From my Hide: Plants, edible and otherwise….

David Holt-Biddle.

I HAVE a problem with dictionaries and encyclopaedias.

I find that I will take one off the shelf to look up one thing and an hour later I’m still browsing, having found so much more to distract and hopefully inform me.

The Illustrated Dictionary of Southern African Plant Names is just like that. You open it to see if your favourite garden tree, shrub or flower gets a mention, and an hour later you’re still at it.

This is a hefty tome and so is not really a field guide.It covers nearly 5,000 plants with over 500 colour photographs.

It explains the Greek and Latin origins of scientific and botanical names, and there are over 900 potted biographies of the men and women who did the naming, with nearly 600 images to illustrate them.

This was the part that really fascinated me – we owe the plant names we use every day to botanists and many amateurs.

Some were, and some still are, extraordinary people, the oldest being a Roman who was born before the Christian era, a soldier, farmer and early botanist, with nearly every century after that being represented, including the 21st.

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The emphasis is perhaps on the 1600 and 1700s, when there was an explosion of scientific interest in such things as botany. (The Roman, by the way, was Lucius Junius Moderatus Columella, who lent his name to Columellea Asteraceae, the huge daisy family).

The book was six years in the making and apart from the authors and the editor, Eugene Moll, there were a host of contributors one way or another, including locals Graham Greave and Geoff Nichols.

Staying local, as we all live on the Hibiscus Coast, hibiscus comes from the Greek hibiskos.

Even closer to home, the duranta that is in front of the Hide was named by Castor Durantes, an Italian physician, poet and botanist/herbalist, who lived in the 1500s.

He started one of the earliest herbaria for medicinal plants from Europe and the East and West Indies in Venice in 1584 (if that doesn’t knock ‘em dead at your next cocktail party, nothing will).

This book is a delight, whether you are a serious botanist or not, it will give many, many hours of pleasure.*

Ironically, this Sunday, the 12th, is Plant a Flower Day, so check the book, buy a flower and plant it.

And staying with plants, most readers will have read in this newspaper about the opening of the Kumnandi fresh produce shop in Margate, so I won’t bore you with the details.

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We are now regular customers because the fruit and veggies are really fresh and reasonable, and they come with a smile, which is important.

Kumnandi is basically a co-operative of small scale farmers who have undergone a course in organic horticulture and who now supply the shop.

It’s a great asset to the lower South Coast, where really good fruit and veg are usually in rather poor supply.

The Kumnandi shop is in the Sebenza Village in Margate and opens at 9am, Tuesdays to Saturdays.

Give them a try and remember, local is lekker.

*Illustrated Dictionary of Southern African Plant Names, Hugh Clarke & Michael Charters, Jacana, Johannesburg 2016.


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David Holt-Biddle

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