Walk on the wild side

Chris Dalzell, Curator of the Durban Botanic Gardens provides tips and a list of suitable indigenous plants for local gardens.

WalkonthewildsideStrelitziareginae001Strelitzia reginae

Indigenous gardens are very fashionable as they are known to attract local birds and butterflies and also require less watering and maintenance.

a86b18f2b4ba0a276f4004b5948a4a8c2c6a1572The coastal region of KwaZulu-Natal often experiences very windy conditions which play havoc with even the most experienced gardeners. So think carefully when selecting indigenous plants for your garden. Coastal gardening is a challenge, but if you follow the right rules it is fun and very rewarding. As a student horticulturist I spent three months working on the Durban beachfront with the aim of providing landscaping that would be visually appealing to visitors to Durban. This was never easy as we found only a handful of plants that would survive in the salty conditions.

Below is a list of indigenous plants – trees, shrubs, ground covers, bulbs and annuals – which will provide year round colour, and ensure that you don’t have to buy new plants because the ones you planted three weeks ago have already died. As the garden establishes you can add some colour with indigenous annuals which will also survive the salt breezes. Get to know your indigenous plants so that you are not ignorant to the fact that, unless the plant is exotic, it won’t be attractive.

Image on right: Cycas Revoluta

There are many trees which will provide shade in summer, flowers in winter and even autumn colours in the dry winter season. The size of your garden will determine what tree you select. This is a guide to indigenous plants that you can successfully plant in local gardens:

  • Evergreen trees

    Natal mahogany (Trichilia dregeana), coastal red milkwood (Mimusops caffra), Natal plum (Harpephyllum caffrum), white pear (Apodytes dimidiata), dune soap berry (Deinbollia oblongifolia), Natal guarri (Euclea natalensis), lagoon hibiscus (Hibiscus tiliaceus) and white milkwood (Sideroxylon inerme).

  • GazaniaDeciduous trees

    Coastal coral tree (Erythrina caffra), common coral tree (Erythrina lysistemon), coastal gold leaf (Bridelia micrantha), flat crown (Albizia adianthifolia), giant leaf fig (Ficus lutea), Natal fig (Ficus natalensis), forest fever berry (Croton sylvaticus) and umzimbeet (Milletia grandis).

  • Shrubs

    Coastal silver oak (Brachylaena discolor), Natal box (Buxus natalensis), Dune num-num (Carissa macrocarpa), tick-berry (Chrysanthemoides monilifera), forest indigo (Indigofera natalensis), river bells (Mackaya bella), weeping bride’s bush (Pavetta lanceolata), September bells (Rothmannia globosa) and bird of paradise (Strelitzia reginae).

  • Ground cover

    Creeping foxglove (Asystasia gangetica), dune blue barleria (Barleria obtusa), Natal dune vygie (Carpobrotus dimidiatus), Marsh lily (Crinum macowanii), falling star (Crocosmia aurea), large flowering dietes (Dietes grandiflora), gazania (Gazania rigens) and flame lily (Gloriosa superba).

  • Palms, cycads and form plants

    Date palm (Phoenix reclinata), ilala palm (Hyphaene coriacea), stangeria (Stangeria eriopus), Encephalartos ferox, dune aloe (Aloe thraskii) and Natal coastal cabbage tree (Cussonia nicholsonii).

All theses plants are available from garden centres in KwaZulu-Natal. If you have any problems, get in touch with the Durban Botanic Gardens (031-201-1303) and we can help you with names of nurseries that can supply you with the plants.


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