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.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Highveld red-hot poker (Kniphofia ensifolia)

Family Liliaceae
 These occur in marshy areas in dense groups.
 The flowers are a lemon yellow in colour and is one of about 50 species found in SA.
It is used in traditional medicine to treat female ailments. 
 They grow to about 1m in height.
Info: Wild Flowers of South Africa – Braam van Wyk

Monday, October 29, 2012


Family Amaryllidaceae
Clivias are a very popular flowers in our gardens and I am sure you have them in the USA too.
This attractive plant is a shade-loving perennial with a fleshy, tuberous rhizome and dark-green, strap-shaped leaves. The flowers are usually orange (rarely yellow) and all arise from the same point on the flowering stalk. Due to the exceptionally beautiful flowers, C. miniata is a popular garden plant and it is also commonly grown as a pot plant in many parts of the world. There are four species of Clivia, but it seems that only C. miniata and C. nobilis are used to any extent in traditional medicine.

The whole plant is used, including the rhizome, roots and leaves.
The rhizome is used by the Zulu to treat fever. The whole plant is used to help with childbirth and to hasten parturition . The rhizome is also a snake-bite remedy and it is claimed to relieve pain.

The rhizomes of Clivia species are extremely toxic due to the presence of numerous alkaloids. Their continued use should be strongly discouraged.
The toxicity is due to several so-called Amaryllidaceae alkaloids, of which lycorine is the best known compound . Several structurally related alkaloids have been isolated from C. miniata, such as clivacetine, clivonine, cliviasine and clividine.
Lycorine occurs in C. miniata at levels of up to 0,4% of the dry weight and causes salivation, vomiting and diarrhoea at low doses; paralysis and collapse at high doses. Leaf extracts were shown to have uterotonic effects.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Common Coral Tree (Erythrina lysistemon)

The common Coral tree is a medium sized deciduous tree occurring in the bushveld and coastal areas.
Red flowers form just before the leaves appear and fruiting is from September to February. The flowers attract Sunbirds and insects which then attract insect eating birds. Woodpeckers and Barbets like to nest in these trees. The leaves are compound with three heart-shaped leaflets.
The bark is used for treating rheumatism and arthritis. Crushed leaves are used to reduce inflammation on septic sores. Burnt bark powder is used to reduce inflammation on open sores. Toothache is treated with an infusion made from boiled or soaked bark. To relieve earache an infusion of the leaves can be used as ear drops.
Kudu, Nyala, Elephant, Klipspringer, and black rhino, browse the leaves. Vervet monkeys and baboons eat the flowers.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The time for Pansies has arrived

The name pansy is derived from the French word pensée meaning "thought", and was so named because the flower resembles a human face; in August it nods forward as if deep in thought.
Pansy breeding has produced a wide range of flower colors including yellow, gold, orange, purple, violet, red, white, and even black (dark purple) many with large showy face markings.
A large number of bicoloured flowers have also been produced. They are generally very cold hardy plants surviving freezing even during their blooming period.
Plants grow well in sunny or partially sunny positions in well draining soils. Pansies are developed from viola species that are normally biennials with a two-year life cycle.

The first year plant produce greenery and then bear flowers and seeds their second year of growth and afterwards die like annuals.
Because of selective human breeding, most garden pansies bloom the first year, some in as little as nine weeks after sowing.
Plants grow up to nine inches (23 cm) tall, and the flowers are two to three inches (about 6 cm) in diameter, though there are some smaller and larger flowering cultivars available too.
This is one of the dwarf variety.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


Bauhinia bowkeri is a much-branched, scrambling, woody shrub with a graceful arching habit that can reach a height of 5-6 m (15-18 feet). The Kei bauhinia flowers profusely during spring and summer (October to December).

The flowers are carried in bunches along the branches and at their tips, each bunch consisting up to 6 individual strongly sweet-scented flowers.
Many of the almost 300 species of Bauhinia are popular Garden subjects because of their decorative foliage and ornamental flowers and are widely grown in sub-tropical or tropical regions of the world.

There are seven bauhinias that are indigenous to southern Africa.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Sausage Tree (Kigelia africana)

Family Bignoniaceae
The trees are over 30 foot in height.
The fruits and bark, ground in water, are either taken orally or used as an enema in treating children’s stomach ailments.

Fruit can be up to 3 foot in length, weighing 20 lbs. In time of food shortages, the seeds are roasted and eaten.

The wood which is whitish yellow and rather soft, is used for planking, boxes and dugout canoes.

The ripe fruits, which are edible, are baked and added to beer to aid fermentation.

The unripe fruits are said to be poisonous but are taken as a remedy for syphilis and rheumatism.
The flowers are pollinated by bats and when they fall to the ground, are eaten by game.

Monday, October 15, 2012

White or common arum lily (Zantedeschia aethiopica)

Family Araceae
I remember years ago the Arum Lily came in only one color ..... white ... and we called them 'funeral flowers'. Now there are many hybrids and a wonderful addition to a garden.

Also called a Calla Lily

It is an excellent cutflower and lasts a long time in water. Nowadays there are other forms of this species which will enliven an old theme. The 'Marshmallow' with a creamy pink spathe (outer "petal" which is actually a modified leaf) and rose-pink throat and the 'Green Goddess'with a green and white spathe. There is also an attractive form with leaves spotted white.

This lovely plant was introduced to Europe very early on, apparently before Van Riebeeck had established the refreshment station at the Cape. It is also illustrated in an account of the Royal Garden in Paris in 1664. It was sent as one of the interesting plants of the Cape to Europe by Simon van der Stel some time before 1697.

