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, February 28, 2013

Dwarf coral tree (Erythrina humeana)

Family Fabaceae
The dwarf coral tree is an ideal tree or shrub for the small garden, especially for people who love the scarlet flowers of the common coral tree (Erythrina lysistemon) but don't have the space for a large tree. Its small dimensions make it ideally suited to high density housing complexes where garden space is limited. It produces an impressive display of scarlet red flowers en-masse, which are a favourite with many different birds who enjoy the nectar. Almost as though it was designed for the garden, the dwarf coral tree produces its flowers just at window height which allows you to do your bird watching from the comfort of your favourite sofa.

Similar to the ploughbreaker (Erythrina zeyheri) and the tamboekie doring (Erythina acanthocarpa), the dwarf coral tree can tolerate cold and frost by going into winter dormancy and simply re-sprouting from the large swollen tuberous roots as soon as spring arrives.

Plants are easy to propagate from seed or cuttings, and this species can also be propagated by the use of truncheon cuttings (very large cuttings). Truncheons are made from part of or even an entire branch which is planted into a pot filled with sharp sand or even directly into the soil where the plant is to be grown. This should be done in spring (September to November in South Africa) for best results.
 The dwarf coral tree produces a number of stems from the ground up to approx. 1.2 - 1.5 m high at which point they branches and produce a mass of scarlet red clusters of flowers on long black stalks making them ideal for the vase. The flowers are rich in nectar and attract a variety of birds but are the favourite of the brightly coloured sunbirds.

The dwarf coral tree is easy to grow and is very drought hardy. It thrives under normal garden conditions providing it gets full sun and doesn't have wet feet.

Should your garden be in a position where it receives a fair degree of frost don't despair as the dwarf coral tree can tolerate quite a bit of frost especially once it has become well established in your garden. If you do not have frost however, it will not die down but rather produce the new season's growth from the previous season's stems. In such situations it may be necessary to prune it hard once every three or four years.

The dwarf coral tree is deciduous (loses all its leaves and goes dormant during the winter months). Although it would be ideal to keep it dry during the winter months it will tolerate light watering of winter annuals around its feet and as it is leafless it allows full sun to reach the annuals that you may choose to fill its gap during the winter months.

The attractive signal red "lucky bean" seeds are produced in curious knobbly black pods. The seed should be collected as they are often in short supply. So collect all your seeds and share them with your friends and local nurseries so that others may also share in the breathtaking display that the dwarf coral tree will make in your garden.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

White Berry-bush (Flueggea virosa)

Family Phyllanthaceae
Flueggea virosa is a dioecious (male and female flowers on separate plants), multistemmed, fast-growing, bushy shrub, 2-3 m but sometimes a spreading tree up to 4 m high, with some small, thorn-like branches. The bark is reddish brown to brown. The leaves are green, crowded along the branchlets. It bears very small flowers which are creamy green. Fruit are white and fleshy and appear in December-March. Flowering time: October-January.
 Conservation status

Flueggea virosa is not threatened but is not immune to future loss due to many factors. People from the Vhembe region in Limpopo often cut the living branches and dry them to make fire. Many plants removed when clearing land for farming.
Distribution and habitat

Flueggea virosa is common in deciduous woodland and on forest margins, along rivers and in rocky areas. It is widely distributed in the southern Africa region. In South Africa it occurs naturally in Limpopo Province, Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal. It also occurs in Zimbabwe and Tanzania. It can survive hot and dry areas and also survive mild frost. It has naturalized in Hawaii, Taiwan and in Haiku, Maui in China. It is currently a problem plant in these areas. In China it is known as Chinese waterberry.

A variety of insects such as wasps and bees pollinate the flower. Seeds are dispersed by animals and birds. The leaves are browsed by goats. It is also larval food for Charaxes butterflies.

Uses and cultural aspects

The slender branches are used to make fish traps. The small fruit is sweet and eaten by people, animals and birds when ripe. The roots and fruits are believed to be an effective snakebite remedy. Roots of this plant are also used in some African communities as contraceptives and for the treatment of syphilis, gonorrhoea, rheumatism, sterility, rashes, and an infusion of the root is taken to relieve malaria. The bark is believed to provide a treatment for diarrhoea and pneumonia.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Knob Thorn (Acacia nigrescens)

Family Mimosoideae
 Acacia nigrescens is a deciduous, small to medium-sized tree which occurs in various savanna regions, often at low altitudes, and in rocky areas, on well drained soil. It is drought- and termite-resistant.
 The knob thorn is a deciduous tree that grows 5–18 m in height, with a long cylindrical shape and rounded crown. It has knobs on the trunks and on branches with persistent thorns arising on the knobs. The trunk is approximately 0.5 m in diameter on mature specimens but can reach 0.75 m. Thorns are in pairs below the leaves. The leaf consists of 2 or3 pairs of pinnae (primary divisions of a compound leaf) with 1 or 2 pairs of leaflets per pinna. Flowers are yellowish white in elongated spikes during Aug.–Nov. They appear before or with the new leaves making the tree very conspicuous. Fruit are dark brown, thinly textured pods borne in pendant (hanging downward) clusters.
 Uses and cultural aspects

