The Acacia sieberiana woodii (=Vachellia sieberiana) is a hardy (protect from frost when young) large, semi-deciduous, flat-topped Acacia is fast growing.
Seasia (=Rhus) pyroides is a very hardy, deciduous, drought-resistant tree that tolerates extreme conditions of drought and cold and makes a wonderful pioneer. Depending on how harsh the conditions are it can grow anything from 1m in very dry cold conditions and up to 6m in more temperate conditions.
Large, stout, woody thorns are borne along the stems which make this a good addition to a security hedge. The bark on mature stems is dark brown. It has attractive, velvety, light grey-green, trifoliate leaves that turn a lovely shade of yellow in autumn.
The inconspicuous sprays of tiny white flowers are borne from August to March, and attract insects and birds. These are followed by a profusion of large attractive bunches of edible fruit that turn reddish brown. They are so heavy that they make the tips of the thin branchlets droop, giving the female plants a ‘weeping’ shape when in fruit.
Only female plants bear fruit as male and female flowers are on separate plants. The profusion of fruit attracts birds to the garden. In fact, I battle to collect seeds on the many specimens on the farm as the birds seem to beat me to them most of the time.
It is the host plant to the Foxtrot Copper butterfly. In natural areas elephant, impala and kudu browse on the tree. For cattle farmers, it makes a useful fodder tree.
Plant in sun or semi-shade.
Size: 2 to 6m
Hesperantha coccinea [=Schizostylis] is a very hardy, mostly evergreen, bulbous plant with a fan of bright-green, strap-like leaves.
It bears showy spikes of large, star-shaped flowers that cluster at the tips of slender stems from December to April. The colors vary from bright-scarlet to soft, pale pink.
It attracts insects to the garden and is a butterfly host plant.If left for a few years, it forms large clumps and is a sight to behold. Seeing them flowering en masse along streams in the foothills of the Drakensberg is amazing.
Acacia gerrardii (=Varchellia gerrardii) is a hardy, fairly fast-growing, drought-resistant, deciduous Acacia.It has a long, straight stem that starts branching high up to form a flattish crown.As it is sparsely branched and throws little shade, many plants and lawn grass will grow underneath it.
The bark is dark grey and fissured, with red under-bark appearing in the cracks.The bark on the young branches is red and young growth is covered in hairs.
From October to February the tree is literally covered in masses of large, creamy-white, scented puffball flowers that attract many pollinating insects.It is the host plant of the Black-striped Hairtail butterfly.The flowers are followed by nutritious, sickle shaped pods.
Bark contains tannin that is used for medicinal purposes.It tolerates a wide variety of soil types.This Acacia can be used in fairly small gardens as it is tall but not bulky.
Plant in full sun.
Size: 5 to 7m
Vepris lanceolata is a hardy, evergreen, very attractive tree with apple green foliage.
Hibiscus pedunculatus is a hardy, evergreen, small to medium-sized shrub whose delicate, dainty look belies the fact that it is hardy and easy to grow. The lobed leaves feel like sandpaper.
From October to May the delightful, large, pale pink, hibiscus-like flowers are borne on long stalks.
The abundant pollen offered by the flowers attracts insects while Charaxes butterflies use it as a host plant. It is used in traditional medicine.
Group a few together for a gorgeous display or plant in amongst other shrubs as a border or screen where the flowers peeping through the other shrubs give the border a whimsical look.
Zanthoxylum capense is a hardy, deciduous to semi-deciduous small to medium-sized tree, with smooth, dark grey bark and broad, cone-shaped knobs that are topped with a short spine. The leaves are divided into leaflets, that are shiny and dark green above, and paler beneath. When crushed they are somewhat brittle and have a strong Citrus scent.
From October to February, the tiny, white, scented flowers are clustered at the ends of the branches. The male and female flowers are borne on separate trees. Female trees develop clusters of tiny orange-red fruits that split to release oil-rich black seeds. The fruit is edible but cause a burning sensation in the mouth.
Both flowers and fruit attract many insects and birds to the garden. It is a host plant to the Citrus Swallowtail and other Swallowtail Butterflies. This tree is widely used in traditional medicine remedies, and the wood is used for implements.
It makes an excellent container plant, or part of a forest garden or plant singly as a specimen tree to prune up and expose the interesting, knobbly stem.
Plant in semi-shade or full sun, in well-drained, compost rich soil.
Size: 2 to 15m
Bauhinia tomentosa is a hardy, fast growing, drought resistant, deciduous, scandent shrub with deeply lobed leaves, like butterfly wings.
