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, July 31, 2013

Trailing Daisy (Sphagneticola trilobata)

Family Asteraceae
Sphagneticola trilobata is listed in the IUCN's “List of the world's 100 worst invasive species”. It is spread by people as an ornamental or groundcover that is planted in gardens, and then it is spread into surrounding areas by dumping of garden waste. It spreads vegetatively, not by seed. It rapidly forms a dense ground cover, crowding away and preventing other plant species from regenerating. This species is widely available as an ornamental and is therefore likely to spread further.

It is a noxious weed in agricultural land, along roadsides urban waste places and other disturbed sites. It is also invasive along streams, canals, along the borders of mangrove swamps and in coastal vegetation.

It is widespread as an invasive species on the Pacific Islands, Hong Kong, South Africa, Australia, Indonesia, and Sri Lanka.


Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Perskwasbossie (Vernonia galpinii)

Family Asteraceae
This has no English name I can find.
This charming low-growing, purple-flowered perennial makes a wonderful edging for indigenous borders.

Description: This herbaceous perennial grows up to 60cm tall, with cushion-like clumps of leafy annual stems growing up from a perennial rootstock. The stemless, lanceolate leaves are hairy. The small (up to 25mm across) purple inflorescences appear from August to February. White-flowered forms have occasionally been recorded. As is the case with all members of the daisy family, these 'flowers' are actually made up of many small florets. Unlike the classic daisy which has two different kinds of florets, the outer ray florets or 'petals', and the central disc florets, members of the genus Vernonia have only one type of floret. The seeds are produced in small fruits attached to parachute-like 'pappus' hairs which aid in wind distribution of the seed.

Distribution: Vernonia galpinii is common in the summer rainfall grasslands of Zimbabwe, all four provinces of the former Transvaal, Swaziland, KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape. It grows in full sun and is tolerant of frost and snow as it is dormant in the winter.

Derivation of name and historical aspects: Vernonia is a very large genus of about 1000 species occurring in America, Africa, Asia, Madagascar and Australia, with approximately 50 species in South Africa Growth forms in this genus range from low-growing herbs through shrubs and climbers to trees. The genus Vernonia derives its name from the English botanist William Vernon who collected plants in America and who died in 1711. The species is named for Ernest Galpin (1858-1941), banker and amateur botanist who collected the type specimen from Saddleback Mountain near Barberton in Mpumalanga.

Ecology: Being purple, this species is probably bee pollinated. I have often observed bees visiting the flowers to collect pollen. The fluffy 'parachute' like hairs aid in wind distribution of the seeds.

Uses and cultural aspects: There are no records of this species being used in traditional medicine. However it is an attractive garden plant and deserves to be grown more widely.

Monday, July 29, 2013

False Freesia (Freesia laxa)

Family Iridaceae
 It dies down to a corm in the winter, growing again at the end of spring and flowering in summer. In the wild, in the Southern Hemisphere, it flowers between October and December.
 It is native to the eastern side of southern Africa, from Kenya to South Africa, where it grows in somewhat moist conditions.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Trumpet Tree (Tabebuia aurea)

Family Bignoniaceae
The wood of Tabebuia is light to medium in weight. Tabebuia rosea (including T. pentaphylla) is an important timber tree of tropical America. Tabebuia heterophylla and Tabebuia angustata are the most important timber trees of some of the Caribbean islands. Their wood is of medium weight and is exceptionally durable in contact with salt water.
 The swamp species of Tabebuia have wood that is unusually light in weight. The most prominent example of these is Tabebuia cassinoides. Its roots produce a soft and spongy wood that is used for floats, razor straps, and the inner soles of shoes.

In spite of its use for lumber, Tabebuia is best known as an ornamental flowering tree. Tabebuia aurea, Tabebuia rosea, Tabebuia pallida, Tabebuia berteroi, and Tabebuia heterophylla are cultivated thruout the tropics for their showy flowers. Tabebuia dubia, Tabebuia haemantha, Tabebuia obtusifolia, Tabebuia nodosa, and Tabebuia roseo-alba are also known in cultivation and are sometimes locally abundant.

 Some species of Tabebuia have been grown as honey plants by beekeepers.

Tabebuia heteropoda, Tabebuia incana, and other species are occasionally used as an additive to the entheogenic drink Ayahuasca.


The nectar of Tabebuia flowers is an important food source for several species of bees and hummingbirds.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

September Bush (Polygala myrtifolia)

Family Polygalaceae

Polygala myrtifolia occurs naturally from the Bokkeveld Mountains near Clanwilliam in the Western Cape to Kwazulu-Natal. Along this wide distribution area changing from winter to summer rainfall, it is commonly found growing on dunes, rocky slopes, in forests, along streams, in scrub and open grassland.
Derivation of the name and historical aspects

Polygala is an old Greek name from the words polys meaning much and gala meaning milk, the name given to this genus for some of its members which have the reputation for promoting the secretion of milk. The species name myrtifolia means myrtle-like leaves.

