe arborescens is recommended as a key component of herb gardens. A leaf decoction may be used as an antiseptic and for indigestion and it has also been used in stock and poultry farming. The leaf powder is considered to have protective properties against storms. Aloe arborescens are useful barrier plants and as a hedge. In rural areas, remnants indicate fenced enclosures or cattle kraals.

In conclusion

Aloe lettyae highlights the conservation value of the grasslands. Aloe greatheadii is present as a spotted, grass aloe. Aloe marlothii has been introduced for its economic value. Aloe arborescens is widely cultivated and an early subject for gardens having been collected from the wild. All Aloes are water-wise their flowers bring colour to the garden.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

This article was written with assistance from the Friends of Haenertsburg Grasslands, FRoHG and the Tzaneen Eco-club with inspiration from Gariep nursery, Pretoria which specializes in the cultivation of Aloe. The photos were taken by Pat Lennox.

REFERENCES

Aloe greatheadii Schönland var. greatheadii (Internet: www.zimbabweflora.co.zw/speciesdata; accessed October 2016)

Bredenkamp, G..J. and Van Vuuren, D.R.J. 1987. Note on the occurrence and distribution of Aloe marlothii Berger on the Polokwane (formerly Pietersberg) Plateau. South African Journal of Science 83: 498-550.

Dzerefos, C., Witkowski, E., Kremer-Köhne, S. 2016. Aiming for the biodiversity target with the social welfare arrow: medicinal and other useful plants for a critically endangered grassland ecosystem in Limpopo Province, South Africa. The International Journal of Sustainable Development and World Ecology. DOI 10.1080/13504509.2016.1A.4963

Emms, Paul. 2007. Aloe marlothii (Internet: www.plantzafrica.com; accessed October 2016)

Hankey, A. and Notten, A. 2004. Aloe arborescens Mill (Internet: http://www.plantsafrica.com; accessed October 2016).

Human, H and Nicolson, S.W. 2006. Nutritional content of fresh, bee collected and stored pollen of Aloe greatheadii var davyana (Asphodelaceae). Phytochemistry 67 (14) 1486-1492.

Letty, C. 1962. Wildflowers of the Transvaal. Struik, Cape Town.

Onderstaal, J. 1984. Transvaal , Lowveld and Escarpment. South African Wildflower Guide 4. Botanical Society of South Africa , Cape Town

Phiri, P.S.M. 2005. Preliminary checklist of plants of Botswana. Sabonet (southern African botanical diversity network) report 32: 107.

Pooley, Elsa. 2005. A field guide to Wild Flowers of KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern region. The Flora Conservation Trust, Durban.

Reynolds, G.W. 1982. The Aloes of South Africa. Balkema, Cape Town: 481.

Setshogo, M.P. 2005. Preliminary checklist of plants of Botswana. Sabonet, 37: 115.

Smith, G.F., Figueiredo, E., Klopper, R.R. and Crouch, N.R. 2012. Summer flowering species of maculate Aloe. L. (Asphodelaceae, Alloideae). The Aloe zebrine complex from South Africa. Bradleya 30: 155-166.

The Conservation (2016) Conservation convention (23-09-2016)

The Mail & Guardian (2016) The CITES conservation convention (24th to 30th September, 2016)

Van Staden, L. and Kremer-Köhne, S. 2015. Aloe lettyae Reynolds. National assesment: Red list of southern African plants, 2015/1. (Internet: redlist.sanbi.org; accessed October 2016)

Van Wyk, B. and Smith, G. 2003. Guide to the Aloes of South Africa edn 2. Briza Publications, Pretoria

Exploring the wonders of a hillside in Limpopo

Written by Sandra Lennox & Catherine Clulow

This is a small selection of plants in flower on a granite ridge in the Limpopo province during spring, some of which could suit water-wise gardens. This particular ridge seems to be a frost free area, as the cabbage tree, Cussonia spicata and the misty plume bush, Tetradenia riparia are sensitive to frost.