It bears masses of lemon yellow, bell-like flowers with a purple blotch at the base of one petal and flowers throughout summer.
Plant in full sun or partial shade.
Volkameria glabra (=Clerodendrum glabrum) is a very hardy, semi-deciduous, fast-growing, small tree or large shrub with a dense crown. It has shiny, dark-green leaves that are pungent when crushed.
From December to June it bears profuse, dense clusters of white to pinkish flowers that have long stamens. In some specimens the flowers are wonderfully scented, whilst in others the scent can be pungent.These are followed by tightly packed yellowish-white berries that attract birds to the garden.
An important host plant of moths and butterflies – an absolute must for a butterfly garden. The flowers also attract a whole host of pollinating insects and the nectar in the flowers is an important food source for bees.
It is extensively used for medicinal and traditional purposes.
Plant in sun or semi-shade in well-composted soil.
Size: 2 to 6m
Ficus craterostoma is a fairly hardy, semi-decidious, medium sized strangler fig with a rounded, spreading crown and pale grey bark. It has fairly small leaves for a fig, which are dark glossy green, blunt tipped like a fish’s tail, and spirally arranged, making them an exceptionally attractive feature of this plant.
The stalkless, hairless figs, which are inverted flowers, are borne in the axils of the leaves. The small figs turn yellowish red when ripe from May to December.
The figs attract many fruit-eating birds to the garden. Makes a wonderful container plant or bonsai.
Plant in sun or shade.
Figs should not be planted close to walls and paving as they have aggressive root system.
Size: 5 to 10m
Acacia karroo (= Vachellia karroo) is a very hardy, semi-deciduous, fast-growing and drought-resistant tree.
Abundant, fragrant, yellow puffball flowers light up the landscape, and adorn the tree intermittently (in response to rain) throughout summer.
Plectranthus ciliatus is an outstanding fairly hardy, evergreen groundcover with attractive quilted leaves that have purple undersides and purple stems.
It has spikes of white or mauve flowers from September to May, that attract insects and butterflies to the garden.
Virgilia oroboides is a hardy, evergreen beautiful tree with smooth, silver-grey bark in young trees that becomes grey and rough with age. It has feathery, grey-green, Acacia-like leaves.
The scented pea-like flowers are pink, and, when the tree is in full flush from January to April, it is a sight to behold. They are rich in nectar and attract many pollinating insects and birds.
It is the host plant for the Lucerne Blue butterfly – Lampides boeticus.
As it is so fast-growing, it is an ideal plant for new gardens.
Plant in sun or light semi-shade, in well-drained soil.
Size: up to 10m
Andropogon huillensis is a hardy, evergreen to semi-deciduous, moisture-loving, perennial, tufted grass. It has a reed-like appearance and leaves that have a prominent, white mid-rib.
From September to June it bears a tall, flowering stalk topped with beautiful, silvery-white, feathery flowers and seed-heads that glisten in the sunlight.
It is the host plant of the Dark Small-branded Swift butterfly. The fluffy seed-heads are a sought-after nesting material for birds.
This grass is tall but does not have a huge tuft, making it ideal for smaller gardens. It makes a beautiful backdrop as it sways in the lightest of breezes and the flowers sparkle and add movement to the garden. Plant in a grassland garden, around ponds and along streams to great effect.
As with all grasses it should be cut back once a year and raked to remove the thatch. Requires sun or semi-shade and sufficient water.
Size: Flowering stem up to 1.9m
Acacia ataxacantha (=Senegalia ataxacantha) is a hardy, deciduous Acacia that can grow as a scrambling shrub or medium sized tree with many hooked prickles. It is drought resistant and fairly fast-growing.
The fine leaves are either bright green or blue green and are densely hairy.
It bears spikes of creamy flowers from November to February. These are followed by attractive, flattened deep red to maroon pods.
The Satyr Charaxes butterfly uses it as a host plant. It is used in traditional medicine, and the wood is split to weave baskets.
This tree is ideal to plant as a security hedge, as its tangled thorny branches will climb through other plants and create an impenetrable barrier.
It requires well drained soil and full sun, but can tolerate light, dappled shade to semi-shade.
Size: 5 to 10m
Croton sylvaticus is a semi-hardy, occasionally deciduous trees with a dense crown of attractive large, bicoloured leaves that smell of almonds when crushed.
The spikes of creamy coloured flowers are carried long stalks are from September to January. Although the flowers are fairly nondescript they are followed by long bunches of apricot-orange coloured fruit that adorn the tree for many months.
Plant in well-drained soil in a protected position.
The seeds attract birds and it is also an important butterfly host plant.
