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, January 31, 2013

Impela (Justicia flava)

Family Acanthaceae
 This is an interesting species of Justicia and a member of the broad Acanthaceae family of plants. Its natural habitat includes India and tropical east Africa. It is sometimes called the white shrimp plant or squirrel's tail.
 Its blooms are held in slim upright spires and are comprised of papery, green-veined white bracts enclosing pale pink flowers. It is very effective grown with white-variegated foliage plants nearby.
 It grows to around 1 m in height. It needs to be cut back hard in late winter and tip-pruned as it grows through spring and early summer, to promote a compact shape, otherwise it can become leggy. It grows well in part shade and can tolerate dry soil.
 Flowers in February, March.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Candelabra Tree (Euphorbia ingens)

Family Euphorbiaceae

These trees are huge and can grow up to 10m in height.
 The latex is toxic and can cause intense irritation and blistering to the skin. If it comes into contact with the eyes,  temporary or even permanent blindness can result.

Info: Trees of Southern Africa (Palgrave)

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Honey Euryops (Euryops virgineus)

Family Asteraceae
Many collectors of South African plants have raved about this attractive plant and J.D. Keet, who collected a specimen as early as 1918 in the Knysna District, said this 'showy shrub would be suitable for borders or hedges in gardens'. The species name virgineus comes from the Latin word virgo meaning virgin, untouched-certainly descriptive of the plant in full flower growing in its natural habitat. The flowers last well in a vase and will brighten a dull, cold winter's day!
 Distribution
Euryops virgineus is endemic to southern Africa and occurs naturally in the southern coastal areas from Bredasdorp in Western Cape to Alexandria in Eastern Cape, often at low altitudes. It extends inland into the Swartberg Mountains to about 1 200 m. It is found in fynbos on mountain sides, sandy hill slopes, roadsides and sometimes on limestone. It also grows in karroid scrub and in grassland.
 Ecology and uses
The sweetly scented flowers are visited by swarms of honey-bees which are obviously responsible for the pollination of the florets. The fruits (cypselas) are not adapted for any special distribution mechanism and they will fall close to the mother plant. They could be carried away by a strong wind, heavy rain or insects.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Grassland Indigofera (Indigofera hilaris)

Family Fabaceae
Also known as Red Indigo Bush.
This is a small bush up to 40cm in height and flowers profusely after fires.
The names comes from the blue dye extracted from it in India.
Info:
http://www.operationwildflower.org.za/index.php/plant-records/herbs/140-indigofera-hilaris?showall=&start=1

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Africana Wild Mango (Cordyla africana)

Family Papilionoideae
 A huge tree growing up to 25m in height and occurring in hot areas of SA.
 The fruit have a high vitamin C content and although edible, to me it did not taste very nice. It can be eaten raw or cooked.

The heartwood is hard and used for building and also making drums.




 

Monday, January 21, 2013

Wild Mustard (Raphanus raphanistrum)

Family Brassicaceae - the plant is also called Wild Radish
Raphanus raphanistrum is a annual growing to 1.2 m (4ft).

It is not frost tender. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by bees, flies.
Young leaves - raw or cooked. A somewhat hot taste, they are finely cut and added to salads or used as a potherb. It is best to use just the young leaves in spring, older leaves soon become bitter.

Seed - raw or cooked. A very pungent flavour, the seed can be ground into a powder and made into a paste when it is an excellent substitute for mustard. The sprouted seeds have a somewhat hot spicy flavour and are a tasty addition to salads.

Flowers - raw. A nice addition to salads. The flower buds are used as a broccoli substitute, they should be lightly steamed for no more than 5 minutes.

Young seedpods - raw. Crisp and juicy, they must be eaten when young because they quickly become tough and fibrous. An edible oil is obtained from the seed.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Vermeerbossie (Geigeria burkei)

Family Asteraceae
A smallish plant with an unusual way of having one flower weithout stems growing at the intersection of each branch.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

White Karee (Searsia pendulina)

Family Anacardiaceae
This tree's botanical name has been changed to Searsia pendulina from Rhus Viminalis
Searsia pendulina is a perfect tree for the suburban garden, it is quick and easy to grow, tolerates wind and drought, is evergreen with a graceful habit and a neat crown, it won't get too big and it's not untidy. Tiny green flowers are produced in delicately branched, many-flowered panicles in spring-summer. They are inconspicuous, but attract bees and other insects. The flowers are followed by small rounded 3 mm diameter berries, green turning reddish and drying to black, usually ripening in the autumn.