  1. Athrixia phylicoides, Asteraceae (Bushman’s Tea)

This small bush, made more compact as a garden plant through regular pruning, can be used to make a refreshing health tea (by brewing its leaves and twigs), which is used as a stimulant in traditional herbal medicine in Venda, Limpopo. The wood is useful and the branches may be bound to form brooms for the patio or garden.

  1.  Cussonia spicata, Araliaceae (Cabbage Tree)

Cussonia spicata has succulent roots which make it highly drought resistant. This species is sensitive to frost. It may be grown in large pots, which also restricts the ultimate size.

In nature the Cabbage Tree is found on forest margins, in wooded grassland and on rocky outcrops.  Being hardy, it occurs from the coast to mountains. It is evergreen but frost tender.  It occurs as an occasional tree approximately 4m tall. The crushed leaves have a faint carrot-like aroma. Cabbage trees have been found growing on a gentle west-facing slope in unburnt wooded grassland on granite and in full sun, where there is a tree with a thick trunk.

These trees are in the savanna but in the forest nearby – northern mistbelt forest – there is a particularly large Cussonia spicata. The Cabbage Tree in the Woodbush Forest near Haenertsburg has grown to champion size having a trunk over 7.6 m (25 ft) in circumference, in addition to having an extraordinary height and crown spread. This particular tree grows in a hot, wet climate in the kloof and is recorded as one of the remarkable trees recorded by Thomas Packenham author, dendrologist and historian, while “on safari in Southern Africa”.

The subterranean, succulent roots provide moisture. In folk medicine the bark, leaves and roots have antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. Beware, as the roots are poisonous, although traditionally having been used medicinally against malaria, digestive and reproductive system ailments. The hollow, split stems have been used as trays, the wood is light and can be hollowed out, particularly for fodder and possibly for plant containers.

  1. Rapanea melanophloeos, Myrsinaceae (Cape Beech)

This is an evergreen tree which grows up to 20 m tall. However, in a garden situation it seldom would attain this size and is a great choice for owing to its non -invasive root system. In nature, the Cape Beech occurs on forest margins, in bush clumps and often in damp places. It is a pioneer tree which occurs from the coast to mountains.

The wood is hard, pinkish brown, moderately heavy and suitable for carving, particularly for violins and other musical instruments. The Cape Beech has edible fruit. In folk medicine, bark is used as an expectorant and an emetic, with anodyne and tonic properties, the caveat being that these require development by the pharmaceutical industry, so probably should not be tested at home without supervision. The bark of the Cape Beech is used in folk medicine for protection.

The Cape Beech grows easily from seed and seedlings are transplanted readily. The trees are moderately drought resistant and can withstand a fair degree of frost. Trees grow in shade, full sun and tolerate onshore coastal winds. The fruit attracts birds such as Barbets, Guinea Fowl, Louries and Pigeons.

  1. The African Protea, White Sugarbush (Protea gauguedii), Proteaceae

This is a spreading multi-stemmed shrub or small, gnarled tree. In nature the White Sugarbush or African Protea occurs in grassland and bushveld in rocky places. The flowerhead (inflorescence) is usually solitary and up to 110 mm in diameter.

  1. Broad-Leaved Boekenhout (Faurea rochetiana subsp. speciosa), Proteaceae

This is a small to medium, deciduous tree, with a crooked trunk, grey crown and reddish autumn colours which occurs in high grassland and woodland. There is a Broad-Leaved Boekenhout tree, ± 3 m tall with gnarled trunk, inflorescences ascending, growing on a gentle W-facing slope in unburnt wooded grassland on granite, in full sun in the Mamabolo Mountain Bushveld, near Houtbosdorp, Limpopo.

In folk medicine the roots of the Broad-Leaved Boekenhout are utilised. Faurea rochetiana (A.Rich.) Chiov. ex Pic.Serm. was named after C.L.X. Rochet d’Hericourt, a French chemist who explored Ethiopia (1839-1845).

