Roots 'n' Shoots: 2017

Saturday, 13 May 2017

Butterfly: Garden Critter of the Month

Butterflies - Garden Critter of the Month

Butterflies at a glance
Pollinators & Pests
Value to Gardener:
2/5 – Mostly pest species, specialist pollinators
Danger to Humans:
1/5 – Harmless
5/5 – They’ll arrive


Reise der Österreichischen Fregatte Novara um die
 Erde in den Jahren 1857, 1858, 1859 unter den 
Befehlen des Commodore B. von Wüllerstorf-Urbair. (1864)Acidalia pedilata; Cidaria undosata; Timandra goniaria; Semiothisa foveolata; Acidalia tuhuata; Asellodes thyreata; Erosia verticaria; Trygodes physciata; Acidalia quadrigata; Acidalia argentifilata; Acidalia mimetata; Berberordes conchylata; Iodis olivacea; Problepsis aegretta; Acidalia concinnata; Semiothisa diplotata; Cidaria ondinata; Semiothisa gambarina; Trygodes agrata; Erosia hians; Erosia bisinuata; Semiothisa divergentata; Cambogia lurida; Anisodes lateritia; Nedusia acalis; Acidalia insolata; Semiothisa marmorea; Semiothisa dominicata; Semiothisa gentilata; Epiplema furcillata; Schidax evulsa; Krananda vitraria; Acidalia straminea; Molybdophora schedata; Syngria drepanata; Cambogia leprosa; Semiothisa delauta; Erosia bidens; Strophidia pannata; Strophidia phantasma

Quick Intro

Most of us find great joy in watching one of these little fluttering beauties pass us by on their way to some sweet coloured delicacy. However, most of the butterfly’s lifetime is spent as a caterpillar, which can become destructive when their hosts plants include edible crops and precious garden ornamentals. We do not have colonies of butterflies in the area and few are of high aesthetic value, but over the years we have amassed quite a photo collection of our local bushveld lovelies.

Science Stuff

Butterflies belong to the insect order of Lepidoptera, which includes moths. They can range from 3 – 200 mm in size. Butterflies are distinguished from moths by their elongated antennae, 2 pairs of membranous wings held vertical, their larval stages are not protected with a silk cocoon and nearly all are diurnal. Similar to moths, both their bodies and wings are covered in scales and they have a siphoning proboscis (mouthpart).

Peacock butterfly eyespot
Inachis io
taken by MichaD

The structure and arrangement of scales on the body and wings give butterflies their colourful markings. Black and brown are produced by pigments, such as melanin, and yellows are derived from uric acids and flavones obtained from their diets. Light play and reflections created by the micro-structure of scales and hairs produce red, green, blue and iridescent colours.

Habitat & Diet

Generalists have a cosmopolitan distribution and are found in any environment boasting plants and flowers as food for caterpillars and adults, respectively. Some species are specialists that only feed on a select handful of hosts or one plant species. Most have a large habitat range, whereas some species are only found in certain biomes or areas.

Some butterflies

I have several photographs of some of the flutterlings in our area:

Family Nymphalidae; are brightly coloured with reduced forelegs giving them a four-legged appearance.

A: Dancing Acraea (Telchinia serena or Hyalites eponina)
B: Garden acaraea (Acaraea horta, larvae potential pest of granadilla)
C: Garden Inspector (Junonia octavia, wet and dry season variants)
D: Yellow Pansy (Junonia hierta, males are territorial)


E: Eyed Pansy (Junonia orithya madagascariensis, widespread but uncommon)
F: Diadem (Hypolimnas misioous, females mimic African monarchs)
G: Painted Lady (Cynthia cardui, common widespread species)
H: Spotted Joker (Byblia ilythia, attracted to rotten fruit)
I: Forest Leopard (Phalanta eurytis, restricted to heavy woodland)


Family Hesperiidae; are small stocky and unassuming butterflies with a quick darting flight. The clubs of their antennae are hooked backwards.

A: Hottentot Skipper (Gegenes niso, fond of muddy places)

Family Lycaenidae; are small and brightly coloured with iridescent blues, purples and coppers. Many have eyespots and tail appendages on their wings resembling antennae.

B: Common Zebra Blue (Leptotes pirithous, attracted to mud)
C: Topaz Babul Blue (Azanus jesous, larvae feed on Acacia species)
D: Common Scarlet (Axiocerses tjoane, larvae feed on Acacia species)

Hesperiidae and Lycaenidae

Family Papilionidae; are large and brightly coloured with eyespots on wings. Caterpillar taste and smell foul due to their brightly coloured, forked defense organ (osmeterium).