The striking arum lily "flower" is actually many tiny flowers arranged in a complex spiral pattern on the central column (spadix). The tiny flowers are arranged in male and female zones on the spadix. The top 7 cm are male flowers and the lower 1.8 cm are female. If you look through a hand-lens you may see the stringy pollen emerging from the male flowers which consist largely of anthers. The female flowers have an ovary with a short stalk above it, which is the style (where the pollen is received). The spadix is surrounded by the white or coloured spathe. According to Marloth, the whiteness of the spathe is not caused by pigmentation, but is an optical effect produced by numerous airspaces beneath the epidermis.

The flowers are faintly scented and this attracts various crawling insects and bees which are responsible for pollinating the flowers. Cross pollination occurs as the anthers of each flower ripen before the ovaries. A white crab spider of the family Thomisidae visits the flower to eat the insects. This spider does not spin webs and uses its whiteness as camouflage against the spathe. In the western Cape, a tiny frog Hyperolius hopstocki is also attacted to the arum lily flowers. The spathe turns green after flowering and covers the ripening berries. It rots away when these are ripe and the succulent yellow berries attract birds, which are responsible for seed dispersal.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Morning Glory (Ipomoea obscura)

Family Convolvulaceae
 Ipomoea obscura, the Obscure Morning Glory or Small White Morning Glory, is a species of the genus Ipomoea. It is native to parts of Africa, Asia, and certain Pacific Islands, and it is present in other areas as an introduced species.

The seed of this plant is toxic if ingested.


Thursday, October 11, 2012

Jade or Money Plant (Crassula ovata)

Family Crassulaceae
This is probably the most commonly grown crassula in South Africa and well-known as a container plant all over the world, both indoors and outdoors.


A large well-branched, compact, rounded, evergreen shrub 1 - 3 m tall with glossy, dark grey-green, oval, succulent leaves and rounded heads of pink flowers in winter-spring. The stem is stout and gnarled and gives the impression of great age, and its branches are also short and stubby but well-proportioned. Branches are succulent, grey-green in colour and in older specimens the bark peels in horizontal brownish strips.

The leaves are 30 -90 mm long and 18 - 40 mm wide, egg-shaped to elliptic, often with a red margin and a somewhat pointed end. They are in opposite pairs, the one pair arranged at right angles to the next, and they are clustered towards the ends of the branches. The bush is covered in masses of sweetly scented, pretty pale-pink, star-shaped flowers in tight rounded bunches during the cool winter months (June-August). The flowers develop into small capsules, each holding many tiny seeds.

Crassula ovata is very similar to Crassula arborescens. C. arborescens occurs only in the Little and Central Karoo and has a distinct waxy bloom on its leaves, and its leaves are almost spherical.


Crassula ovata is a prominent element of the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal valley thicket vegetation, together with a variety of aloes, euphorbias, Portulacaria afra and other succulents. It occurs from Willowmore to East London and northwards to Queenstown and KwaZulu-Natal where it grows on rocky hillsides.


Crassulas have a special way of reducing water loss from their leaves without limiting their ability to photosynthesise, known as Crassulacean Acid Metabolism or CAM. All plants need CO2 (carbon dioxide) for photosynthesis. Most plants take in CO2 during daylight hours through their stomata (pores in the leaves) and can't avoid losing water at the same time throught these open pores. In Crassula the stomata are closed during the day but open at night when the CO2 taken in is stored in the form of organic crassulacean acids. During the day, these acids are broken down and the CO2 released is re-used in the photosynthetic process. In this way they lose much less water yet can photosyntesise normally during the daylight hours. Furthermore, during extremely dry periods they won't even open their stomata at night, and will re-cycle the CO2 within the cells. They won't be able to grow at all but the cells will be kept healthy - this is known as CAM-idling.

 In addition to being a CAM plant, and having succulent water-storing stems, leaves and swollen roots that give it the ability to survive droughts, this crassula can also survive being grazed, trodden on or knocked over, as it is able to root from any piece of stem, even a single leaf.

The flowers attract bees, wasps, flies, beetles and butterflies. The fine dust-like seed is dispersed by the wind. Tortoises love the leaves but rarely devour them completely. Any discarded leaves left around the foot of the plant send down roots and grow into new plants. The stems also make handy bases for wasps to build their nests.
 Derivation of the name & historical aspects

Crassula ovata was first described in England in 1768. The name Crassula is the diminutive of the Latin crassus which means thick or fat, referring to the fleshy nature of the genus as a whole. The species name ovata means egg-shaped, referring to the leaves.

The genus Crassula is one of the most diverse succulent genera, varying from tiny moss-like annual plants to 2m tall succulent 'trees' like Crassula ovata. There are more than 300 Crassula species of which approx. 150 are found in southern Africa where they are widespread but concentrated in the semi-arid winter-rainfall areas. The centre of distribution of this genus is in southern Africa, but they extend beyond Africa into Europe, America, Australia, New Zealand and the southern islands.

 Uses & cultural aspects

The Khoi and other African tribes ate the roots, they were grated and cooked after which they were eaten with thick milk. The leaves were also used medicinally, boiled in milk as a remedy for diarrhoea, and used to treat epilepsy, corns and as a purgative.

In the Far East, Germany and the USA it is traditionally grown in square porcelain tubs with 'lion feet' to bring good financial luck, and has attracted more common names including the Money Tree, Penny Plant, Dollar Plant and Tree of Happiness.