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.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Wild grenadilla / passionfruit

This is unfortunately an invasive plant from South America but the people (and monkeys) here love the fruit.
 For more information, please go to:

Friday, August 30, 2013

Wild Gladiola (Gladiolus dalenii)

Family Iridaceae
Distribution and habitat
Gladiolus dalenii grows in the summer rainfall regions of the Eastern Cape north of East London to southern KwaZulu-Natal, from the coast to as far inland as the Lesotho border. Further north it extends through tropical Africa as far as western Arabia. It is found in open grassland, woodland and scrub and in rocky areas, often among rocks along streams, at altitudes up to 2 500 m.

 Conservation status

Over the past two centuries many South African irids have been domesticated and are familiar garden plants, such as gladioli, freesias, crocosmias, ixias and watsonias. Some have been so improved by plant breeders that often it is not easy to associate modern garden hybrids with their humble wild ancestors in the veld. During 1976, 1 100 seeds collected in the wild were deposited at the Wakehurst Place Seed Bank (now the Millennium Seed Bank) in the United Kingdom, to determine whether cold storage of seed as a measure of long-term conservation was possible. This proved successful and tests carried out several years later at the seed bank showed a germination of 99% at 11ºC. Gladiolus dalenii has been successfully cultivated at Kirstenbosch Botanic Garden for many years and is also being grown by several specialist bulb growers in several countries. Ideally its natural habitat should be formally protected, but should this not be possible, ex situ material could possibly be used to re-establish this species elsewhere, in suitable sites.

Gladiolus dalenii and other Gladiolus species are popular garden plants, cultivated in Europe for more than 250 years and renowned for their striking, colourful flowers. But did you know that these garden plants were grown from hybrids of wild gladioli native to South Africa?


Gladiolus dalenii is a deciduous evergreen perennial. It grows up to 2 m tall. Leaves erect, 20 mm wide, grey-green, in a loose fan. It produces five tall flower spikes with up to 7 large, intensely scarlet orange to red or variously coloured, hooded flowers with a bright yellow


Pollinated by sunbirds attracted to the copious nectar. The corms are eaten by bush pigs.

Uses and cultural aspects

Used in traditional medicine to treat diarrhoea, chest ailments caused by sorcery, sterility in women, as good luck charms and in the horns of inyangas/sangomas. Cultivars developed in Europe in the early 1900s are grown worldwide and have become very successful cut-flowers. The leaves are plaited into ropes.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Indigofera oxytropis

Family Fabaceae
This flower has no common name.
 It is extremely small and grows almost like a ground cover.
 Not endemic to South Africa.
 Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, North West

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Peacock Flower (Dietes bicolour)

Family Iridaceae
Dietes bicolor forms clumps of erect sword-shaped leaves. The adult plant is approximately 1m wide and 1m tall. The leaves are 1 to 2cm wide, light green in colour and have a double central vein. They are arranged in flat fans similar to other members of the iris family. The plant spreads by means of its modified stems (rhizomes), which are located below the soil surface.
 With its unusual flowers, attractive shape and ease of cultivation, the yellow wild iris is a versatile garden plant.
 The flowers are about 60 mm in diameter, flat, light yellow with brown markings and are produced on the ends of much branched flower stalks. The flowers only last for one day, but because so many buds are produced the plant is almost always in flower from October until January (spring and summer). The fruit is a club-shaped capsule approximately 25mm in diameter which partially splits to release the seeds.
The insects, in turn, attract various insectivorous birds to the garden. Joffe (2001) reports that the roots of D.bicolor were traditionally used as a charm to protect the strengthen the wearer.