Size: 7 to 13m
Setaria sphacelata var. sericea is a hardy, evergreen, beautiful, neatly-tufted grass.
It bears dense, golden inflorescences of hairy flowers from October to May that look like miniature bulrushes.
It attracts birds to the garden and is the host plant of various butterfly species.
Although this is a tall grass, it is neat and narrow and does not go wild.
It makes a lovely form plant and can be planted in a grassland garden, as a backdrop to a colourful bed or mass-plant for a beautiful effect.
As with most grasses, it should be cut back once a year and the thatch removed.
It grows in sun or semi-shade, and needs regular watering.
Size: 70cm to 1.2m
Dactyloctenium australe is a hardy, evergreen, creeping, mat-forming grass that spreads by means of stolons. It is the most popular lawn grass in South Africa. The light green leaves mat well, resulting in this grass forming a good, dense lawn.
This grass gets its common name from the digitate inflorescence that resembles the upturned foot of a bird. Suitable as a stabilizer of sand and is palatable to game and livestock. Host plant of the Squinting Bush Brown butterfly.
It can be grown in semi-shade or full sun, on a wide variety of soil types.
Size: 30cm up to 50cm
Hyparrhenia hirta is a very hardy, evergreen, large, dense, tufted, perennial grass that develops beautiful autumn colours. It bears insignificant flowers from September to June.
It is one of the best host plants for butterflies and moths – butterflies such as Aeropetes tulbaghia (Mountain Beauty), Dira clytus (Cape Autumn Widow), Tarsocera cassus (Spring Widow), and the beautiful Rosy Pink moth, Decachorda rosea. It is palatable before flowering. Thereafter, it is cut and used as thatching grass.
It becomes dominant in disturbed areas. In the garden, use as a backdrop, a screen or as an element in a grassland garden.
As with all grasses, to keep it healthy, it should be cut back once a year and raked to remove the thatch. Plant in sun or semi-shade in well-drained soil, but it will tolerate heavier soils where it sometimes grows along riverbanks.
Size: Flowering stem up to 1.5m
Gomphocarpus physocarpus (was Asclepias physocarpa) is a very hardy, evergreen, upright soft shrub with pale yellowish green branches and light green, lance-shaped leaves. From November to April it bears pendulous clusters of white flowers with a pinky-purple centre (corona). These highly specialized flowers are pollinated by vespid wasps. The distinctive inflated fruits are yellowish-green tinged with purple, and covered in hair-like structures. All parts of the plant weep poisonos white latex when damaged or cut.
It is the host plant of the African Monarch Butterfly (Danaus chrysippus orientis) and the toxic alkaloids that the caterpillars ingest are carried through to the pupae and the butterfly to make them highly distasteful to predators. The fruit are decorative in a vase – make sure not to get any of the sap / latex on the skin and wash hands thoroughly after handling.
Beautiful in a grassland garden or as a tall feature at the back of a flower bed.
Plant in full sun or very light semi-shade, in well drained soil.
Size: up to 2m
Dovyalis caffra is a hardy, evergreen, fast growing, drought resistant, large, shrub or small tree.
Long spines make it an excellent addition to a security hedge.
It has small, creamy-green, nectar laden flowers from November to January.
The edible, plum-like, yellow fruits are rich in vitamin C are refreshing and make a delicious jelly preserve.
They are also much sought after by birds.
Plant in sun or semi-shade.
Pelargonium graveolens is a hardy, evergreen shrub with large, velvety leaves that are strongly rose-scented. It bears showy, pinkish-white umbels of attractive flowers peaking in August to January. Attracts insects to the garden.
Geranium oil is produced from the fragrant leaves. The leaves can also be used to line cake baking tins to impart their flavour to the cake. Leaves can also be added to cordials for a pleasant taste. The beautiful leaves last well in a vase.
This many-branched shrub adds texture and fragrance to the garden and can be used in mixed borders and in a cottage style garden. Attractive when planted in containers and large hanging baskets.
Plant in well-drained, moist soil in semi-shade and prune to keep in shape.
Size: up to 1m
Panicum maximum is a very hardy, evergreen, clump-forming, robust, densely-leafy, perennial grass. It bears delicate, flowering stems of tiny creamy-coloured seeds with purple sheaths.
From September to March it produces flowers and seeds that the seed-eating birds go mad for. A must for a bird garden as both food and nesting-material plant. It is the host plant of the Eyed Brown butterfly. An excellent grazing grass.
Plant around ponds, in a grassland or even under trees, where it grows well in shade, semi-shade or sun. Cut back to 5 to 10cm above ground level in winter and remove the thatch.