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.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Wild white Carnation (Dianthus mooiensis)

30/08/2012 Update: name and Family: Caryophyllaceae

I never knew that there was such a thing as a wild carnation and being in a new area, I was excited to find some.
 These are growing in a bush area which is mostly grassland and the soil is very poor. The area was a river bed a few millennium ago and does not contain soil. The same as you would find in a child’s sandpit.
 These are thriving and as you can see by the pictures, the stems and leaves are very much the same as those we have cultivated and in our gardens, however the flower is very different and the calyx very elongated.
 I have only seen them in white and as they seem to grow in patches, they make a lovely show against the wild grass.
 If anyone knows the proper name for them or has more information, I would be pleased if you let me know.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Granadilla / Passion Fruit

We have two kinds of granadilla (passionfruit) species here. One is an orange/yellow thick skin variety which grows wild in our tropical climates and the other is cultivated for everyday use, is purple and has a thinner skin.

It is used in many ways, as an addition to cakes and icing, a flavoring in ice cream, yoghurt and soft drinks or fresh over fruit salad.
 If conditions are right, flowering may occur throughout the year. Individual flowers bloom for just 12-24 hours before closing. They will self-pollinate and are followed by green fruit, turning purple when ripe. Fruits usually ripen within 80 days of flowering. They grow on vines which love full sun except in climates where the temperature frequently surpasses 100F, then should be given shade. Plants are short-lived, usually maintaining good productivity for 4-6 years. Harvest fruits when they fall from the plant and are best eaten when wrinkles appear on the surface. When propagated from seed or cuttings, they will flower within their first year.
 The information below is from

Medicinal uses and health benefits of the passion flower
Passion flower has a long history of use among Native Americans. Today, passion flower is mainly used in the United States and Europe to relieve anxiety, restlessness, and insomnia. It is also recommended for the relief of nausea caused by nervousness or anxiety. It works by slowing the pulse, decreasing arterial tension, and quieting respiration and pulmonary blood pressure. Passion flower is anxiolytic and analgesic. It decreases motor activity that can contribute to stress-related myospasms. Passionflower has been used traditionally for menstrual pain, diarrhoea and dysentery. An extract containing passionflower and hawthorn has been studied in people with congestive heart failure for the treatment of shortness of breath and difficulty exercising. When combined with hawthorn berries, passionflower is effective in reducing stress-related digestive spasms such as gastritis and colitis. Fruit juice as an eyewash for sore eyes. A tincture or infusion from dried leaves is an insomnia remedy. Homeopathic practitioners prescribe it for asthma and whooping cough. Applied externally, it has been used for hemorrhoids. Passionflower may also relieve anxiety in people who are recovering from heroin addiction.
 Dosage and administration

Passion flower preparations are made from fresh or dried flowers and other above-ground parts of the plant. Recommended dosages of passion flower generally range from 4-8 g of dried herb per day. To make tea, pour 150 ml (about two-thirds of a cup) of hot water over 1 teaspoonful of passion flower, steep for 10 minutes, then strain. Two or three cups of tea a day. Alternatively, 5-10 ml (1:8) of passion flower tincture can be taken three to four times per day.
 Side effects, precautions

In general, passionflower is considered to be safe and nontoxic. Possible side effects include nausea, vomiting, drowsiness, and rapid heartbeat. Pregnant women should not take passion flower, because passionflower contains substances that can stimulate contractions of the uterus. Passion flower may increase the effects of drugs and herbals that promote sleepiness. It may also enhance the blood-thinning effects of anticoagulant and antiplatelet agents.
 Granadilla Fridge Tart


1 tin Carnation Milk (unsweetened)

1 pack Lemon Jelly

½ cup Icing Sugar

1 tin (110g) Granadilla Pulp

1 pack Nice or Tennis Biscuits

Freeze tin of Carnation Milk.Dissolve jelly in 1 cup boiling water.Line pie dish with biscuits.When jelly begins to set, beat slightly defrosted milk with icing sugar very stiffly.Add granadilla and nearly set jelly, and beat well.Put 1/2 mixture on base, add another layer biscuits, then the rest of the mixture.Set in fridge overnight.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Velvet Raisin (Grewia flava)

Family Malvaceae. Also know as Wild or Velvet Raisin, Brandybush
 General description and features:

This rather untidy multi-stemmed, low growing shrubby plant is easy to find with its distinctive greyish green hairy leaves. The underside of the leaves has three prominent veins beginning at the leaf base. Another distinctive feature is that the leaves grow upright or horizontal and do not droop downwards. The Wilderosyntjie is fairly slow growing, frost hardy and drought resistant. It is usually found growing in clusters (or groups).