Uses: The pliant slender stems of Searsia pendulina were used to build fish traps, baskets, and whips, and the stronger stems for the framework of matjieshuise (mat houses) and strong, flexible bows. The wood has a reputation for toughness and durability and has been used for fencing poles, kerries and handles, brake blocks and for general waggon repair work, although the pieces cut are seldom long enough for planks. The fruits of all the Searsia species are edible, rich in carbohydrate, and have formed an important part of the diet of many people, particularly those in the arid areas of southern Africa . They are eaten raw, soaked in milk, mixed with curdled milk or cooked as a kind of porridge. The fruits used to be an important ingredient of mead, in fact the name karee is thought to be derived from the original Khoi word for mead. They have also been used to brew a kind of beer. The berries are mixed with Acacia karoo gum to make a sticky sweet that tastes a bit like dates. The bark of quite a few species is used in tanning - that of S. pendulina gives a reddish-brown colour. An infusion of leaves in milk and given as an enema to children suffering from stomach upsets.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Sandkambroo (Pterodiscus speciosus)

Family Pedaliaceae
This is a small plant not more then 30cm and was growing in the Nylsvley area.
There is no information available on it.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Wild Olive (Olea europaea)

Family Oleacaea
Frost-, drought- and wind-resistant, the wild olive has beautiful wood for furniture, and is regarded as a small-fruited subspecies of the commercial olive.
Ecology

The fruits are popular with people, monkeys, baboons, mongooses, bushpigs, warthogs and birds (e.g. redwinged and pied starlings, Rameron pigeons, African green pigeons, Cape parrots and louries). Leaves are browsed by game and stock. This tree is an asset on farms and game farms, especially in very dry areas because it is extremely hardy and is an excellent fodder tree.

Uses and cultural aspects

A tea can be made from the leaves. The hard, heavy and beautiful golden-brown wood is used for furniture, ornaments, spoons and durable fence posts. An ink is made from the juice of the fruit. Traditional remedies prepared from this plant serve as eye lotions and tonics, lower blood pressure, improve kidney function and deal with sore throats. The early Cape settlers used the fruits to treat diarrhoea.

Friday, January 11, 2013

River Bushwillow (Combretum erythrophyllum)

Family  Combretaceae
One of the winged wonders belonging to the bushwillow family, this medium-sized tree is a fast grower, producing creamy flowers and beautiful 4-winged seeds of a greenish brown colour when young and drying to a honey-brown.


Description

This is a medium to large deciduous tree with reddish autumn colours. Flowers are cream to pale yellow (September - November). Fruit are small, 4-winged and a greenish brown colour, ripening to yellowish brown and drying to a honey-brown. They remain on the tree for a long time and are reputed to be poisonous, causing hiccups. The bark is a pale brown, smooth, but flaking with age to expose grey patches, which give it a mottled appearance. Knob-like outgrowths commonly occur in older trees, giving them an old, gnarled look. The young leaves are yellowish and shiny maturing to a fresh mid-green. Trees are often multi-stemmed and somewhat willow-like in habit.

Distribution

This species is found in the northeastern part of South Africa, from Zimbabwe in the north down to Eastern Cape in the south with a thin line following the Orange River westward. This is a riverine species, occurring alongside rivers or away from rivers where sufficient groundwater is available. It is found at almost all altitudes and can therefore tolerate a fair amount of climatic variation and diverse soils such as heavy black loam, sandy riverine alluvium and granite sand.

Ecology
Giraffe and elephant browse the tree. The seeds, although said to be generally poisonous, are eaten by Pied Barbets. Wasps sometimes lay their eggs through the fruit wall. The newly hatched larvae then feed on the seeds. Birds such as the Southern Black Tit tap each fruit, open those that contain grubs and eat them.

