I am saying it with flowers this week – picks from our garden over the past year or so. The header image is of the forest bell-bush, commonly referred to by its beautiful botanical name Mackaya bella. Like many of the plants featured in this post it is endemic to southern Africa.
Although the flowers are dainty this is a robust succulent that is useful as a vigorous ground cover. The fairy crassula (Crassula multicava) can provide quick cover in a new garden or flower bed, and it does well in either sun or shade. In addition to seed it produces tiny plantlets and broken off leaves too can take root. Because it is shallow rooted I have not found it to be invasive at least in our garden. Honey bees and hover flies are attracted to the blossoms.
Simple daisy flower brighten the climbing Senecio macroglossus, which is known as the Natal ivy or the Cape ivy, although in actual fact it is not an ivy at all. Ours grows on a fence, but they do well as a ground cover and I have also seen them growing in hanging baskets. In the wild it occurs along the margins of forests and thickets.
Tulbaghia violacea is also known as wild garlic due to the garlic aroma of the leaves and flowers that can be used in salads and as a seasoning. It makes a good edging plant and ground cover and it is said to discourage snakes. Evidently, as can be seen in the photo, it does not discourage flies.
This flowering shrub or small tree (Turraea obtusifolia) is known as the lesser honeysuckle tree even though it is from a different family to the better known honeysuckles in the Lonicera genus and even though during the day its flowers have no discernible scent. However, it does have a faint perfume at night when it attracts moths, which are its main pollinators.
The shrubby pink sage or shell bush does well in sun and in the shade although it flowers less prolifically in shady areas. Surprisingly it is drought hardy and does well in a variety of conditions and even copes with moderate frost. Its botanical name is now Ocimum labiatum (formerly Orthosiphon labiatus) and it is a member of the sage family.
Endowed with several common names including Natal lily, the Crinum Moorei occurs naturally in coastal forest areas from the Eastern Cape up into KwaZulu-Natal, preferring damp or marshy areas. In our garden it grows in a shady area near our small garden pond where it flowers reliably each year in summer. It is dormant during winter. In the photo above, developing buds are peeking through the foliage of the shrubby blue lips (Sclerochiton harveyanus).
The flowers of the wild jasmine (Jasminum angulare) have a sweet scent, which is not quite as intense as the scent of the more commonly cultivated Jasminum officinale (which is native to central Asia). We have several wild jasmine plants in our garden and they are not nearly as rampant as the Jasminum officinale, which is a highly invasive plant along the margins of the plantation behind our garden and we try to prevent it from invading our garden. Along the plantation margin Jasminimum officinale forms thick ropes of vines along the ground and it twines up trees to a great height and once established hangs down in curtains, which form impressive flowering cascades in the spring.
The showy flowers of the slender shrubby forest pink hibiscus (Hibiscus pedunculatus) have featured in previous posts on naturebackin. I thought this photo showing the hairiness of the calyx and stem offers a different aspect of the flowers.
Another water-wise plant that works well as a ground cover is the stalked bulbine (Bulbine frutescens). The flowers attract many pollinators. The cylindrical leaves (not pictured) produce a jelly-like juice that is really effective when pasted onto the skin to take the itch out of insect bites and skin rashes. It is a useful plant to use in new flower beds or to fill in between larger plants. It can get a bit leggy after a time but takes well to pruning, and the cuttings can be used to be planted elsewhere.
For more information on these and other southern African plants visit the PlantZAfrica website run by the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) http://pza.sanbi.org/.
Posted by Carol