  1. The straw everlasting, sewejaartijie (Helichrysum krausii), Asteraceae

This is an aromatic shrublet, growing up to 1 m tall, which occurs in coastal grassland and in open woodland. For example, the straw everlasting is a common herb, ± 40 cm tall with yellow flowers, growing on a rocky ridge in unburnt wooded grassland on granite, in full sun in the Mamabolo Mountain Bushveld.  The straw everlasting is visited by honey-bees. It is easy to grow, may be grown from seed and needs full sun. The Helichrysum krausii was named after Christian Krauss, (1812-90), German scientist and collector, in South Africa (1839-40).

  1. Phymaspermum athanasioides (Asteraceae)

This is a common herb ± 40 cm tall with yellow flowers, growing on a rocky ridge in unburnt wooded grassland on granite, in full sun in the Mamabolo Mountain Bushveld.

  1. Misty plume bush or ginger bush, Tetradenia riparia, (Lamiaceae)

This is a robust, slightly succulent shrub, or occasionally small tree 1-3 m high, up to 5 m which occurs on wooded hillsides in frost free areas. It occurs near rocky outcrops or at margins of evergreen forest, often near water. The flowers emerge in July to September before the leaves. The plants are dioecious, with male flower spikes 2-8 cm long and with denser, female flower spikes 1-2.5 cm long. The plants are lavender-scented, used in folk medicine for coughs, sore throats, stomach aches and malaria. These hardy plants are easily grown from cuttings.

In conclusion, on this particular hillside, amongst the plants rapidly collected by a small group of plant enthusiasts, were a Crowberry (Searsia pentheri, Anacardiaceae) and a Climbing Numnum (Carissa edulis, Apocynaceae), several Cabbage Trees, Broom and Cluster-Leaved Asparagus (Asparagus virgatus and A. laricinus, Asparagaceae) and an Aloe sp. (Asphodelaceae). There were at least seven species of Asteraceae including Silver Oak, Straw Everlasting, Small-Leaved Fluff Bush and Small-Head Camphor Bush.

Trees included the Common Spike Thorn and the Koko Tree (Gymnosporia buxifolia and Maytenus undata, Celastraceae), Blue Guarri Trees (Euclea crispa, Ebenaceae), Cape Beech (Rapanea melanophloeos, Myrsinaceae) and African Wild Olive (Olea europaea, ssp africana, Oleaceae). Useful plants included the African Protea or White Sugar Bush, (Protea gaguedi, Proteaceae), Anthospermum welwitschii, (Rubiaceae), the Lemon Bush or Fever Tea (Lippia javanica, Verbenaceae) and the Ginger Bush (Tetradenia riparia, Lamiaceae).

It seems that, just on this small hillside, there are trees and shrubs which may be used for fuel, there are those with edible fruit or from which tea may be made, there are plants with medicinal properties and there is wood which may be used for carvings or which were used historically for structures such as wagons. In terms of environment, this ridge probably would not have experienced frost and the vegetation is Bushveld and Savanna although there is Mistbelt Forest within walking distance. The diversity is surely worthy of appreciation and hence conservation and that is only the plants, there are also birds, lizards and more.

Biodiversity in our country is diverse and fascinating. We hope you learnt something from and enjoyed this blog post from the BotSoc Limpopo branch. Find out more about the Botanical Society of South Africa here.

Acknowledgements

This blog has been written with gratitude for the field notes and plant identifications by Barbara Turpin, Buffelskloof Nature reserve, Lydenburg and Bronwyn Egan, Curator, Larry leach Herbarium, University of Limpopo. Most photographs are courtesy of Pat Lennox, though the photographs of the Cape Beech, Rapanea melanophloeos are by Barbara Turpin.

References

Boon, R. 2010. Pooley’s Trees of Eastern South Africa. Durban: Natal Flora Publications Trust

Champion Tree Project (2002 onwards). Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF).  (Internet: http://www.championtrees.co.za/files/26111/championtreesofsamay2016.pdf; accessed September 2016).

Coates-Palgrave, M. 2002. Keith Coates Palgrave Trees of Southern Africa, 3rd edn. Cape Town: Struik.

Packenham, T. 2007. In search of remarkable trees. On safari in southern Africa. Jonathan Ball, Johannesburg.

