We’re celebrating World Wildlife Day today and what better way to celebrate this day than enjoying the diversity of plant and animal life residing in our gardens.
Whether you want to add to the diversity of species already visiting your garden, or would like to plant a new garden to invite wildlife back into your neighbourhood, this article with @ernstvanjaarsveld's tips and advice will help you find the perfect plants to create a vibrant hub teeming with life.
Trees for subtropical areas
Weeping boer-bean | Schotia brachypetala
There are few trees like the Weeping boer-bean that serves as a feeding ground for a multitude of birds. The vernacular name, Weeping bean, refers to its red tubular flower clusters that drip with nectar and is truly a spectacle when the White-eyes, Sunbirds, Starlings and other birds feast in between its branches. The plant has a dense, round canopy and is long-lived. Its only drawback is that it is slow-growing and will not survive heavy frost. The ‘Boer bean’ part of its vernacular name indicates its edible beans produced in brown pods. The beans were first roasted before eating.
Schotia brachypetala | Weeping Boer Bean
The other Boer bean varieties are all smaller but also suitable for gardens.
The Karoo Boer bean (Schotia afra) | a round shrub 3-5 m in height suitable for the caraway parts is also spring flowering.
The Bush bean (Schotia latifolia) | is a large shrub with pale red flowers ensure birds during mid-summer when flowering.
Trees for the Highveld
Notsung or Kinderbessie | Halleria lucida
A frost-resistant small-tree that is widespread and grows rapidly. It has a long flowering period from mid-winter to summer and attracts both nectar drinkers and fruit eaters. Its flowers are tubular, brick red and are mainly borne on the main stems and side branches. The flowers are followed by soft edible fruits - hence the popular name 'Kinderbessie'.
Halleria lucida | Tree-fuchsia
Mountain hardwood or red currant (Olinia emarginata), Wild Olive tree (Olea europaea ssp. Africana) and White Stinkwood (Celtis africana) are three frost-resistant species with berries that will attract birds to the garden.
The Cape holly (Ilex mitis) is also frost resistant with attractive red berries in autumn. It does well growing along water.
Wild peach (Kiggelaria africana) is a fast-growing evergreen tree that is popular under the red-winged starling when it bears fruit.
Shrubs for the Highveld
Frost resistant shrubs that will attract fruit-eaters include the African dogwood (Rhamnus prinoides), Puzzlebush (Ehretia rigida) and the Lemon Thorn (Cassinopsis licifolia).
The Cape honeysuckle (Tecomaria capensis) has attractive orange or yellow tubular flowers with a long flowering period but is especially beautiful during autumn and will attract many nectar-loving birds.
Tecoma capensis | Cape honeysuckle
The Mickey Mouse bush (Ochna serrulata) has attractive yellow flowers and black fruits.
Cape Fynbos Garden
For Cape gardens, Proteas and pincushions (Leucospermum) attract striking sunbirds with their long tails. Erica species with tubular brightly coloured flowers such as the Fire Erica (Erica cerinthoides) and others will attract the very beautiful Western Cape orange-breasted sunbird to the garden.
Malachite sunbird resting on a Leucospermum flower.
Aloes, Crassulas and Kniphofia for the whole country. Aloes are good accent plants with typically African shapes. They are characteristic of our country, drought resistant and striking especially during the winter. Their sweet nectar-filled flower-chandeliers are stylishly characteristic of Afrikaans and will soon attract colourful sunbirds, white-eyes and a few others to the garden. The Kranz aloe (Aloe arborescens) stretched from the bushveld in the north to the Fynbos of the south and is found in all our indigenous gardens. It is a branched shrub up to 2 m in height.
There are still about 130 kinds of other aloes to choose from - plant the types suited to your region or the last-mentioned aloe that is widely adaptable. The Pig’s ears Cotyledon (Cotyledon orbiculata) is also drought- and frost-resistant and striking with its bell-shaped flowers frequented by Jangroentjies and other sunbirds. It is also found throughout the country and easily accessible. Don't forget the colourful Kniphofia and Wild Dagga (Leonotis leonoris). They bloom in late summer and autumn and also occur in gardens throughout the country.
Leonotis leonurus | Wild dagga