An interesting use for this polygala was recorded by Pappe , a German doctor and botanist who emigrated to the Cape in 1832. Pappe says that the Cape Malays scraped off the fresh grey bark, which they mixed with water and stirred until it frothed and then used this for washing their dead before burial. This custom dated back long before Pappe recorded it in 1860, but it is now long in disuse. Because of this use, the plant was known in the Cape as langelier or langelede, probably a corruption of the Afrikaans lange lede meaning long joints.

 In KwaZulu-Natal Polygala myrtifolia is one of the many plants known for its antibacterial, antimicrobial and antifungal properties. Tests run by the University of Natal at Pietermaritzburg have found that aqueous extracts of P. myrtifolia showed activity against Candida albicans (which causes oral candidiasis).

Friday, July 26, 2013

Euphorbia Xantii

Family Euphorbiaceae
A popular shrub in gardens growing up to 4m in height.
Not indigenous. From Brazil.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Bush Sorrel (Hibiscus surattensis)

Family Malvaceae
Medicinal uses: In Senegal the plant is used as an emollient. Watt and Breyer-Brandwijk report that the Zulus use a lotion of the leaf and stem for the treatment of penile irritation of any sort, including venereal sores and urethritis. It is sometimes applied as an ointment for the same purposes. An infusion is also used as an injection into the urethra and vagina for gonorrhoea and other inflammations.
 Bush Sorrel is found throughout the tropical world. Its leaves are commonly used as pot-herb in many parts of Africa and Asia. Flowering: September-March.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Vigna frutescens

Family Fabaceae
 A beautiful creeper. No information available on it.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Fairy Crassula (Crassula multicava)

Family Crassulaceae
 A small plant growing up to 30cm in height.
 They are used extensively in landscaped gardens.
 Grow in shaded areas.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Melhania acuminata

Family Malvaceae
 About 45cm in height. No information available on it.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Coastal Silveroak (Brachylaena discolor)

Family Asteraceae
Brachylaena discolor forms a dense, wide, spreading, single or multi-stemmed tree that branches low down to form an irregular v-shaped canopy. The trunk reaches 45 cm in diameter and is covered with light brown fibrous bark. The trunk is divided into several large branches that tend to grow upwards and then horizontally to form bows. In the garden this tree grows to a height of 4-10 m but can reach up to 27 m in a forest.

This fast growing evergreen has a silvery-blue appearance from a distance so that it stands out amongst other vegetation. The attractive and unusual foliage characterizes this tree. The leaves are simple, large (5-11 cm long x 1,3 cm wide), leathery and glossy dark green above and covered with a silvery-white felt of dense hairs below. The margin is distinctly toothed in young leaves and irregularly toothed in older leaves. The leaves are elliptic with rounded tip and narrow base and are spirally arranged towards the ends of branchlets and twigs. The movement of the wind through the tree exposes the lovely silver undersides of the leaves.

Masses of nectar rich creamy-white flowers are grouped in 7 to 50 flowered heads, and the heads are grouped together in large terminal panicles. These thistle-like flowers grow at the ends of branchlets. The male and female flowers are borne on separate trees. Flowering season is during winter-spring (July to September), and when in flower, the entire tree is covered in flowers. Being nectar rich they attract bees, birds and other insects that come to feed on the nectar or on the insects attracted by the nectar.

The seed is a small nutlet in a brown capsule that is tipped with yellowish, paintbrush-like hairs, and is ripe in summer (November to January).

Brachylaena discolor is a very decorative shrub or small to medium-sized tree, an excellent hedge plant and is particularly useful for stabilising dunes.


Brachylaena discolor occurs in coastal woodland, bush and on the margins of evergreen forest from the Eastern Cape to Mozambique. It is also very common and easy to find in the dune forests of the coast, where it grow in groups, and in the low-lying, sand and scarp forests of the coast, along rivers and in woodland of the bushveld-savannah. Its natural inclination is to form a dense bushy shrub.