The genus Dietes is only found in South Africa and on Lord Howe island between Australia and New Zealand. D. bicolor is found naturally in the Bathurst region of the Eastern Cape in South Africa. An interesting fact about Dietes is that of the six species that are known, five of them occur in the eastern parts of South.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Beach Bean (Canavalia rosea)

Family Fabaceae
Canavalia rosea is a species of flowering plant of the genus Canavalia in the pea family, Fabaceae, that has a pantropical distribution. Common names include Beach Bean, Bay Bean, Seaside Jack-bean, Coastal Jack-bean, and MacKenzie Bean. 
 Coastal Jack-bean is a trailing, herbaceous vine that forms mats of foliage. Stems reach a length of more than 6 m (20 ft) and 2.5 cm (0.98 in) in thickness.
 Each compound leaf is made up of three leaflets 5.1–7.6 cm (2.0–3.0 in) in diameter, which will fold themselves when exposed to hot sunlight. The flowers are purplish pink and 5.1 cm (2.0 in) long. The flat pods are 10.2–15.2 cm (4.0–6.0 in) long and become prominently ridged as they mature.
 The buoyancy of the seeds allows them to be distributed by ocean currents. The plant seems to contain L-Betonicine.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Wild Frangipani (VoacangaThouarsii)

Family Apocynaceae
This is found throughout tropical Africa. Small tree up to 15–20m tall with the two fruits joined together.
In France and Germany tabersonine is extracted from the seed, which is converted into vincamine, a compound widely used in Europe as a depressant of the central nervous system and for the treatment of cerebral vascular disorders in geriatric patients. Seeds are also exported to be used in medicines to treat heart diseases, to lower blood pressure and to treat cancer.
The uses of Voacanga thouarsii are similar to those of Voacanga africana Stapf. The latex or decoctions or infusions of the stem bark, leaves and roots are applied to wounds, boils and sores, and are used to treat gonorrhoea, eczema, fungal infections and scabies. The infusions are also taken to treat heart problems, hypertension and rheumatic afflictions. The latex is put in carious teeth as a temporary filling. In Tanzania the bark, roots and seeds are used as medicine for stomach-ache, snakebites and high blood pressure.

The wood is used in Liberia for hut posts and in Uganda for tool handles and sheaths for knives. The wood is also used as firewood and for making charcoal. The latex was formerly used to adulterate Hevea rubber. It is used as birdlime, e.g. in rice fields in Madagascar and as a glue for fastening handles to knife blades and to repair baskets. The wood is burnt in Sudan and Ghana to produce a salt. The bark yields a fibre, which is used for making hunting nets in East Africa. Voacanga thouarsii is planted along watercourses for soil and water conservation.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Formosa Lily (Lilium formosanum)

Family Liliaceae
A bulbuous plant with stems up to 2m high and purplish-brown towards the base and usually rough and hairy.
 The leaves are narrow, dark green and shiny. Narrow funnel-shaped, fragrant white flowers flushed with reddish-purple outside and white inside develop from January to March.
 It is an invasive plant and not endemic to SA originating in Taiwan.
 It is cultivated in other countries for scent making.
Info: Flowers of South Africa (Braam van Wyk)

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Wild Date Palm (Phoenix reclinata)

Family Arecaceae
Phoenix reclinata can reach up to 12 m but is most often between 3 and 6 m. It may be either single or multi-stemmed, sometimes forming a dense, bushy clump. The leaves are arching, bright green fronds and form crowns at the top of the stems. The old fronds remain on the tree and become 'petticoats' as they hang straight down beneath the crown. The flowers appear during August, September and October. Male and female plants are separate. The inflorescences form attractive yellow sprays. Male flowers produce masses of pollen which is released in clouds. The orange-brown fruits are borne during February, March and April. They are oval in shape and smaller than the commercial date. It is a protected tree in South Africa.

This graceful palm with its characteristic slender, leaning stems is a feature of riverine bush and forest in the eastern parts of the country. It is almost always associated with water, either on riverbanks or in swamps.


The wild date palm grows naturally from the Eastern Cape extending as far north as Egypt. Its natural habitat is riverbanks and swamps, although it is occasionally found in grasslands if the water table is high enough. The roots are usually in water, therefore it would be tolerant of waterlogged conditions in cultivation. It will also take light frost but this will most likely affect the ultimate shape, making the palm dense and bushy rather than tall and elegant.


