Simon Joubert

History and Development

“We live in Wembley, Pietermaritzburg. The garden formed part of a rather large property that was subdivided 40 years ago. We moved onto the 2000m2 stand 11 years ago. The garden was very overgrown with exotics and as with previous properties we cleared as much as we could and established a forest of indigenous trees and shrubs. After 10 years may of these plants have grown large and are flowering and fruiting. Scattered around the garden are many cycads and aloes that we have collected over the years. We live alongside Wylie Park which contributes enormously to the diversity we witness.”


14 Armstrong Drive, plants that attract birds.

We have a great many plants in the garden. When we moved in 10 years ago, I focused on establishing butterfly host plants in the garden, these included Asystasia gangetica, various Plectranthus sp, Croton sylvaticus, Trichilia dregiana, Vepris lanceolata, Clausina anisata, Kiggelaria africana, Kigelia Africana, various species of OchnaCryptocarya woodi, Rawsonia lucida and many others. With these host plants I relocated my small collection of cycads (Encephalartos species and Stangeria), Aloe and Stapeliad sp and Orchids.

Already established in the garden were several Ficus and Podocarpus species, Rawsonia lucida, Cussoniaand Erythrina sp, various Phoenix reclinata palms, large stands of Strelitzia nicolai, a number of established Dracaena aletriformis, one enormous avocado tree and a large exotic that I have never bothered to identify (in which I established one of three owl boxes that have all failed to attract birds however have proven successful beehives).

My list will focus on the following plants that attract birds to the garden:

  • Encephalartos species, cycads. I have a long-standing relationship with these wonderful and ancient plants, my wife often tells me she expects a Brontosaur to appear in the garden. The green cycads (E natalensis, transvenosis, lebomboensis, antensteini and others) become tomentose and develop a hairy crown before they flush new leaves or produce a cone. While birds might have little interest in the cones or seeds of cycads (apart from a few records I have read of some seeds, especially E ferox, being distributed by ground hornbills, there is no information on pollination or nectaring, these plants are pollinated by weevils and do not produce nectar), they have a great interest in the hairy crown, collecting the matter to line or become part of their nests. While I have only seen sunbirds collecting the material for nests, I am sure that many of the other local breeding birds do as well.
  • Strelitzia nicolai (Giant Crane Flower): This wonderful plant is a nectar source for a great many sunbird and other species. I have often wondered if the leaf structure (at the base) also traps rainwater for birds to drink. Birds noted in the plant are various species of sunbird, Dark-capped Bulbuls, Cape White-eyes and various pigeon and dove species. I cannot end this without noting that this plant is food plant of the rather dull Moltena fiara, a crepuscid butterfly that is often seen whizzing around that plant at dusk. The insect lays its egg on the leaf and the little caterpillar spins several silk strands between the leaf edge and leaf surface, these strands dry and shrink pulling the leaf over the caterpillar forming a safe shelter. Images of the first instar caterpillar and leaf shelter are provided (I am embarrassed to say that I have never got around to photographing this insect, Steve W will be able to assist)
  • Croton sylvaticus (Forest Fever Berry): The Forest Fever Berry, is a wonderful tree. I planted one in the garden 9 years ago and it flowered and fruited for the first time this year. The tree attracts many Purple-crested Tauraco, that eat the seeds, and hosts many insect eaters such as Cape White-eyes and Black-backed Puff-backs, the former which move through the tree as a noisy posse noisily searching for food. The tree also provides roosting spots for Ramoran Pigeons and Hadeda Ibis. I am yet to find anything nesting in the tree. This wonderful tree is also the host plant of Charaxes candiope, the Green-veined Charaxes, photographs of the caterpillar and adult are included.
  • Plectranthus species: Plectranthus provide food for several butterflies however they also provide a habitat for a number of birds. The leaf matter and shaded environment is ideal for many insects, arachnids and invertebrates and thus attracts many birds such as Thrushes, Green and Brownbuls and Robin-chats.
  • Halleria lucida (Tree Fuschia): Finally, I have to add what I am sure everyone else has, Hallaria lucida. this tree is always alive with birds but never more so than when in flower when it becomes a riot of sunbirds. The local gang of Cape White-eyes spend a lot of time foraging in the tree and I also recently saw a Grey-headed Bush –Shrike in it, a first for the garden.

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