A: Citrus Swallowtail (Papilio demodocus, pest species of citrus and curry tree)
B: Common Dotted Border (Mylothris agathina, gregarious feeder)
C: Twin Dotted Border (Mylothris rueppellii haemus, larvae feed on mistletoe)


Famliy Peiridae; are mostly white, yellow and orange. Some are serious pest species.

A: Brown Veined White (Belenois aurota, seasonal migrant, see Post)
B: Angled Grass Yellow (Eurema desjardinsii marshalli, attracted to damp sand)
C: African Migrant (Catopsilia florella, sporadic migration from Botswana to Northern South Africa)
D: Forest White (Belenois zochalia, roost communally at night)


Butterflies in the vegetable garden

From personal observation I have found that butterflies prefer different flowers to most insects. The basil is usually a hub of insect activity, but the majority of pollinators there are bee and fly species. I have noticed on several occasions some moth visitors and medium sized butterflies, but I have seen them more often visit smaller tubed flowers and large open flowers. For example, small tubular flowers will include statice (Limonium latifolium), butterfly bush (Buddleja davidii, as well as our indigenous species - there are 7 in SA, such as Buddleja auriculata) and garden heloitrope (Heliotropium arborescens) and alfalfa flowers (Medicago sativa). The little blues are very fond of the minute yellow flowers of the wild clover (Lesser hop trefoil, Trifolium dubium). Large and open flowers would include those of the daisy family, such as black jacks (yes! they love these awful weeds!) as well as pompoms and cosmos. In general butterflies can see red as a separate colour but are also attracted to blue (Rosemary, Rosmarinus officinalis and Lavender, Lavendula aungustifolia) and yellow flowers (Sunflower, Helianthus annuus). You can also have a look at my Insectary post for more ideas!

Something Interesting: We have an endemic butterfly in Roodepoort! 

In 1985, the Ruimsig Entomological Reserve in Roodepoort close to the Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden was established to preserve the Roodepoort Copper (Aloeides dentatis) (Ref 1 and 2). This was due to the fact that the Roodepoort Copper has a symbiotic relationship with an Acantholepis ant species and the presence of its larval host plant, Hermannia depressa (Ref 2 and 3). A singular article about the reserve exists here (Ref 3, GSNDEV ).

Roodepoort Copper
Aloeides dentaties

Ref 1: Wikipedia  
Ref 2: Arkive 
Ref 3: GSNDEV 


Please share with fellow gardening enthusiasts via the various sharing buttons at the end of posts/pages! Else you can vote for posts through the Google reactions bar at the end of articles. To stay up to date I have provided several reader and social networking platforms with which to subscribe: TwitterPinterestRSS Feed Reader or Email/Follow directly using the Blog Followers widget on the left hand side toolbar. Thank you for reading and please feel free to ask if questions arise - I appreciate comments and ideas too! 😆

Sunday, 30 April 2017

Internet Connection Blues

I am having massive Internet problems - our personal ISP is changing systems, which means limited to zero connection since February. The whole of this month I barely have enough Internet for basic stuff, like downloading email and its usually at obscure hours... like what I am posting at now! before 07h00 on a long weekend? ... like seriously... Anyways, our house is already located in a signal poor zone and with the added systems changes I cannot even get anything uploaded as the connection bombs out or gets an error of some sort. *Sigh*. It is tremendously frustrating as I have tried to get this month's post uploaded on several occasions. Even if I do the Internet signal dance with my modem around the house 💃 it still doesn't work...  Hopefully the signal clears up a bit for me to get my post out next month!

Ta-Ta For Now!

Saturday, 18 March 2017

Friends of Free Wildlife

Friends of Free Wildlife

FreeMe wildlife rehabilitation centre was a volunteer organisation run by a board of directors, a small core staff and volunteers. The volunteers were the main workforce behind FreeMe and their hard work and dedication has facilitated the care and release of orphaned, sick and injured indigenous wildlife. They founded FreeMe back in 1997 in the north side of Johannesburg near the Rietfontein Nature Reserve and it was one of the only wildlife clinics in the area, since out veterinary clinics are not educated or equipped in dealing with wild animals. They used to collaborate with many veterinary clinics that treat the animals pro bono and organised drop-offs to be collected later and taken to FreeMe.

