The following article covers a popular talk by Charles Botha, at the 2014 Botanical Society Coastal Branch Indigenous Plant Fair.
N0 10 - Halleria lucida (Tree Fuchsia) 15 bird species
This marvelous tree was already cherished in England at the time of the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, but it has yet to be discovered by many South African gardeners. Sometimes jokingly referred to as “Hilarious Lucy,” Halleria lucida grows in sun or shade and can tolerate modest frost. It is mostly semi-deciduous. Although larger under forest conditions, it is usually a shrub or small tree, ideal for smaller gardens. Often multi-stemmed, with dense, drooping foliage, it can also be used as a screen.
The leaves are nibbled by the larvae of at least a dozen moth species. Orange to dark red, curved, tubular flowers hang in dense bunches on the trunk and woody branches. They are so full of nectar that some Zulu speakers refer to them as “birds’ beer.” Sunbirds, white-eyes, and weavers are among the constant stream of visitors. Next, it’s the turn of fruit-eaters, with turacos sometimes loudly leading the pack. Even thrushes, more likely to be seen pulling earthworms out of the ground, feast on fallen fruit, while other birds simply feed on the insects attracted to the bounty. On top of all these advantages, such birds as woodpeckers work their way up and down the flaky bark, looking for insects and other creatures that live there.
N0 9 - Strelitzia nicolai 17 bird species
This lovely evergreen plant gets its species name from Emperor Nicholas І of Russia, who cultivated it in the Imperial Gardens in St. Petersburg in the 19th century. Despite the alternative common name of Wild Banana, it doesn’t bear such fruit, but its large leaves resemble those of a banana plant. Popular with landscapers for creating a tropical atmosphere, it is also a great magnet for wildlife. For example, its distribution area coincides with that of the Strelitzia Nightfighter butterfly, which breeds on it. A multitude of other little creatures, including tree frogs, live in the axils of the leaves, and some birds are forever searching here for a meal. The unfurling leaves are a favourite daytime roosting place for the tiny Banana Bat, which feeds on small flying insects. The large, striking, spiky, blue and white flowers are custom built “fly in nectar restaurants” for birds, with an appropriately placed platform to ensure the right position for pollination. Later the flowers are replaced by woody capsules, containing black seeds, with little, woolly, orange “caps.” These are readily gobbled up by bulbuls, barbets, and starlings. Even Green Wood-Hoopoes, which one would expect to survive on insects, and seed-eaters like Red-eyed Doves have been found to eat these hard seeds. Strelitzia nicolai will grow in sun or shade and can become very tall. It also spreads to form a large clump as new shoots grow from the base, so is not suitable on top of retaining walls, where it could cause damage.
N0 8 - Panicum spp. 20 bird species
Because grass seed is so nutritious, lots of animals depend on it, and it provides food for a large number of birds, including such garden specials as twinspots. Mannikins, waxbills, weavers, whydahs, doves and other seed-eaters can all easily be attracted to your garden without fee