In the flowering season of October to March, the beautiful sweet-scented star-shaped yellow flowers can be found growing on the angles where the leaves grow on the branches. These in turn make way for the berry-like fruit that starts showing from December to April. The berry fruit is reddish brown in colour when ripe and ready to eat, is sweetish in flavour and has a fairly high sugar content.
 Trunk and Bark:
On the young branches the bark is grey and hairy, while on the older branches the grey is darker and the hairs are gone to leave a smooth bark finish.
 What people use this tree for:

Apart from eating the berry fruit it is also made into a brandy drink (mampoer – only for the brave!). The fruit is also made into a beer. In the Kalahari, the Bushmen/San people make bows from the thicker and longer “elastic” branches and make their arrow shafts from the thin, straight branches.

Walking sticks as well as traditional fighting sticks are made from the long straight branches. Rope is made from the fibres of bark. If you are out overnight in the bush and have forgotten your toothbrush, you could fray the end of a twig and use it to clean your teeth!
 The ‘provider’ for other creatures:
Look out for Red-faced and Speckled Mousebirds, Grey Louries, Helmeted Guinea fowl, Francolin (Swainson’s, Crested) and Redcrested or Northern Black Korhaan, that may visit in the fruiting season. The Velvet Raisin is a valuable fodder plant for game (kudu, steenbok and grey duiker) and cattle. The White-cloaked Skipper Butterfly, the Spotted Velvet Skipper Butterfly is also provided for by way of the Grewia flava acting as a host plant for the lava of these Butterflies. Bees also come to the plant in the flowering season to collect the pollen.

Information from:

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Medicinal Herbs - Part 2

Curry plant
The plant produces an oil from its blossoms which is used for medicinal purposes. It is anti-inflammatory, fungicidal, and astringent. It soothes burns and raw chapped skin. It is used as a fixative in perfumes and has an intense fragrance.

Although called "curry plant" it has nothing whatsoever to do with the mixture of spices used in Indian cooking, nor with the curry tree (Murraya koenigii).

Potential Anti-Ulcer Herb Medicine: Rocket 'Eruca Sativa'

ScienceDaily (May 14, 2009) — A research group from Saudi Arabia studied the anti-ulcer properties of the salad herb Rocket, also known as Arugula, species name Eruca sativa. They found that Rocket extract possesses antisecretory, cytoprotective and anti-ulcer activities against experimentally-induced gastric lesions in rats. The anti-ulcer effect is possibly through prostaglandin mediated activity and/or through its anti-secretory and antioxidant properties.
Benefits of Strawberry

Strawberries are a good source of vitamin C, and contain a large amount of fruit sugar. They are an excellent spring tonic, and are delicious when juiced.

They can be considered an eliminative food, and are good for the intestinal tract. Strawberries have an alkaline reaction in the body. Because of their high sodium content, they can be considered "a food of youth." They also have a good amount of potassium.

Many people complain about getting hives from strawberries. This is usually because they are not ripened on the vine. If you are allergic to strawberries, try this: run hot water over them, then immediately follow this by running cold water over them. This takes the fuzz off the outside of the berries, which is believed to be the cause of the hives.

The seeds of the strawberry can be irritating in cases of inflammation of the bowel or colitis.

Action, Medical Uses, and Dosage.

This plant should be ranked among the acronarcotic poisons, along with the Oenantha crocata, and the Cicutas. Boileau, Lepine, and others have found it useful as a remedy against elephantiasis of the Greeks (leprosy). Devergie, Cazenave, Waring, Hunter, etc., have derived benefit from it in chronic eczema and other cutaneous maladies, in scrofula, secondary syphilis, ulcers, and chronic rheumatism. It is an active agent, large amounts inducing headache, dizziness, and stupor, as well as bloody passages from the bowels. Itching of the skin is said to be occasioned by it also. As the root is very hygroscopic, and is not well preserved in powder, its best form for administration is in infusion, or syrup, 1 ounce of the root to 1 pint of fluid, and which may be given in doses of from 1/2 to 1 fluid ounce, repeated 3 or 4 times a day. An alcoholic extract may likewise be used in doses of from 1/4 to 3/4 of a grain. Notwithstanding the favorable reports concerning the efficiency of this plant, it has fallen into disuse, and is seldom employed at the present day.
Angelica Archangelica

Habitat: It is native to North America, Eastern Europe and Central Asia

Description: The roots of the Common Angelica are long and spindle-shaped, thick and fleshy - large specimens weighing sometimes as much as three pounds and are beset with many long, descending rootlets. The flowers, small and numerous, yellowish or greenish in color, are grouped into large, globular umbels.