I myself had dropped off a few animals at the centre and kept an ear open about any news surrounding FreeMe. Little more than a year ago (November 2015) I had heard that the FreeMe volunteers had called for a resignation of 4 board members due to a dereliction of duty, which included the mistreatment of animals and the misappropriation of funds. The NSPCA (National Council of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) has received many complaints regarding the care and wellbeing of the animals at FreeMe. This lead to a temporary closure of the facility, which later had become a permanent situation.

Recently the Friends of Free Wildlife (FFW) had stepped in and taken over the role of FreeMe. They have located a property to house the facilities and are fully complaint to take in wildlife. They require some expansion and modification to the existing buildings, which you can support through donations.
I hope that they receive all the funding and support they require in no time, since we are all counting on them to rescue, rehabilitate and release our suburban wildlife!

Links of FFW:

Sign the Petition for the resignation of FreeMe board members

Why had FreeMe closed?



Please share with fellow gardening enthusiasts via the various sharing buttons at the end of posts/pages! Else you can vote for posts through the Google reactions bar at the end of articles. To stay up to date I have provided several reader and social networking platforms with which to subscribe: TwitterPinterestRSS Feed Reader or Email/Follow directly using the Blog Followers or Follow Your Way widget on the left hand side toolbar. Thank you for reading and please feel free to ask if questions arise - I appreciate comments and ideas too! 😆

Saturday, 18 February 2017

Curry Tree: How to Grow - Herb of the Month

Curry Tree stats/requirements at a glance

Ease of Raising:
5/5 – Very Easy, plant and leave
4/5 – Daily
4-5/5 – Partial Shade to Full sun
1/5 – Minimal (3Ds: Dead, damaged and diseased)
1/5 – Minimal (at least during the growing season)
Time to Harvest:
1/5 – Immediate, yet slow growing
Frost Hardiness:
1/4 – Tender (can’t cope with mild frost)

Culinary & Medicinal
Most Problematic Nemesis:
Aphids, Swallowtail Butterfly
Container Plant:

Curry Tree Flower buds
 Murraya koenigii 

Quick intro

My second exotic herb post of South Asian cuisine! All of us are quite familiar with the curry plant and its distinct aroma in Indian stews and local dishes. It is a very versatile herb that is mainly used in vegetable or lentil stews, as well as meat stews, soups, rice dishes and pickles. It is a true delight in the garden as it doesn’t take much space not does it require extraordinary care.


The curry tree has its origins in India and Sri-Lanka, where it is also known as Kadipatta. There is an Indian saying that compares the curry to a person which you only interact with for a specific reason, since the curry leaves are only used to flavour the dish and is subsequently removed and discarded.

Science Stuff

The curry tree, Murraya koenigii or Bergera koenigii, belongs to the rue family Rutaceae, which includes roses, citrus and several berries. Another shrub, known as the curry plant (Helichrysum italicum) is an herb of the Asteraceae (daisy) family and loses much of its flavour upon cooking. It has silver foliage and should not be confused with the true Sri Lankan curry tree.

Curry tree
Murraya koenigii
 Royal Botanical Gardens
Sydney Australia 

Curry Plant
Helichrysum italicum
Growing & Pruning the Curry tree

The curry tree stands 6 m tall with a spread of 5 m, but its size can be easily restricted by growing in a pot plant (diameter 30+ cm). You can purchase one at the local nursery and plant it up in summer. It is a slow grower that enjoys a warm sunny position. It is a tropical plant and enjoys daily watering. If you plant it in a cool climate or where winter temperatures drop below 13oC (55oF) then it would be ideal to pot it so that you can bring the plant indoors during cold spells.

Other Tips

It is a very striking plant with layered leaf stalks, which remain green throughout the year. If planted in the garden, the plant can be pruned to shape the tree and to stimulate new growth. Pot planted specimens do not require pruning other that the removal of dead, damaged or diseased parts.

Citrus swallowtail caterpillar with osmeterium visible,
Papillio demodocus

The curry tree is generally care free when it comes to insect and disease problems – likely due to its taste and aroma. New shoots (translucent red) may suffer from aphid attack on occasion. I have found by rare chance that the Swallowtail butterfly larvae eat the leaves, but the females prefer to lay their eggs on the citrus relatives instead. Both of the pest species I have discussed in their separate articles as well as developing environmental friendly homemade pest controls, see my Pest control page for more information.

Harvesting & Storing

Fresh curry leaves are preferred in cooking, since the distinct aroma is lost during freezing or drying. Remove the sprigs before cooking and remove leaves prior serving the dish.