Pooley, E. 2005. A field guide to wildflowers KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern region. Natal Flora Publications Trust, Durban.

Vandecasteele, P., Godard, P. 2006. In celebration of Fynbos, gardening, healing, cooking, decorating. Stuik, Cape Town.

Van Wyk, B.-E. & Gericke, N.  2000. People’s Plants. A Guide to useful Plants of Southern Africa. Pretoria: Briza Publications, p 102, 103, 312.

Van Wyk, B. & Van Wyk, P. 2013. Field Guide to Trees of Southern Africa. Cape Town: Struik Nature.

Venter, F. & Venter, J-A. 2002. Making the most of indigenous trees. Briza, Pretoria.

 

 

Roots of Sustainability Garden- come see us at the CT Flower Show (*Giveaway up for grabs*)

Hello readers. You may or may not have heard yet that The Botanical Society of South Africa (BotSoc) will be participating in the unmissable Cape Town Flower Show at the Castle of Good Hope 27-30 October 2016.

show-garden

BotSoc have collaborated with Metro, and brought partners Reliance on board to bring visitors an awesome show garden at the Cape Town Flower Show this year- the Roots of Sustainability Garden– where we’ll be showcasing easy and effective ways to harvest rainwater and irrigate your garden, as well as tips for being water-wise and choosing indigenous plant options. There will be a variety of inspiring ideas on creating your perfect water-wise garden and making indigenous plant choices. View your roof in a whole different light and make your home sustainable.

Water is a scarce and dwindling resource, and South Africa is a dry country with unpredictable rainfall and an ever increasing demand for it. As the demand for this precious resource grows, so will its price along with legislation discouraging excessive use. It is, therefore, important to garden for the future.

Water-wise gardens cut down water usage but are still beautiful and, as there are so many indigenous options to choose from, water-wise gardening should be the norm.

Metro Roof|Solar|Electric, Reliance and BotSoc all fully support this notion and so have collaborated to participate in this year’s CT Flower Show to demonstrate to the general public tips and ideas on how to garden water-wise and sustainably. Visit our Roots of Sustainability Garden at the show (Garden 11), where we hope to educate and inspire. Be sure to pick up our brochure on 7 principles of water-wise gardening too.

We will highlight energy harvesting methods and water-wise gardening tips.

You can also find out all about BotSoc membership and add to your collection of natural heritage books at the BotSoc Bookshop. They will be located in the exhibitors’ hall and are sure to have an array of spectacular choices available, including authors from some of the CT Flower Show workshops and presentations. A great spot to get a gift and/or to spoil yourself with a book, BotSoc membership and/or a goodie or two.

Please remember to bring your plastic as the event is cashless, using WAP only. For all visitor information, please read here.

*WIN WIN WIN*

Stand the chance to WIN 2 TICKETS to the Cape Town Flower Show! Trust us you don’t want to miss out on this event. There’s something for everyone!

How to enter:

Simply comment below what the Metro/BotSoc/Reliance Roots of Sustainability Garden will be highlighting to visitors.

Terms and Conditions:

  • This prize may not be won by any staff member of BotSoc or their direct family members or any associated companies to the Cape Town Flower Show.
  • The prize is redeemable at the complimentary ticket counter at the Castle of Good Hope and valid for one day’s entrance only.
  • Giveaway entries close Wednesday 19th October 2016.
  • Please note that you can only enter once and the winner will be chosen by random.org. We will contact you via email and your name and contact will be shared with the CT Flower Show organising team to ensure you’re on the guest list, and they’ll get in touch with you regarding redeeming your tickets.

Best of luck! And if you don’t win, no need for FOMO, you can get your tickets here or at the door.

Follow, like and engage with the BotSoc family on Facebook and Twitter. Find out more about and engage with the lovely folk from Reliance on Facebook, Twitter and/or Instagram. Engage with the sustainable Metro team on Facebook and Twitter.

Thank you and see you there. It’d be great if you could share this blog with others so they to can stand a chance to win.