Birds, monkeys and baboons eat the ripe fruit. Bushpig, nyala and bushbuck feed on fallen fruit. This is possibly a means of seed dispersal. The leaves are eaten by the palm-tree nightfighter butterfly caterpillar.

Uses and cultural aspects

The leaves are used to make mats, baskets and hats. Brooms for sweeping around rural dwellings are made from the dried inflorescences. The midrib of the frond is used to construct fish enclosures (kraals). Palm wine is made from the sap. The heart of the crown is sometimes eaten by people. Children enjoy the gum produced by the roots. Special skirts made from the leaves are worn by Xhosa boys when undergoing their initiation rites. The fruits are edible and apparently taste quite similar to the commercial date. The spines apparently have traditional medicinal use.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Dune Gazania (Gazania rigens uniflora)

Family Asteraceae 
 This is growing all along the coast  but is not endemic to South Africa.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Hen-and-chickens (Chlorophytum comosum)

Family Anthericaceae
Perennial evergreen herbs up to 1 m tall and 1 m in diameter from a decumbent (spreading horizontally at first but then growing upwards) rhizome up to 150 mm long, often covered in old leaf bases. Roots fleshy and tapering at both sides (fusiform), succulent, up to 10 mm in diameter. The linear leaves grow in a dense basal rosette, are bright green, smooth (glabrous) with a prominent mid-vein, and channelled, about 300 mm long and 20 mm broad, end in a soft point, and the margins are entire and sheathing at the base. The inflorescence is lax, longer than the leaves, spreading, arises from the centre of the rosette and is up to 1 m long. The peduncle (stalk of the inflorescence) is 2–4 mm in diameter and has linear-lanceolate bracts tapering to a point.

Flowering period: During the summer months.

Chlorophytum comosum is one of 38 Chlorophytum species in South Africa (Archer 2003) and is easily distinguished by its spreading inflorescence bearing vegetative plantlets rooting when the inflorescence touches the ground.

 Distribution and habitat

Chlorophytum comosum is widely distributed from Swellendam in the Western Cape to the Soutpansberg in the Limpopo Province (Western Cape, Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga and Limpopo Provinces). It is found from sea level to elevations of more than 1 000 m. It occurs in the undergrowth of forested river valleys, mountainous regions and thickets, on steep embankments, flat terrain and cliffs.

 It grows on a variety of soils (volcanic or sedimentary) derived from sandstone, shale, dolorite or granite. The soils are usually slightly acidic. The climate varies from hot to cool during winter, and when frost occurs it is mild. Rainfall ranges between 500 and 2000 mm per annum and occurs mainly during spring and summer, however in the Western Cape it occurs also during winter.
 Uses and cultural aspects

The plants have been used medicinally by the Nguni (Hutchings et al. 1996), especially for pregnant mothers and as a charm to protect the mother and child. The plant is placed in the room where the mother and child stay. The roots are dipped into a water bowl and mothers drink this daily as it is believed to protect the infant. The young baby is also administered an infusion, acting as a purgative.

Plants are very popular in cultivation due to their drought-tolerance and their relatively disease- and pest-free nature. In South Africa they are grown as pot plants, in hanging baskets or as ground cover under trees. The hanging plantlets on the extended inflorescences are very decorative. The species is also very effective on steep embankments to combat soil erosion.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Beach Pumpkin (Arctotheca populifolia)

Family Asteraceae
Arctotheca populifolia is a 'beach bum'! It is a common pioneer along the southern African coast. Have a look next time you are on the beach and see if you can spot these obvious silvery grey-leaved colonies of plants on the foreshore dunes.

Arctotheca populifolia is an annual or perennial, creeping, mat-forming herb, up to 200 mm high. Leaves are large, heart-shaped with short stalks. They are slightly succulent with a dense covering of white hairs. The margins are smooth to shallowly dentate. The yellow flower heads are about 30 mm in diameter, borne on short, stout, curving stems and often overtopped by the large leaves. The green involucral bracts form a cup in several rows. The ray florets are bright yellow and widely spaced and the central flowers are greenish yellow.