Curry tree leaves for sale
Murraya koenigii
Satok market,
Malaysia Wikipedia, Thomas Quine 

Seed Saving & Propagation

The curry tree produces tiny white, self-pollinated flowers borne is delicate clusters. These are popular amongst some of the non-bee pollinators, which later develop into tiny edible single-seeded black berries – but be cautious of the seeds as they are poisonous!

Curry tree flowers, developing fruits and pollinating flies!
Murraya koenigii

It is not common to propagate curry trees from seed as they have highly erratic germination times. They do however produce suckers (new shoots from the main root system) at regular intervals. The suckers can be removed and re-potted after two seasons. I have done so myself, but the tiny plants seem to prefer their original position and attachment to the main plant as they don’t thrive after relocation.

Curry tree sucker
Murraya koenigii

My Curry Tree

Mine is about five years old now and has produced several new suckers in the past year. It sheds all of its leaves at regular intervals – I am not sure whether all curry trees do this, or just mine or just potted specimens… Anyways, it is about 1 m tall and I don’t prune it at all, since it only has a few branches and because it sheds its leaves so often.

Curry tree
Murraya koenigii


Please share with fellow gardening enthusiasts via the various sharing buttons at the end of posts/pages! Else you can vote for posts through the Google reactions bar at the end of articles. To stay up to date I have provided several reader and social networking platforms with which to subscribe: TwitterPinterestRSS Feed Reader or Email/Follow directly using the Blog Followers widget on the left hand side toolbar. Thank you for reading and please feel free to ask if questions arise - I appreciate comments and ideas too! 😆

Friday, 6 January 2017

Bees for Jam

I had to post this because I thought it was really awesome. Here the honey bees are enjoying a feeding frenzy on some partially used jam cups set out by the Wimpy and Café Fino at the Retail Crossing in Roodepoort. I think it is a wonderful idea: the bees stay out of the customers’ hair and the restaurants get some use of non-reusable food items!

Bees feeding on jam set out by Wimpy, Retail Crossing, Roodepoort

Bees feeding on jam set out by Café Fino, Retail Crossing, Roodepoort

Good on them!

Sunday, 1 January 2017

New Year Post: International Year Events 2017 & Garden Update

Usually with the New Year’s post I feature the UN ‘international year of’ theme. This year the theme is Sustainable Tourism for Development – aaannndd, I had no idea how to relate that to gardening. So let’s take a quick look at the key features of this year as per the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set by the UN:

“SDG 8: Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all;

SDG 12: Sustainable Consumption and Production and

SDG 14: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.”

So I found these a bit vague 😩, but the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) website has provided a bit more clarity on the matter:

“The #IY2017 will promote tourism’s role in the following five key areas:

(1)        Inclusive and sustainable economic growth
(2)        Social inclusiveness, employment and poverty reduction
(3)        Resource efficiency, environmental protection and climate change
(4)        Cultural values, diversity and heritage
(5)        Mutual understanding, peace and security”

I am also disappointed at the infographics and promotional stuff for this year - most of the stuff is in PDF format which does not embed properly in blogger. Instead here is the link to some of the UNWTO fact sheets. Then I had a brain wave 😎. I have been to two of the National Botanical Gardens of South Africa as well as the Montreal Botanical Garden in Canada. Seeing that these would fall under the key areas of 3 & 4 I thought I would share some of the photos I took while visiting these. Each is spectacular in their own right as they cover different biomes and natural habitats. Here they are:

Walter Sisulu National Botanical Gardens (Witwatersrand, South Africa)

Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden, South Africa
Highveld Biome
Woohoo! Panorama 😂 (oh hello and the new blogger update has given us symbols and emoji ! - welcome to 2017 Google Blogger!). For now on expect copious amounts of them! 😈 Anyways, here I tried to give the general impression of our highveld biome, which is classified as a savannah grassland (sparse trees in a open flat grassland). Walter Sisulu also sports a waterfall!

Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden (Cape Town, South Africa)

Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens, South Africa
Fynbos Biome
Kirstenbosch is a lot more lush, since they have a milder climate than the highveld and aren't to far from the coast which means the area is fairly humid. The fynbos biome is unique to the Western Cape, which includes a lot of plants from the Ericaceae family. The fynbos is well known for its Proteas (right bottom is the Pincushion Protea).

Montreal Botanical Garden (Quebec, Canada)

I was very fortunate to be afforded the opportunity to go to Canada to present some of my scientific work at a conference there. We had a day off from science and I took the chance to visit the Botanical Gardens (it was so worth it! 😄).

