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Trees, Shrubs, Aloes, Grasses and Ground Covers.
Wild Pomegranate (E)
A large, dense shrub or small tree, the only species of its genus in South Africa, with attractive, lush green, sleek foliage, masses of scarlet flowers, and lovely, long-lasting fruits. The ambrosia filled flowers are produced for many months, are irresistible to birds, and form a delightful, eye-catching contrast to the dark foliage. When in leaf and flower, it bears a superficial resemblance to the true Pomegranate, hence the common name.
Rubiaceae (Gardenia family)
A large, global family, belonging to the order Rubiales, mainly occurring in warmer, tropical and temperate zones of the world, comprising of somewhat 660 genera and over 11 000 species. Members are mostly trees, shrubs and herbs, and many are renowned for their exceptionally beautiful and fragrant flowers, while others are prized economically for producing, amongst others, the coffee of commerce, Coffea arabica, from Ethiopia. Members have leaves that are either opposite or in whorls, with clear ridges on the stems between them, usually bearing distinctive stipules, and entire, unbroken margins. Flowers are borne singly, or in small, clustered groups, and fruits are typically crowned by the persistent remains of the calyx
Burchelia is endemic to southern Africa and is most commonly found along the eastern parts of the country, from the Cape provinces, Natal and Swaziland, to the warmer parts of Gauteng. The trees frequent forested habitats, as well as wooded grassland and scrub, where they are often found on rocky outcrops.
Pale, grey brown, smooth on young trees, becoming markedly rougher and darker with age, with an attractive marbled pattern. The main stem is most often short, multi-stemmed and twisted, and new twigs are invariably densely hairy.
Simple, large, (60-180 x 25-80 mm), elliptic-oval leaves, with tapered tips and rounded to faintly lobed bases. They are arranged at opposite angles to each other, and have entire, undulating, slightly tucked under margins. The leaves are soft textured when in juvenile form, and mature to a thick, rubbery texture. Sleek, dark green above, with indented lateral venation, paler below, with a layer of delicate hairs running along the veins. Occasionally, a fine layer of hairs is present on both surfaces, and the tough, serrated stipules tend to fall off early, leaving noticeable ridges. The leafstalk is stout, velvety and up to 2 cm long.
Shortly branched flowerheads, consisting of 4-10 individual, bisexual, brightly coloured, coral orange or scarlet, tubular flowers (1.5 -2.5 cm long), carried in clusters on the ends of twigs. The showy flowers have 5 short petals that turn curve sharply outward at the ends and are clothed in layer of silky scales. (September – December)
Clusters of urn-shaped (1-1.5 cm long), rather fibrously textured fruits. They are reddish-green, maturing to a reddish-brown, with a faintly woody texture, and are capped with the persistent, enlarged and semi-hardened remains of the petals. (November – April, often persisting for many months)
An infusion of the roots is used as an emetic and is said to help cleanse the body of impurities. It is also made into an antibacterial body wash. Pieces of dried roots are worn as amulets.
The wood is hard, fine and close-grained, but large pieces are rare, so it is not suited for commercial use. It is mostly used by traditional peoples for hut building, and for constructing small farm implements and occasionally yokes. A splint, used mainly for farm animals with fractured limbs, is also occasional made from pieces of root and bark.
Nectar feeding birds flock towards the nectar rich flowers, and certain species even slit the petals near the base to get to the it. The fruits are also sometimes eaten. Bees, butterflies and insects are hugely attracted to the flowers. A must- have for every bird garden.
Versatile, hardy, neat growing, highly ornamental shrub, with lush and glossy foliage all year round. It has a non- aggressive root-system, so it can be planted close to permanent structures such as pools, walls and paving, and can also be trimmed into a lovely container plant. It beautifies shady, sheltered areas, and starts bearing flowers at a young age. A good, bushy, evergreen shrub for border planting, and makes an excellent hedge or filler plant. It can provide dappled shade, and is suitable for a rock garden, or as a single, focal plant. Does well in coastal environments and small gardens.
The plants prefer areas where the frosts are not too severe, and rainfall is high. Mature, established plants can survive mild frosty spells, but should always be sheltered from strong, cold winds. Extended periods of very cold weather may damage or even kill the plants. It is fairly resistant to drought but need protection from extreme heat. In very warm or highveld gardens it should be planted in a protected spot where it will be sheltered by a larger tree or building during the hottest part of the day.
Moderate to slow
They can thrive in semi – or deep shade, but the most prolific flowering will occur if they are planted in full sun.
SOIL & WATER
The plants prefer a compost rich, peaty or loamy soil (especially when freshly transplanted). They have moderate water requirements, but in very dry and hot areas, extra water should be given, every 3-5 days. A thick layer of mulch can be strewn around the plant to help the soil retain moisture.
It is easily propagated from freshly harvested seed or semi-hardwood cuttings that are taken in late spring or in early autumn. Sow the seeds in a mixture of compost and fine river sand (1:2). They should be placed in a bright, warm, humid area, and misted often. Germination typically occurs within 4-6 weeks. Cuttings can be placed in a similar mixture and can be pre-treated with a rooting hormone. They take about three to four weeks to root and can then be transplanted into containers with potting soil for hardening off, before planting out in the garden.