For the identification of insects and other fauna and flora of South Africa: please click on the following links:
Insects and related species: Antlions - Ants - Bees - Beetles - Bugs - Butterflies, Moths and Caterpillars - Centipedes and Millipedes - Cockroaches - Crickets - Dragonflies and Damselflies - Grasshoppers and Katydids - Mantis - Stick Insects - Ticks and Mites - Wasps - Woodlice
Plants, Trees, Flowers: (Note: Unless plants fall into a specific species such as Cacti, they have been classified by their flower colour to make them easier to find) Bonsai - Cacti, Succulents, Aloes, Euplorbia - Ferns and Cycads - Flowers - Fungi, Lichen and Moss - Grass - Trees
Animals, Birds, Reptiles etc.: Animals, Birds, Fish and Crabs - Frogs - Lizards - Scorpions - Snails and Slugs - Snakes - Spiders - Tortoise, Turtles and Terrapins - Whipscorpions
Other photography: Aeroplanes - Cars and Bikes - Travel - Sunrise - Water drops/falls - Sudwala and Sterkfontein Caves etc.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Stock Rose (Sparrmannia africana)

Family Tiliaceae
 Besides the two facts that the leaves are a mild skin irritant and that they are evergreen, there is no other information available of this beautiful plant.
 It grows in full sunlight and is a small bush or tree. Also known as African Hemp.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Amaryllia - Amaryllidaceae

Of all flowering bulbs, amaryllis are the easiest to bring to bloom. This can be accomplished indoors or out, and over an extended period of time.  
 The amaryllis originated in South America's tropical regions and has the botanical name Hippeastrum. 
 The large flowers and ease with which they can be brought to bloom make amaryllis popular and in demand worldwide. 
 The amaryllis comes in many beautiful varieties including various shades of red, white, pink, salmon and orange. 
 There are also many striped and multicolored varieties, usually combining shades of pink or red with white.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Namaqualand Daisy (Dimorphotheca sinuata)

Family Asteraceae
D. sinuata is an annual that grows up to 300 mm tall. This showy annual creates sheets of brilliant orange when it flowers in Namaqualand in early spring, drawing visitors from near and far. It is a member of the daisy family.
 The Namaqualand or African daisy is a particularly attractive species of the genus Dimorphotheca, with remarkably big orange flowers that have orange centres (sometimes they may be yellow, depending on the locality). They need full sun to open and they always face the sun.
 The flowering time is mid-winter to mid-autumn. Selected forms of Namaqualand daisies are available for cultivation in a variety of shades such as orange, cream, yellow and salmon. The seeds that appear soon after the flowers wilt are brownish and papery. They are easily blown away by the wind, so they need to be collected as early as possible.

Dimorphotheca sinuata grows naturally in the winter rainfall areas of the country, usually in sandy places in Namaqualand and also in Namibia.
Information from:

Friday, May 25, 2012

WhiteThorn (Acacia polyacantha)

 Family Mimosoideae
 This is one of the most attractive species of acacias in Africa. It often has one stem with branching commencing fairly high up, and a neat flattish crown.
 It has an attractive, whitish stem when mature, with striking light yellow flowers that are sweetly scented. 
 The stem of younger trees appears yellowish with papery bark and persisting prickles. As it gets older, the bark gets smoother and whitish grey, with bark flakes sometimes present.
Young branches are covered in silvery hairs and the whole tree is covered in dark brown to black hooked thorns in pairs.
 It is believed that certain dangerous animals are believed to dislike their smell and for this reason the wood is placed in the rafters of a house to ward off snakes and also in rivers at popular crossing points to deter crocodiles.

It is used as a remedy for snake bite and as in infusion in which to bathe children who are restless at night.
 The wood burns well but the thorns make it very difficult to handle.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Starry Wild Jasmine (Jasminum multipartitum)

 Family Oleacae
This is a very rewarding plant with sweetly scented, white, waxy flowers displayed against glossy, dark green foliage. Consider it a 'must-have' in every garden.

If encouraged, it will climb up to 3 m, although not very strongly and is best used as a shrub of up to 1.5 m high. It is medium to fast growing.
 The relatively large (40 mm across) flowers are borne in profusion from early spring to summer, August to January. They have a delicate perfume during the day that becomes markedly stronger in the evening and at night.The plant is able to withstand some frost but in colder areas it will need a protected corner, generally it does best in regions that have milder winters. Once established, it is fairly drought tolerant although it will require some additional watering during extended dry spells.
 Not all jasmines are scented, though their scent is their biggest attraction and the reason why they are such a popular group of plants.
 The flowers attract insects to the garden, and therefore insectivorous birds follow.

