Wild African Flowers

As a result of the wonderful rains, the PLUMBAGO & CAPE HONEYSUCKLE are still looking quite spectacular but there are also a mass of other less showy flowers to delight the flora enthusiast.

During April we came across a number of CANDELABERA FLOWERS (Brunsvigia Radulosa) while out on game drive. This bulbous herb has one spectacular pink inflorescence which bears between 30-60 brightly coloured flowers.

A small deciduous shrub, the PUZZLEBUSH (Ehretia Rigida) from the FORGET-ME-NOT FAMILY, with its densely intertwined & tangled branches (hence the name) is currently in bloom. These small, sweetly scented flowers are fascinating as they range in colour from a pale blue through to lilac & mauve on the same plant & then turn white as they get older! The PUZZLEBUSH is a favourite among the game, birds & insects as many species enjoy the clusters of ripe berries which range from orange to red & then black when ripe. The plant is useful as sometimes it is administered as a remedy for gall sickness in cattle & the pliable branches are used in Botswana to make hunting bows & fishing baskets. A small branch can also be used as the twirling stick to make fire by friction. A many-faceted plant indeed!

An entire BOER-BOON  (Schotia Afra / Latifolia) tree blossoming near the Cheetah Deck has caused a great deal of interest as one seldom sees this variety of tree so totally covered with blossoms. Many colourful sunbirds are delighted with this abundant supply of nectar & their excited twittering can be heard among the branches from dawn to dusk!

With regard to the BOER-BOON TREE, the following information is of interest: it is a highly significant tree in a game reserve as virtually every part of it is of nutritional use in some way to animals, birds & insects alike!  Here at SIBUYA the elephants eat the bark & the leaves are eaten by giraffe, bushbuck, nyala, kudu & impala. Vervet monkeys & turacos feast on the flower buds & seeds. Large numbers of bird species visit the flowers for the nectar, as do many insects, which in turn attract insect-eating birds. A BOER-BOON tree in flower will supply a fascinating diversity of activities for a keen Nature-lover or photographer to observe… as one would see, this humble tree is invaluable to a large variety of creatures!

As if this is not enough, there are further uses which reveal to us why the early pioneers revered this tree. The bark contains tannin for curing leather & a reddish brown dye for colouring.  Roasted seeds are edible & could be ground to make a coffee-like brew or a flour-like powder for making bread.  Medicinal uses are numerous too… a decoction made from the bark soothes hangovers, heartburn, nervous conditions & diarrhoea; powdered leaves burnt & inhaled stop a bleeding nose & when applied to tropical ulcers, it speeded up the healing process!


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