Established in the late ‘70s, the Skukuza Indigenous Nursery originally supplied free plants for the staff and camp gardens. Today it’s a hub of research and education and falls under SANParks Scientific Services. Michele Hofmeyr, who runs the nursery, describes one of the unique problems the nursery faces on a daily basis: “We’re like Sweets from Heaven for elephants. Once, one pulled the fence pole straight out of the tar to get in!”
What’s in stock?
The nursery is well-known for supplying a variety of plants suitable for the Lowveld and Highveld that are found specifically in the boundaries of the Kruger National Park; and of the over 500 species that take root there, it has more than 185 on its species list.
“We practice survival of the fittest here,” she explains. “The rangers and I collect seeds from the park to cultivate in the nursery. We soak them in cold water to simulate a rainfall event and plant them in season straight in the ground. Those that come up are planted in different-sized bags. We keep the process as natural as possible, so by the time they’re in the bag, they’re vigorous enough to survive.”
Bringing the veld home
Indigenous plants have a unique regional identity creating a natural habitat for insect, bird and wildlife.
Some of Michele’s favourite plants include the impala lily (Adenium multiflorum). “It’s a real Lowveld classic and a jewel in the veld during the winter months,” she says. It needs little maintenance, and if you’re not in the Lowveld or don’t have a rock garden, she advises planting it in a pot with sandy, well-drained soil. Don’t water it in winter! The same treatment applies to kudu lilies (Pachypodium saundersii), which flower in summer.
Kudu lilies (Pachypodium saundersii)
Great for attracting feathery friends to you garden are the toad tree (Tabernaemontana elegans), the sunbird bush (Metarungia longistrobus) and the knobbly fig tree (Ficus sansibarica). The first is ideal for any size garden, has lovely big leaves, a spreading crown and is low-branching – great for shade and for children to climb.
Sunbird bush (Metarungia longistrobus)
Can do! The nursery team saw a great opportunity in some old empty cans and machinery left in the park. The cans are now sapling-growing kits, complete with seeds, gravel and soil. For R10, you can take home a tree from the Kruger. Options include fever trees, knob thorns, gardenias and jackal berries. Just pop open the can – the instructions and everything else you need are inside.