Sunday, 31 May 2009 07:21

Velvet Brandybush

Written by  Sue Oxborrow
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Velvet Brandybush Velvet Brandybush WikiMedia Commons User JMK

Where to find it:

In the sandy soils on the edges of the dry forest areas of the south facing slopes of the Magaliesberg, is where you will find Grewia flava in this region. In the rest of the southern African region they are found throughout the North West Province, Northern Cape in South Africa, the south western areas of Zimbabwe, in Namibia, Botswana and as far north as Zambia.

General description and features:

This rather untidy multi-stemmed, low growing shrubby plant is easy to find with its distinctive greyish green hairy leaves. The underside of the leaves has three prominent veins beginning at the leaf base. Another distinctive feature is that the leaves grow upright or horizontal and do not droop downwards. The Wilderosyntjie is fairly slow growing, frost hardy and drought resistant. It is usually found growing in clusters (or groups).

In the flowering season of October to March, the beautiful sweet-scented star-shaped yellow flowers can be found growing on the angles where the leaves grow on the branches. These in turn make way for the berry-like fruit that starts showing from December to April. The berry fruit is reddish brown in colour when ripe and ready to eat, is sweetish in flavour and has a fairly high sugar content.

Trunk and Bark:

On the young branches the bark is grey and hairy, while on the older branches the grey is darker and the hairs are gone to leave a smooth bark finish.

What people use this tree for:

Apart from eating the berry fruit it is also made into a brandy drink (mampoer – only for the brave!). The fruit is also made into a beer. In the Kalahari, the Bushmen/San people make bows from the thicker and longer “elastic” branches and make their arrow shafts from the thin, straight branches.

Walking sticks as well as traditional fighting sticks are made from the long straight branches. Rope is made from the fibres of bark. If you are out overnight in the bush and have forgotten your toothbrush, you could fray the end of a twig and use it to clean your teeth!

The ‘provider’ for other creatures:

Look out for Red-faced and Speckled Mousebirds, Grey Louries, Helmeted Guinea fowl, Francolin (Swainson’s, Crested) and Redcrested or Northern Black Korhaan, that may visit in the fruiting season. The Velvet Raisin is a valuable fodder plant for game (kudu, steenbok and grey duiker) and cattle. The White-cloaked Skipper Butterfly, the Spotted Velvet Skipper Butterfly is also provided for by way of the Grewia flava acting as a host plant for the lava of these Butterflies. Bees also come to the plant in the flowering season to collect the pollen.

How to grow your own Grewia flava:

Get a few seeds from a friend. Clean them and let them dry out in a shady spot. Soak the seeds overnight in hot water. Put river sand into your seedling trays ready for the next morning when you should sow the seeds into seedling trays. Cover the seeds to a depth of 5mm with the river sand. Water them. Keep moist during germination. Success rate with germinating is usually between 50 and 70 percent. When the seedlings get to a “2-leaf” stage, plant them out into larger black nursery bags. Do not over water! The approximate yearly growth rate is between 400 to 500mm. Protect from harsh windy conditions and frost, especially during the first two years.

(Tip: When ready to plant the sapling into the ground, position a 50 mm size x 1m length of plastic piping vertically near to the sapling, leaving +- 5 cm above ground level. When watering around the sapling, also pour water into this pipe, as it will encourage the roots to grow downwards looking for the moisture below. Keep the ground around the sapling well mulched with dry leaves, etc. to assist with water retention above ground.)

If you don’t find this tree on your property, consider growing one!
Wouldn’t it be rewarding to contribute to maintaining the tree diversity within the Magaliesberg mountain range by planting a Grewia flava?

The Committee is interested in hearing from members whether they have this tree growing on their property or whether they would like to plant one.
What birds have you seen coming to this tree?
Which butterflies or other insects have you noticed?
Have the Vervet monkeys visited to eat the fruit?
Contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
(014) 576 2323

Fanie & Julye-Ann Venter. 1996. Making the Most of Indigenous Trees.
Val Thomas and Rina Grant. 1998. SAPPI Tree Spotting, Highveld & the Drakensberg.
Pitta Joffe. 2001. Creative Gardening with Indigenous Plants, A South African Guide.
Vincent Carruthers. 1990. The Magaliesberg.
Jill Reid. 2000. Butterfly Gardening in South Africa.
Ivor Migdoll. 1987. Field Guide to the Butterflies of Southern Africa.
Ian Sinclair, Phil Hockey and Warwick Tarboton. 1993. SASOL Birds of Southern Africa.
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