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.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Puzzle Bush (Ehretia rigida)

Family Boraginaceae
 
Description
Ehretia rigida can grow up to 9 m in height. The bark is very smooth and grey on new branches and rough on older branches and stems. The plant has an alternate leaf arrangement but the leaves seem to grow together in clusters at the tips of its short branches. The leaves can be smooth or covered with stiff hairs that are rough to the touch. It has small leaf stalks of about 2 mm long. The flowers grow in dense clusters on the branches. These pale mauve, blue or white flowers can only be seen in spring with male and female flowers on different plants. They have a diameter of 7 mm and are sweetly scented. The fruits are round, orange to red, turning black when ripe and are eaten by wild animals. Parasitic plants, such as the mistletoe, Viscum rotundifolium, are often found on the puzzle bush.

Ehretia rigida is a deciduous small tree or shrub, usually multistemmed, with an untidy rounded crown. It has tangled branches which arch downwards or droop. This rather haphazard look gives it its common names, puzzle bush and deurmekaarbos.
 
Distribution
The plant occurs in a wide variety of habitats, including wooded grassland, karroid vegetation and bushveld. In South Africa it occurs throughout the eastern half of the country and also in Botswana, Swaziland and Lesotho.

Ecology
The tree is a food source to domestic stock and wild animals, such as the kudu, nyala, bushbuck, impala and grey duiker. Its fruits are eaten by people and many birds such as the Crested Francolin, Helmeted and Crested Guineafowl, Southern Yellowbilled Hornbill, Crested Barbet, bulbuls and starlings.
 Uses and cultural aspects
Ehretia rigida is very attractive to birds and insects and is therefore a wonderful addition to the wildlife garden. It can be pruned to make a shape and can also be used as a hedge in a garden. Ripe fruits of this plant are edible but not tasty. For traditional, medicinal purposes, the roots are powdered and used to treat small cuts in the skin. It is used over the abdomen and chest to relieve pains and is also used to treat gall sickness in cattle. The plant is believed to bring luck to hunters and is also used to protect huts and crops from hail. Hunters use branches of this plant to make hunting bows and fishing baskets because they are strong and flexible.