Summer is such a great time of year here in the Timbavati. Not only is the bush green and vibrant, there are also some fantastic colours that show themselves. These colours come from many places, whether one finds them in the numerous butterflies slowly floating around or the migrant birds that have returned for the plentiful takings. However, it is the colour found in the flowers that I will be focusing on again in this “part two” instalment of the gorgeous wild flowers that pop up all over the place after some good summer rains.
The Large Raisin (Grewia hexamita)
This is not a very common tree or bush to find in the Timbavati but luckily for us at Tanda Tula we have several growing in and around the camp grounds and along the adjacent river banks. It’s such a lovely thing to walk along the camp pathways surrounded by such vibrant colours! Having such a bright and beautiful flower is bound to attract butterflies and birds, who will of course help with pollination but also in seed dispersal as this is a fruiting bush. This is a very important aspect as a seed that travels through an acidic digestive system is far more likely to germinate and a lot quicker too. There are sadly no medicinal uses for this bush but if you enjoy eating small and hard fruits that not even many animals enjoy then this plant is right up your alley!
String of Stars
I think this small, yet beautiful shrub is my favourite of all the flowers. The plants get no bigger than ankle height and from a distance just look like green shrubs with small white specs. However, its when you get close that they come to life! Suddenly there are hundreds of tiny white flowers all growing in neat lines. Up close, a normally small and unassuming string of stars, quickly becomes a scene of wonder and beauty. I have over my career noticed that one animal in particular finds incredible delight in eating this plant and that would be the largest of all, the elephants. They seem to eat the stuff like spaghetti, pulling huge amounts of it out of the ground to enjoy with there eyes closed. But then again, I haven’t really come across many things that the giant beasts don’t enjoy eating, so there also that.
The Poison Apple (Solanum panduriforme)
This is an incredibly interesting plant to happen upon in the Great Kruger National Park. Not because they are rare, they are actually fairly common, but rather because on one hand they are intensely poisonous and on the other they are fantastically medicinal. Although the whole plant is poisonous, it is the fruit, a small ‘apple’ like berry, that carries the most. If a swelling stomach and intestine that could ultimately lead to death is your thing, then be my guest! However, there are few small plants that offer as many health benefits as the Poisonous Apple. For one a watery tea brewed with the fruit can help remedy sore eyes. Or if you are unfortunately constipated, you can mash the entire plant and ingest it orally. Good luck! Finally, traditionally this plant was used by hunters, who would wash themselves with an infusion of the plants root in order to have a successful hunt.
The Wandering Dew (Commelina benghalensis)
This is a beautiful little blue to violet flower that offer a fair bit more than just something pretty to look at. In fact, its packed full of medicinal uses. The most notable of all would have to be its use as an eye drop or at least a way of cleaning the eyes. Just below the flower in the image above there is, what looks like a sharp little green leaf. This is in fact a pouch of sorts and within that pouch is a couple of drops of liquid, it just so happens that this liquid makes for a great eye drop, not to mention that the shape of pouch helps to administer the drop almost exactly like a regular eye drop bottle!
Sweet Thorn Acacia (Vachellia karroo)
The area around Tanda Tula Safari Camp is full of these iconic tree’s which at this time of year is spectacular as the horizon line is often filled with specs of yellow from the millions of little yellow fluff ball flowers. These are essentially balls of pollen just waiting for enticed bee’s and other insects to land on them. However due to the love that giraffe have for these trees and their delicious leaves, it is believed that they contribute greatly to the pollination of the trees and many other similar species. This occurs when the tall animals go to feed on the trees and while doing so end up with checks covered in the bright yellow pollen. When the giraffe finally moves onto the next tree pollination happens, in much the same as it would with a bee! It also has a great medicinal use, as a poultice can be made from a mixture of the leaves, bark, sap and flowers. This poultice can then be applied to wounds to help remedy pain, inflammation or infection.