Uses and cultural aspects

The gum has interesting properties. It is non-toxic, elastic, producing a non-cracking varnish. The roots, which some regard as poisonous, are used as a purgative and to treat venereal diseases. Ornaments, cattle troughs and grain mortars are made from the wood. A dark, rich brown dye is extracted from the roots. The dried fruits also work well in flower arrangements.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Vaal/Orange River Lily (Crinum bulbispermum)

Family Amaryllidaceae
The Vaal/Orange River lily is a large bulbous plant up to 1m high, which produces attractive grey green gracefully arching leaves during the summer months. A tall stem bearing large, hanging, lily-type flowers which are white with a pink to red stripe in each petal, is produced early in the growing season. The word "Krinon" means lily and the specific epithet refers to the bulblike shape and size of the seed.
The sickly-sweet scented flowers are pollinated by insects. Once the flowers fall they are followed by the large attractive pink fruit capsules containing few to many bulbous seeds which germinate as soon as they fall to the ground. The large bulb is protected from drying out during the dry winter months by many layers of papery dry bulb scales.

This plant is used in traditional healing for the common cold, rheumatism, varicose veins, reduction of swelling and the treatment of septic sores. It is also used during the delivery of babies and to stimulate breast milk. Local people believe that this plant protects homes from evil.
Crinum bulbispermum is a highly attractive garden subject and can be grown all over South Africa provided it is given adequate water during its growing season. It does prefer the wetter parts of the country and does very well if planted in soggy soils. This is a good plant for swamp or water gardens.

Although this plant is widespread, it occurs naturally mainly on the highveld areas of the eastern hinterland wherever conditions allow. In nature it grows along stream banks and in swampy grasslands that usually dry out during the winter months when these plants are dormant.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Common Wild Currant (Searsia pyroides)

Family Anacardiaceae
To the gardener who likes variety in the garden, Searsia pyroides should not be left out. This is a good species to provide textural variation in your garden. You will not be alone in choosing this tree as it has been chosen as the Tree of the Year for 2007 together with Pavetta schumanniana.


Description

This is a deciduous shrub or a small to medium-sized, multistemmed tree, frequently with spines. The bark is rough and grey. The leaves are compound, composed of three leaflets (tri-foliate). The leaves are borne on slender stalks, which are furrowed above. The leaflets are oval, narrowing at both ends, sometimes with a short tip. The largest leaflets are up to 70 x 30 mm with a round or a flat tip. They are smooth or velvety above, the lower surface is usually slightly hairy. The midrib and the secondary veins are conspicuous and raised below.

The flowers are inconspicuous and greenish in branched bunches in the axils of the leaves and at the end of the branches.


The fruits ripen in summer to late autumn. They are borne in such quantities that the branches bend with the weight. The fruits are round and small, white and red when ripe.

Ecology

Searsia pyroides is ecologically important in South Africa as are many other species in this genus. As it is found in many vegetation types, it plays a role as a pioneer species in the cycle of plant succession. Birds are particularly fond of the fruits. Wattled Starling and Red-eyed Bulbuls have been seen gorging on them. Elephant, impala and kudu eat shoots and young leaves.

Uses and cultural aspects

The wood is used to make hoe handles. The branches are used to build kraals. The fruit is edible, with a pleasant, sweet-acidic taste. As herdboys we used to enjoy fruit from the wild, among those were Searsia pyroides, Scolopia mundii, Grewia occidentalis and Ziziphus mucronata.

This is a wonderfully decorative tree in a garden. It can also be used as a hedge.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Four 'O Clocks (Mirabilis jalapa)

Family Nyctaginaceae
A curious aspect of this plant is that flowers of different colors can be found simultaneously on the same plant. Different color variation in the flower and different color flowers in same plant. Variegated flower on a four o'clock plant. Naturally occurring color variation on four o'clock flowers.
 The flowers are used in food colouring. The leaves may be eaten cooked as well, but only as an emergency food.


An edible crimson dye is obtained from the flowers to colour cakes and jellies.
 In herbal medicine, parts of the plant may be used as a diuretic, purgative, and for vulnerary (wound healing) purposes. The root is believed an aphrodisiac as well as diuretic and purgative. It is used in the treatment of dropsy.


The leaves are used to reduce inflammation. A decoction of them (mashing and boiling) is used to treat abscesses. Leaf juice may be used to treat wounds.

Powdered, the seed of some varieities is used as a cosmetic and a dye. The seeds are considered poisonous.
 Additionally, an individual flower can be splashed with different colors. Another interesting point is a color-changing phenomenon. For example, in the yellow variety, as the plant matures, it can display flowers that gradually change to a dark pink color. Similarly white flowers can change to light violet.
Additional information supplied by MAJ on iSpot: “I have seen these in red, yellow and a combination of red and yellow. They grow from bulbs or tubers and are native to Peru, flowering in late summer, opening up in late afternoon - hence the common name.”