Arctotheca populifolia generally flowers in the rainy season of any particular area, but because of the wide distribution, flowering times are recorded for all months of the year.

 Distribution and habitat

Arctotheca populifolia is common along the southern African coastline, from Hondeklipbaai along the West Coast right up to the southern Mozambique coast. It grows in deep sand on coastal dunes and around estuaries.

 Derivation of name and historical aspects

The genus name Arctotheca is derived from the Greek words arcto for bear, and theca for a case or capsule. The name refers to the densely woolly fruit. The specific epithet populifolia refers to the leaves, which resemble those of a poplar tree.

There are five species of the genus Arctotheca found in South Africa, namely: A. calendula, A. forbesiana, A. marginata, A. prostrata and A. populifolia.

Arctotheca calendula is known to be a strychnine antidote and a narcotic. It was also reported to have caused diarrhoea in sheep.


Flowers are pollinated by a variety of bees and flies. The parachute seeds are generally dispersed by wind but also remain viable in salt or fresh water and can therefore be dispersed by ocean currents.

 Uses and cultural aspects

Arctotheca populifolia is a strong, tough plant and valuable for holding sand; therefore very useful as a groundcover in coastal gardens and as a dune stabilizer. It can be planted for the attractive foliage rather than for the flowers. However, the flowers provide food and nectar to a variety of bees, flies, butterflies and moths and can bring insects into the garden.

It has been reported that the felt on the leaves can be useful as tinder to start a fire, if you are desperate to have a beach braai (barbecue).

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Ginger Bush (Tetradenia riparia)

Family Lamiaceae
It is cultivated for this spectacular show which occurs when there is not much else in flower. The flowers range from white to lilac including some with pink flowers. The type of display which you will get depends on whether you have a male or female plant! Male and female flowers are borne on separate plants in spikes which differ in size and shape. The male flower spikes in profusion create more of the "mist" effect than the female flowers which tend to be more compact. The flowers usually appear when the plants are bare and are carried in the top section of the branches. Flowering occurs from June until August which coincides with the frosts in Highveld gardens. The flowers may be spoiled by this so it is a good idea to plant the ginger bush in a warm spot such as against a north-facing wall or on a succulent rockery.
The ginger bush is a tall, aromatic shrub up to 3 m in height, occasionally reaching 5 m. It is slightly succulent and has an irregular branch pattern. The stems are brown and smooth, except for the younger portions which are covered with glandular hairs and have a ruby tinge. The glandular hairs also cover both surfaces of the leaves and make them slightly sticky to the touch. The leaves are a bright green and are slightly heart shaped with the margin irregularly and bluntly toothed. Like many Lamiaceae species (which includes familiar culinary herbs such as thyme, sage and rosemary) the younger branches are distinctly four-angled in cross section. The ginger bush is no relation of the true ginger plant of which the underground stem is commonly used for flavouring and in preserves.
The natural habitat of Tetradenia riparia is along river banks, forest margins, dry wooded valleys and hillsides in areas where there is little frost. The natural distribution ranges from KwaZulu-Natal, Northern Province, Mpumalanga in South Africa to Swaziland, Namibia, Angola and northwards through tropical east Africa into Ethiopia.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Coffee Weed (Senna occidentalis)

Family Fabaceae
 Vernacular names include : ʻauʻaukoʻi in Hawaii, coffee senna, coffeeweed, Mogdad coffee, negro-coffee, senna coffee, Stephanie coffee, stinkingweed or styptic weed.

The species was formerly placed in the genus Cassia.

The plant is reported to be poisonous to cattle. The plant contains anthraquinones. The roots contain emodin and the seeds contain chrysarobin (1,8-dihydroxy-3-methyl-9-anthrone) and N-methylmorpholine.

Mogdad coffee seeds can be roasted and used as a substitute for coffee. They have also been used as an adulterant for coffee. There is apparently no caffeine in mogdad coffee.

 Despite the claims of being poisonous, the leaves of this plant, Dhiguthiyara in Dhivehi, have been used in the diet of the Maldives for centuries in dishes such as mas huni and also as a medicinal plant.