Uses: Angelica is largely used in the grocery trade, as well as for medicine, and is a popular flavoring for confectionery and liqueurs. The herb is also used to combat digestive problems, gastric ulcers, anorexia, and migraines.

The synthesized essential marjoram oil is formed of a number of active substances such as terpinen, terpineol, carvacrol, ursolic acid, beta sistosterine. Along with the essential oil, tannin, bitter and sistosterine elements, marjoram is also rich in vitamins A and D. Because of these compounds, marjoram stimulates digestion, increases diuresis, absorbs gases, increases food appetite and it is recommended in nervous states or cases of insomnia.

Marjoram tea
Taken in normal doses (one teaspoon of herbs per 200 ml of water), marjoram tea stimulates appetite, digestion, eliminates gases and calms stomach pains. The tea is prepared by boiling one teaspoon of marjoram powder in a cup of water for 15 minutes. In an interval of two hours the consumption of two to four cups of marjoram infusion is recommended. The same treatment is efficient for overcoming the incipient state of the cold and, at the same time, prevents flu. To obtain a strong tea, add two teaspoons of marjoram to a cup of cold water and keep it macerating for 24 hours. After filtering, honey can be added. If the doses are increased (six teaspoons to 200 ml of water), marjoram produces a calming and antidepressive effect, induces somnolence and even a slightly euphoric state. During summers when the temperature is hardly bearable, marjoram tea is recommended especially to people with blood circulation problems because it has an adjusting effect on the body temperature. For hair revitalization, replace the washing water with a marjoram infusion obtained from 20 g of herb to one liter of water.

Description: Dill usually has one upright, hollow stem with waxy or powdery leaves divided into filaments. Umbels of small yellow flowers appear in summer, which are followed by flattish and oval seeds.

Uses: Carminative, aromatic, anti-spasmodic, anti-inflammatory, galactogogue, calmative, diuretic, stomachic. Dill is an excellent remedy for flatulence and the colic that is sometimes associated with it. It is the herb of choice for colic of children. Chewing the seeds helps to clear bad breath.

Description: It grows to a height of 8 to 12 inches from a small, elongated, bulbous root. The leaves are hollow, cylindrical, closed at the top and dilated to surround the stem at the bottom. The otherwise naked stem bears a terminal globose cluster of reddish-blue or purple flowers in June and July. The fruit is a three-sided black seed.

Uses: It is a great improvement to salads - cut fresh and chopped fine-and may be put not only into green salads, but also into cucumber salad, or sprinkled on sliced tomatoes. Chives are also useful for cutting up and mixing with the food of newly hatched turkeys.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Medicinal Herbs - Part 1


Properties and benefits of Mint
Because of its active compounds contained, mint has sedative, disinfectant and cicatrizing properties. It can be successfully used in gastro-intestinal disorders; it helps the liver and calms indigestion. It contains menthol, menthone, menthofuran, a-pinene, limonene, cardinene, acetic aldehide, isovaleriana, vitamin C and antibiotic substances.

Mint tea

To make tea, you must boil one mint spoon of leaves in 200ml of water. The tea must be drunk cold, three times a day. Mouth rinse is made out of 5g of mint oil dissolved in 95g of concentrate alcohol. This drink is refreshing, antiseptic and it can remove the unwanted smell or taste. Mint oil mixed with hot water is used to treat the flu, laryngitis and hoarseness. The product obtained from 5g of mint oil and 95g of alcohol can be used to treat rheumatic pains and itches.

Rheumatism can be treated also with mint baths, obtained by boiling 200g of leaves in 3 liters of water and mixing the result with water at 37 degrees Celsius.

Proprieties and benefits of Parsley

Between 25-30 mg of parsley a day are enough to provide the daily dosage of vitamin C. It is important to mention that parsley contains more vitamin C than lemon, orange or any other fruit. It has abundant quantities of other vitamins and minerals such as: provitamine A, vitamine B, vitamine E, vitamine K, beta-carotene, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, manganese, sodium, potassium, sulfur and calcium. It acts like an antioxidant (eliminates toxins and maintains the elasticity of the blood vessels), it is a general stimulant, diuretic, antiseptic, antiinfectious, antirachitic and more. Apart from these, parsley is a great neutralizer of the negative effects brought about by smoking and dependence upon alcohol. Among other effects that it has: it straightens the body and immune system, has a beneficial effect over the liver, spleen, digestive and endocrine organs.