Montreal Botanical Garden
This is the entrance area - I would say that the Montreal Botanical Garden is twice (maybe three?) times the size of ours. It is huge - I spent a whole day here and I didn't walk all the way through. They had a fantastic Insectarium (unfortunately all the photos are very dark and low quality)... 😞

Montreal Botanical Garden
Biodiversity Centre

Not too far from the entrance is a large glasshouse where each section has exact climate control to promote the growth of biome-specific plants. I remember as you walk into a new section you can feel the temperature and humidity changes as well as all the wonderful plant and soil smells! Top left is the epiphyte section (air plants), very humid and hot. Top right is the tropical and spices section. Bottom left is the arid biome and on the right is the bonsai section... I could meditate in there the whole day 😌

Montreal Botanical Garden
Japanese Gardens
Beautiful! Oh, goodness - happy times 💖 This is across the walkway next to the rose gardens (I no took photos of rose garden... had to prioritise sections and I am not a big fan of roses anyways...). And the Canadian air is so clean! You literally smell the fresh air when you get off the plane! Makes for very clear sky pictures too! Bottom left is the Japanese Tea Garden - another place to sit in the whole day.

Montreal Botanical Gardens
Food, Monastery and Alpine gardens
Lastly. I included the squash vertical garden (left) as well as the Monastery garden (herbs) and the native Montreal Alpine Biome garden. I quite like the rocky, low growing look of the Alpine garden. After all these gorgeous pictures, I am afraid the rest of the post will seem a bit, meh... 😊

Garden Update

The garden had experienced some lingering effects of the drought we have had for the last two seasons. Some of the plots remain bare in the main garden, but the garden in the vegetable cage is doing really well. I moved the squash back into the vegetable cage (since the main garden was mostly planted with tomatoes, carrot and beet) and they are looking fantastic – hopefully we’ll be able to keep the fruit flies off of them this way too. 

Left is the main garden (top) and insectary (bottom).
Right is the vegetable cage (top) and alfalfa with dodder infestation (bottom).

Most of South Africa has seen a good deal of rain since November, but Roodepoort hadn’t seen much. I think we received the best Christmas gift because since the 24th we have had rain on an off with long stretches of overcast weather– maybe the illusive “La Nina” has finally started? (Read more at The Shoom's Weather report 2015/2016).

Furthermore, the alfalfa (lucerne) patch we started way back in 2013 has grown beyond its initial designated bed and is slowly spreading outwards. The chickens graze on them during the summer and do not care so much for them, but come winter they chickens eat them to the ground – which was the idea since the alfalfa is high in protein (18%) as a supplement for the chickens since insects are scarce in winter. The alfalfa has been mostly looking after themselves, we had to water them during the drought to prevent all of them dying and now it seems the dodder (Cuscuta species) have decided to move into the patch. Dodder is a parasitic plant (that’s why they are yellow, they have no chlorophyll and cannot photosynthesise)  that quickly engulfs whole areas of plants in a yellow tangled mass that reminds me of the ‘Red Weed’ from Wars of the World. I have found that the only way to get rid of it is to cut the host plant to the ground and then chuck the infested leaves on a bare area of soil in the sun (no plants close by) and to let it die there. Some dodder biology below - what a insult: "You're such a Dodder!" LOL! 😅

Dodder (Cuscata species) biology

Other updates include as I mentioned with my B-day post that I will be posting once a month now so that I remain sane as I move towards the seemingly endless stretch of finalising my PhD. The blog holiday was a well needed break, since I have come up with a whole list of new post concepts for the next year. As per usual - stay tuned for more ramblings and garden shenanigans as Roots ‘n’ Shoots moves into its 5th year of article postings!

Ta – Ta For Now!

The Shroom

Previous related posts:

Want to see what it looked like last year (2015)? See: New Year Post 2016 & Garden Updates

Want to see what it looked like in 2014? See: New Year Post 2015 & Garden Updates

Want to see what it looked like in 2013? See: New Year Post & Garden Updates 2014

Want to see what it looked like originally? See: About: This Blog


Please share with fellow gardening enthusiasts via the various sharing buttons at the end of posts/pages! Else you can vote for posts through the Google reactions bar at the end of articles. To stay up to date I have provided several reader and social networking platforms with which to subscribe: TwitterPinterestRSS Feed Reader or Email/Follow directly using the Blog Followers or Follow Your Way widget on the left hand side toolbar. Thank you for reading and please feel free to ask if questions arise - I appreciate comments and ideas too! 😆

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