And unknown to most people, the Kruger National Park has its own nursery. The nursery is open to visitors and they have a wide variety of impressive indigenous plants for sale. The nursery is just outside Skukuza camp between the staff village and the golf club.
Founded back in the early 1970’s, it was a small 100x45m area that was maintained by a horticulturist, Mr Scholtz, who also maintained the gardens in Skukuza. Back in the early days, the nursery provided indigenous plants to staff members, free of charge, to encourage staff to plant indigenous plants in their gardens.
The nursery increased in size over the years and in 1990 the management was handed to Ona Davies, who over the years built a very impressive selection of indigenous trees and shrubs. Most of the plants found in the nursery today have been grown from seed. Field and section rangers collect seeds from all over the Kruger National Park and bring the seeds to the nursery. Ona learnt from the experts in the field of plant cultivation about how to cultivate the Kruger National Parks indigenous plants from seed and today this incredible selection of plants are available for us to purchase.
The nursery today stocks more than 185 Kruger National Park plants. Among these plants, you will find the very stunning Kudu and Impala lilies.
Impala lilies have been compared to a miniature Boabab. It has a very showy flower and the plant itself contains toxins that were used by Bushmen as poison for their arrowheads. Kudu lilies are very slow growing plants and don’t readily adapt to new surroundings. As a result, they are almost extinct.
Also under cultivation at the nursery is the much endangered Swazi Lilly. This plant grows easily, loves good sunlight and because it is a succulent, it needs very little water.
Wild Ginger is another plant under cultivation at the nursery. Wild Ginger has been used so extensively over the years by traditional healers that it was on the brink of extinction. Zulu people used this plant for protection from lightning and snakes and also in the treatment of flu, asthma and hysteria.
It is thought to have all but disappeared from the wilds in Kwazulu Natal. Wild Ginger is also chewed by the Swati women during menstruation and it is used for the treatment of malaria. There are many people who now cultivate the plant to ensure its survival.
The Marula tree dates back thousands of years but if you tempted to purchase this tree, its best to take note that they grow to 18 meters. The fruit of this tree has a very high vitamin C content and can be enjoyed as a fruit or boiled to make a jam and is used to make a popular alcoholic drink. The bark of the Marula Tree contains antihistamines and can be used for cleansing when seeped in boiling water. The bark, when crushed into a pulp and mixed with water can be used in the treatment of dysentery or diarrhoea. The bark is also used as a malaria prophylactic.
The Jackalberry tree is another tree found extensively in the Kruger National Park. The fruit of the Jackalberry tree is edible and inside the tough skin, a chalky fruit is found that has a floury consistency and a lemon sweet flavour. The fruit can be preserved or eaten fresh. The fruit can also be used to brew beer or brandy or dried to make flour.
The Weeping Boer Bean gets its name from the fact that the beautiful red flowers of this tree produce an abundance of nectar which weeps or drips. This tree when in bloom attracts a wide variety of birds and insects because of the nectar. The bark of the Weeping Boer Bean can be used in the treatment of heartburn or hangovers. The Khoikhoi people roast the mature pods and eat the seeds that are said to be low in fat and protein but high in carbohydrate content. Mixtures made from the root and bark are used as a body tonic and also facial saunas.