From a medicinal point of view, parsley behaves as an anticacerous herb (it helps protect the liver and intestines form cancer), antirheumatic, stimulant of digestion, of kidneys, eliminating toxins and kidney stones. It is important to bear in mind that parsley seeds have an outstanding aphrodisiac effect by stimulating the sexual glands. Moreover, they stimulate fertility and helps against dependency upon alcohol and against brain tumors.
Basil (Ocimum Basilicum)
The basil is a herbaceous annual culture plant, ramified from the ground, 20-60 cm tall with hairy stems, round-oval leaves and white or reddish flowers. The basil has been known since ancient times and is a holy plant in India, very much appreciated by Egyptians, too; bouquets of basil were found in the Egyptian pyramids.

An aromatic plant, the basil is used in the culinary art as a seasoning for diverse meat and sauce dishes. Traditional medicine uses basil as a remedy for chronic gastritis and stomach aches.

Pharmacological actions: sedative, diuretic, antiseptic.

Starting from the essential oil content of the basil, as related to the other active elements, basil is recommended in the treatment of gastro-intestinal and renal affections, bronchitis and fever.

The use of basil leaf tea is recommended in nervous system fatigue, insomnia and painful menstruation. To avoid the unpleasant effects of insect stings rub the wounded spot with fresh basil leaves or with the juice from fresh basil plants.

Oregano oil benefits include its antibacterial and antimicrobial properties. It's used to treat a variety of ailments from the flu to skin infections.Oregano oil is created through steam distillation of fresh oregano leaves. Its anti-bacterial and disinfectant properties were first recognized in ancient Greece, where the oil was used to treat skin infections and wounds. Its name originates from its preferred growing environment, high altitudes, and literally means “delight of the mountains.”

In addition to being a popular culinary herb, the oil made from oregano boasts numerous and varied health benefits. Its active ingredient, carvacol, is a natural compound that fights bacteria, fungus, parasites, and viruses. It's used both internally and topically to treat all manner of infections, and there is even an increasing amount of scientific evidence to prove it's effectiveness.
Lemon verbena (Aloysia triphylla)

also known as Lippia citriodora
The use of herbal remedies, including the herb lemon verbena, classified as Aloysia triphylla, are popular as an alternative to standard Western allopathic medicine for a variety of problems, including relieving digestive track spasms (colon), strengthening the nervous system as well as reducing fevers.

• strengthening the nervous system

• de-stressing

• anti-spasmodic

• expectorant

• helps with digestion

• easing colic

• feverish cold

• reducing fevers

• relieving spasms of digestive track (colon)

Rhubarb can be used as a strong laxative, with the roots being used as a laxative for at least 5,000 years. Rhubarb has an astringent effect on the mucous membranes of the mouth and the nasal cavity.

The roots and stems are rich in anthraquinones, such as emodin and rhein. These substances are cathartic and laxative, which explains the sporadic use of rhubarb as a slimming agent.

Rhubarb roots are used in traditional Chinese medicine; rhubarb also appears in medieval Arabic and European prescriptions.

The rhizomes ('roots') contain stilbene compounds (including rhaponticin) which seem to lower blood glucose levels in diabetic mice.

Among the main properties of rosemary we can enumerate: analgesic, antiseptic, antidepressant, anti-inflammatory, expectorant, antiviral, aphrodisiac, disinfectant. Its active elements have choleric, antiseptic, diuretic and tonic aspects at a nervous level, stimulating bile secretion and eliminating it in the intestines, destroying microorganisms, increasing the quantity of eliminated urine, improving the blood flow and refreshing and energizing the mind. Apart from this, scientific researches indicate that rosemary is an ideal memory stimulant for both adults and students. Rosemary contains a series of secondary elements such as carnosol and carnosic acid, with a reflecting action in case of free radicals. Rosemary also has calming effects by working against fatigue, sadness, anxiety, calming muscle soreness, digestive pains and also, indigestion caused by stress.

In aromatherapy it is appreciated for bringing youth, protection, love, optimism, vitality health and a restful sleep.