Fruits are eaten by birds, and by people in times of famine. Plants are browsed by game. Larvae of the Cambridge Vagrant Butterfly, the Variable Prince Moth, Oleander Hawk Moth, Death's Head Hawk Moth, and King Monkey Moth feed on Jasminum species. Hawk moths pollinate the flowers.
 Used traditionally as a love charm and to make a herbal tea, fragrance baths and pot-pourri, the genus is important for its horticultural value as lovely well-known ornamentals and popular garden plants. Sprigs of this jasmine are delightful in flower arrangements as the buds will still open after they are picked and their scent pervades the house.The well-known perfume associated with jasmine is extracted from a species native to Iran, Jasminum officinale.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Common Heliotrope (Heliotropium steudneri)

 Family Boraginaceae
This is a small plant growing to maybe 80cm (24”) and found in grasslands in the northern regions.
The flowers are found in lobes at the top of the stalks.
 Generic name is from the Greek helios (the sun) and trope (to turn) referring to the old belief that the spikes turn with the sun.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Plumbago (Plumbago auriculata)

 Family Plumbaginaceae
Plumbago is very commonly used in gardens and often used to form hedges.

It grows as a scrambling shrub to about 2.5m (2’) in height and is evergreen.

Plumbago is visited by butterflies and is one of the larval foods plant for the common blue butterfly (Cyclyrius pirithous) which is apparently fairly common in gardens as a result of the popularity of plumbago as a garden plant.
Children often make "earrings" with the sticky flowers - letting them stick to their earlobes. There are sticky, gland tipped hairs on the flower calyx. The seed capsule retains the stickiness which presumably helps disperse the seed by attaching to animals. The top of the capsule splits opens and drops the seed out.
 Plumbago is used traditionally to treat warts, broken bones and wounds. It is taken as a snuff for headaches and as an emetic to dispel bad dreams. A stick of the plant is placed in the thatch of huts to ward off lightning.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Tassel-berry (Antideesma venosum)

Family Euphorbiaceae
A small shrub or tree growing 4 to 5 metres in height and occurring in low altitudes.

The female flowers are reddish and not so fluffy and grow in catkin-like spikes and are unpleasantly scented.

The young flowering spikes are often parasitized by insects and therefore form distorted, tangled, sterile growths.

The flowers are said to have an offensive smell which has been likened to that of rotting watermelon. In African medicine an infusion of the roots is used to bathe the body to ease pains and is also a constituent of a mixture believed to ensure fertility.

This would make a very good tree in the garden but both a male and female tree would be necessary to continue propagation.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Scabious (Scabiosa incise)

Family Dipsacaceae
Scabiosa incisa with its large mauve or white flowers must be one of South Africa's prettiest indigenous perennials. Growing in small clumps, the flowerheads stand above the foliage, gently moving with the slightest breeze. On warm summer days, butterflies are often seen on the flowers, for Scabiosa is one of their favourite nectar plants.

The Dipsacaceae or scabious family is found in Africa and Asia, but is most abundant in the Mediterranean region.

In South Africa the widely distributed Scabiosa columbaria (or rice flower) is the wild scabious most commonly used as a traditional medicine by different African tribes, but S. incisa is also used to make a dusting powder and wound lotion. It is, however, mostly valued as a good cut flower and beautiful garden plant.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Jacaranda (Jacaranda mimosifolia)

Family Bignoniaceae

The Jacaranda is one of South Africa's best known trees, but it is an invasive exotic that was originally introduced from Brazil and Argentina.

Pretoria is also known as the 'Jacaranda City' because of the prevalence of these trees on the city's streets and parklands. The jacaranda is most noticeable in spring when it flowers in bright displays of purple-blue.

The name jacaranda is derived from Portuguese meaning "to have a hard core, hard branch"

Although the purple-blue is the most well know, Jacarandas are found in 4 different colours, including white, yellow and pink. Pink Jacarandas are found further north in Zimbabwe.

They are also a popular tree in Florida, California and Australia.

These are some of the formal gardens from which I took some of the above photographs.

Even here in the distance are Jacaranda trees.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Fine Leaved Verbena (Verbena aristigera)

Family Verbenaceae
This is a popular ground cover in gardens.

It is native to South America but has become naturalized throughout the region.

There are about 200 species of Verbena and most are found in tropical or sub-tropical regions.

Many of the species are used in traditional medicine and I remember as a child we used to pluck the flowers off and suck out the sweet nectar. J

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Cape Fig (Ficus capensis)

Family Moracea
This is a large, spreading tree usually about 12 metres in height but reaching 25 to 30 in ideal conditions.
 The figs produced in large clusters and are large, 3-4cm in diameter.

The wood is light and soft and though it is of little commercial value, it has a number of practical uses. Africans make drums from it and in the days of wagons it provided effective brake-blocks. Sticks produced fire by friction.
 The figs have a sweet, if insipid, flavour but can be made into jam if apples or other suitable fruits are added.

Several African folk-remedies are made and burns, septic conjunctivitis are treated with and application of its latex. Infusions of the bark and leaves is administered to cows if their milk production is considered inadequate.

In East Africa, this tree is sacred and sacrifices of goats are made to it to appease spirits, to bring rain and ensure a good harvest.