Knob thorn trees are the host of hole-nesting bird species and the larvae of the dusky charaxes butterfly. The wood is hard and drought- and termite-resistant but frost-tender; it has been used to make fence posts and mine props. The knob thorn yields good quality firewood producing lasting coals and severe heat. It also makes a good bonsai subject. It is not regularly used for furniture because it is difficult to cut. Knob thorn leaves and pods are included in the diet of elephant, giraffe, kudu, duiker, impala and steenbok.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Bobbejaangif (Adenia glauca)

Family Passifloraceae
First described by Hans Schinz in 1892, belonging to the Passifloraceae family. It is from the southern Africa and Botswana, and can get op to one meter  or more in diameter! The branches reach for up to three meters. It prefers acid, mixed soil, well watered in the summer and can dry out in winter. Keep out of strong sun. The flower is green/crème in colour. It can be reproduced both by cuttings and by seeds. The cuttings might not form a caudex! 

Dioecious, I don't know what I got. If its a female, and I get it pollinated, it will get fine orange fruits. The sap is poison, and the plant can't stand frost.

Its named after the Yemen city of Aden.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Wonderboom Fig (Ficus salicifolia)

Family Moraceae
In my search for more information on this tree, I see that it is also called a Willow Leaf fig.
The Wonderboom Nature Reserve is a 1 km² reserve centered on a wild willowleaf fig tree Ficus salicifolia that is more than a thousand years old, found towards the north of the Magaliesberg Mountains in the Northern portion of the Pretoria Metropole, South Africa.

The famous tree is situated at the foot of the Magaliesberg and is currently protected from human traffic around its trunk and roots. As it has grown, its outlying branches have rooted themselves round the parent tree. This has repeated until there are now three circles of daughter trees encircling the mother fig, with 13 distinct trunks, covering a 50m area.

"Wonderboom" is the Afrikaans name that translates as "Wonder Tree," or more accurately "Miracle Tree."
The following info is from:

The Wonderboom is the name given to this massive wild fig tree (Ficus salicifolia). The tree was discovered in 1836 by the Voortrekkers, under Hendrik Potgieter, who named it the Wonderboom.

Wonderboom is Afrikaans for "Wonder Tree" or "Miracle Tree". The Wonderboom tree's branches reach over 50 meters in diameter, and the highest branches reach up 23 meters high! Exceptional size for a wild fig tree.

Wonderboom Nature Reserve is a 200 ha reserve which protects the 1000 year old Wonderboom tree.

Legend has it that it grew this big because a chief of an indigenous tribe was buried beneath it.

One can hike to the ruins of the Wonderboom Fort, at the top of the Wonderboom Hill, one of four forts built at the end of the 19th century, by the Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek to defend Pretoria against the British forces.

Monday, February 18, 2013

No common name (Gnidia rubescens)

Family Thymelaeaceae
A very pretty plant and flower with no common name found growing in the Berg en Dal area of Kruger National Park.
It is about 60cm in height.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Bead-bean (Maerua angolensis)

Family Capparaceae

A tree up to 10m in height growing in low altitude wooded grasslands, woodlands, scrub and thickets.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Wild Jasmine (Jasminum multipartitum)

Family Oleacae
This plant is widely cultivated in gardens and is very sweetly scented.
 They are pollinated by hawkmoths and fertilization only takes place between flowers of different style lengths.
 It is a climbing scrub growing to about 3m in height.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Dwarf Umbrella Tree (Schefflera arboricola)

Family Araliaceae
 This tree is not indigenous to South Africa but is a popular garden species.
 The variegated leaves make it an attractive tree and the berries are much sought after by birds.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Mopane (Colophospermum mopane)

Family Caesalpiniodeae
These trees grow up to 18m in height under ideal conditions and are found in low-lying areas of tropical Africa.
 The leaves hang down and in the heat of the day the leaflets move close together thus casting little shade.
 Although the leaves smell strongly of turpentine, it does not taint the meat of the cattle and game which feed on it.
 A large moth Gonimbrasia belina lay their eggs on this tree and the larvae feed on them. These worms are a great delicacy in SA.
 Mopane wood is dark reddish-brown to almost black and is durable, hard and heavy. Although difficult to work, beautiful furniture is made from it.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Wild Orchid (Eulophia hereroensis)

Family Orchidaceae
There are about 42 species of orchid native to the region and often found in marshy areas. 
 Rhizome infusions are taken as love charm emetics by young Zulu men.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Resin Tree (Ozoroa paniculosa)

Family Anacardiaceae

A compact shrub or small tree growing to about 6m in height.