Coriander fruits contain volatile oil, lipids, starch, pectins and mineral substances. In fact, coriander's flavor comes from the etheric oil contained in proportion of 1,5% - 2,0% . This oil contains linalool (60% - 80%), pinene, dipentene, etc. The fruits contain fatty acids like petroselinic acid, proteic substances, amino-acids, sitosterols, tocopherols, cumarins, caffeic acid and chlorogenic acid. The aromatic contained substance - coriandrol - is a very good adjuvant in the treatment of liver cancer. At the same time, coriander leaves represent a powerful source of vitamin A, C, thiamin, riboflavin, vitamin K, folic acid, calcium, iron, magnesium and potassium. In small quantities it contains also niacin, vitamin B6, phosphor and zinc.

Furctus Coriandri, in other words coriander fruits are used as a stimulant for the gastrointestinal secretion, sedative and carminative. They ameliorate the abdominal pains, reduce digestive spasms and distend. Coriander is also known as a bactericide, fungicide and anthelmintic. It has also a good influence over the neural system and stimulates memory.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Ilala Palm (Hyphaene natalensis)

Family Arecaceae

A palm which can grow up to 15m in height and is found at low altitudes in open sandy country. They have a strange bulge halfway up the trunk.

Flowers: sexes separate on different trees.
 The fruits have a thin layer of sweet tasting, ginger-flavoured, spongy pulp and can take up to two years to mature. Elephants and baboons eat the fruit and act as agents for their seed dispersal. When young, it produces a little milk similar to that of coconuts and is relished by the indigenous people.

These palms are widely exploited as a source of wine and many are killed as a result. Local people tap the tree near the growing tip but afterwards the sap hardens as it dries to form a crust over the wound and this must be cut back afterwards before a further supply can be obtained. After three or four weeks of tapping and cutting back the growing-tip will have been entirely removed and the stem inevitably dies.

 The wine itself is sweet and only slightly intoxicating and though about 60-70 litres may be obtained from the average tree, this relative innocuous liquor can be distilled to form a highly potent spirit, about two litres are obtained from every 20 litres of wine.
 The hard white kernels of the seeds, closely resembling the commercial “vegetable ivory” of South America, are too small to be of economic importance though they are often used to make trinkets, ornaments or curios.

This is a difficult palm to cultivate: the seeds do not germinate easily and the palms are very slow growing. The massive tap-roots make it almost impossible to transplant the trees once they are established and for these reasons they are rarely seen in gardens.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Lanceleaf Coreopsis (Coreopsis lanceolata)

Family Asteraceae
 This flower is drought resistant and is widely attractive to pollen-collecting bees.
 The yellow center or disk flowers stand out distinctly from the ray flowers, which appear to be attached just below them. Ray flowers are 4-lobed.
 The yellow, daisy-like flowers occur singly atop long, naked peduncles.
 Below: this small yellow crab spider is well disguised amongst the petals.
 This USA native species has branching stems at base and often forms sizable colonies along roadsides and in old fields much like our Cosmos.
Identification by:

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Milkweed (Asclepias fruticosa)

Family Asclepiadaceae
It is often planted in gardens (it is frost-sensitive, requires full sun and well-drained soil and should be regarded as invasive), particularly because it attracts butterflies (Monarch and Swallowtail), but also crab spiders, ladybirds/bugs, bees, wasps, ants and moths. Some feed on the nectar and the plant itself while others feed on the insects attracted to it.

Milkweed not only provides food for the adult Monarch but also a nesting area for eggs and larvae. It can have a deep root system once it becomes established and is then difficult to eradicate from gardens.
The plant is quite toxic because it produces a group of toxins known as cardenolides. The poisons protect the plant against herbivores. However, some animals and the ostrich, are capable of eating the plant without ill effect.
Thus the Monarch caterpillar is among a select few creatures able to graze on the leaves of the milkweed. It manages to sequester and store poisons so that the butterfly into which it develops is protected from predators.
The female Monarch butterfly lays her eggs on the underside of the leaves where they hatch in about 5 days. The young caterpillar chews itself out of the shell which it then eats as its first meal.

Stems contain a strong, silky bark fibre formerly used for sewing. The milky latex reportedly effective in removing warts. Seed hairs formerly used as tinder and to stuff pillows and mattresses.

A leaf infusion, taken by mouth, is used to treat intestinal troubles (diarrhoea and stomach pain) in children and, given per rectum, as a purgative. Dried powdered leaf is inhaled as a snuff for the relief of headache, coryza and tuberculosis.

In view of the possibility of cardiac, uterotonic and antihypertensive activity, preparations of this species should be used with caution, on prescription from a competent traditional practitioner.