Gladiolus

This year’s weather conditions seem to have suited the Gladiolus family particularly well as many species are flowering profusely. In Europe ‘Glads’ (originally South African) have been cultivated for over 250 years, they are popular garden plants and commonly used by florists around the world.  The genus name Gladiolus  comes from the Latin gladius, meaning…

Wild Jasmine

Jasminum multipartitum If you want to attract birds to your garden, planting creepers and scrambling shrubs is always a good idea. The sweetly scented flowers of Jasminum multipartitum are host to many insects including the larvae of Cambridge Vagrant Butterfly, the Variable Prince Moth, Oleander Hawk Moth, Death’s Head Hawk Moth, and King Monkey Moth (ideal bird…

Forest Poison Rope

Strophanthus speciosus For years, when I walked in mist-belt forest almost daily, I was puzzled by the identity of saplings with shiny, elliptic leaves, that were growing on the forest floor. Eventually, I discovered they were Stophanthus specious – a climber, not actually a tree.   Usually the interesting spidery flowers are spotted fallen in the…

Orange Desmodium

Desmodium repandum Forget the Big Five or the Tallest Tree, it’s the little things in the forest that are really fascinating. Desmodium repandum is found all over Africa and is flowering in the Midlands at the moment. Although the flowers are tiny – less than 15mm – it is hard to miss the bright orange-red…

Satyrium macrophyllum

Zulu names: unoklamu, unokleshe, uklamkleshe According to Elsa Pooley’s Wildflowers of KwaZulu Natal, the underground tuber of this orchid is edible.  Many of the Satyrium genus are used in traditional medicine – usually mixed with other plants and particularly for illnesses that are difficult to cure.  33 species occur in South Africa, some are used in…

Bushman’s Tea

Athrixia phylicoides Common name: Bushman’s tea, Zulu names: ishayelo, iphephetha, Xhosa name: icholocholo, Sotho name: Sephomolo. This member of the Daisy family flowers for much of the year and is certainly a pleasant find in the grasslands as they turn gold in late summer. Found throughout Eastern South Africa in rocky areas, on the edges…

Balloon Cottonbush

Gomphocarpus physocarpus Common Names: Milkweed, Balloon Cottonbush; Afrikaans: Balbossie; Sotho: Lebegane; Zulu: umsingalwesalukazi This grassland plant thrives in disturbed areas, reaching 2m high and seeding freely. It has reputation as a weed in some areas.  Certainly worth growing in a mixed border for the interest and height it adds, without taking up too much space,…

Spring Grassland Flowers

While Namaqualand gets all the publicity, the spring flowers of the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands grasslands are an absolute delight for those who don’t follow the crowds. Only one in six plant species in grassland is actually a grass, with most of the perennial plants living for many years – re-sprouting annually, rather than seeding.  This means…

Wild Pear

Dombeya rotundifolia in full bloom is sight not to be missed during August and September on the hillsides of Umgeni Valley Nature Reserve in Howick. This small tree with dark brown, craggy bark and a rounded crown is literally covered in white blossom, which is particularly striking as the tree is usually leafless at this…

African Almond

Prunus africana Common names: Red Stickwood, African Almond, Afrikaans: rooistinkhout; Zulu: Inyazangoma-elimnyama, umdumezulu; Xhosa: uMkakase Just when most exotic trees around us have lost all their leaves, the Prunus Africana sprouts a whole lot of shiny, new ones.  They are particularly spectacular as the rising sun catches their under sides and turns the tree in to…