Medicinal and cultural uses

The wood of Brachylaena discolor is yellow, durable and very strong and is used in the manufacture of boats at it lasts well in water, as well as for fence posts, huts, axles, spokes, implement handles, knobkerries, and long straight branches used to construct roofs of huts. Suitable branches also make excellent fishing rods, and fire shades are also made from this wood. The wood is extensively used for carving purposes by Kenyans, where it is regarded as the best wood after African black ebony. The leaves are very bitter and unpalatable and are occasionally browsed by nyala, bushbuck, red and blue duiker. Both Africans and European settlers used the leaves for medicinal purposes to treat kidney conditions. The leaves were used by country folk to make remedy for diabetes. The Zulu people used an infusion of the roots as an enema to stop bleeding of the stomach and an infusion of the leaves as a tonic to treat intestinal parasites and for chest pain. The ashes of the tree were used by early settlers to provide the alkali needed in soap making. The roots and stems were used by Zulu diviners to communicate with their ancestors. Brachylaena discolor is an excellent bee tree and is popular with beekeepers as it makes good honey.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Tamani Berry (Tylosema fassoglense)

Family Fabaceae
 Large creeper, which sometimes scrambles over other vegetation. The radiating stems reach up to 6 m long and grow from a large underground tuber.
 Common, especially at medium to high altitudes

Friday, July 19, 2013

Umaphola (Berkheya speciosa)

Family Asteraceae
Distribution: Eastern Cape, KwaZulu Natal and the Free State.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Crane’s Bill (Monsonia burkeana)

Family Geraniaceae
 Not indigenous to SA. No further information available.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Brazilian Pepper Tree (Schinus terebinthifolius)

Family Anacardiaceae
This is native to subtropical and tropical South America (southeastern Brazil, northern Argentina and Paraguay). Common names include Brazilian pepper, aroeira, rose pepper, and Christmasberry.
Brazilian pepper is a sprawling shrub or small tree, with a shallow root system, reaching a height of 7–10 m. Its plastic morphology allows it to thrive in all kinds of ecosystems. The plant is dioecious, with small white flowers borne profusely in axillary clusters. The fruit is a small red spherical drupe 4–5 mm diameter, carried in dense clusters of hundreds of berries.

Like many other species in the family Anacardiaceae, Brazilian pepper has an aromatic sap that can cause skin reactions (similar to poison ivy burns) in some sensitive people.
Although it is not a true pepper, its dried drupes are often sold as pink peppercorns, as are the fruits from the related species Schinus molle (Peruvian peppertree). The seeds can be used as a spice, adding a pepper-like taste to food. They are usually sold in a dry state and have a bright pink color. They are less often sold pickled in brine, where they have a dull, almost green hue.

In the United States, it has been introduced to California, Texas, Hawaii, Arizona, Nevada, Louisiana and Florida. Planted originally as an ornamental outside of its native range, Brazilian pepper has become widespread and is considered an invasive species in many subtropical regions with moderate to high rainfall, including parts or all of Australia, the Bahamas, Bermuda, southern China, Cuba, Fiji, French Polynesia, Guam, Hawaii, Malta, the Marshall Islands, Mauritius, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Norfolk Island, Puerto Rico, RĂ©union, South Africa, and the United States. In drier areas, such as Israel and southern California, it is also grown but has not generally proved invasive. In California, it is considered invasive in coastal regions by the California Invasive Plant Council (

Brazilian pepper is hard to control because it produces basal shoots if the trunk is cut. Trees also produce abundant seeds that are dispersed by birds and ants. It is this same hardiness that makes the tree highly useful for reforestation in its native environment but which enables it to become invasive outside of its natural range.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Barberton Daisy (Gerbera jamesonii)

Family Asteraceae
This beautiful daisy from the Barberton area in the Northern Province is a deservedly popular garden plant throughout the world and is one of the parents of the many showy Gerbera hybrids seen in florist shops.
Original wild flower
Gerbera jamesonii is a perennial herb with deeply lobed leaves covered with silky hairs arising from a crown. The striking inflorescence is borne on a long stalk and the outermost petals (ray florets) may be cream, red, orange or pink, while the central flowers (disc florets) are cream. Flowering occurs in spring and autumn.
Gerbera jamesonii is found naturally in grassland in sandy, well-drained soils in Mpumalanga.
 The genus name Gerbera is in honour of the German naturalist Traugott Gerber, and the species was named after Robert Jameson who collected live specimens while on a prospecting expedition to the Barberton district in 1884, even though the species had been collected on three earlier occasions by other people. In 1888, Medley Wood, the curator of the Durban Botanical Garden sent plants to Kew, which subsequently flowered.
 A coloured illustration appeared in the Botanical Magazine in 1889, and the species was described by J.D.Hooker. However, it was recently discovered that R.W.Adlam of Pietermaritzburg had published a valid description of the species in Gardener's Chronicle the previous year, so the author's name has changed.
 The breeding of Gerbera started at the end of the 19th century in Cambridge, England, when Richard Lynch crossed G.jamesonii and G.viridifolia. Most of the current commercially grown varieties originate from this cross.
 This species is grown in gardens throughout the world. It is one of the most popular ornamental flowers in the world, both as a cut flower and as a pot plant, and therefore is of considerable economic importance.