5 STAR COUNTRY HOUSE VILLA AND GOURMET GETAWAY

Indigenous Forest Project

Water is scarce and indigenous trees require very little. When you stay with us we offset your carbon footprint.

Once upon a time, 'man' had not interfered with nature's intended environmental design for our landscape. Millennia later, we are witnessing, first-hand, the assault of 'mans' ignorance on our environment.

Luckily we now understand the challenges faced to ensure that future generations have a beautiful world to enjoy, and explore.

As part of our refurbishment programme at umSisi House, we have committed to planting 10 hectares of meadowland with indigenous trees commonly found in this particular eco-zone. To date, we have planted over 100 trees and hope to plant many more in the years to come.

It is our intention to stabilise the soil, replenish nutrients depleted by over-grazing, provide attractive food resources for indigenous wildlife (caterpillars through to elephants) as well as nesting sites and shade.

Obviously, we also want to create carbon offsets from the planting of our trees, and we are happy to pass these onto our guests.

This project hinges on the notion that trees help to minimise climate change by requisitioning carbon dioxide as they grow. Climate scientists believe that human-induced, global deforestation is responsible for 18 - 25% of global climate change. The United Nations, World Bank and other leading non-governmental organisations are encouraging reforestation, avoided deforestation and other projects that encourage tree planting to minimise the effects of climate change.

Trees utilise carbon through photosynthesis, converting carbon dioxide and water into molecular dioxygen (O2). Hence, forests that grow in area or density and thus increase in organic biomass will reduce atmospheric CO2 levels. Carbon is released as CO2, if a tree burns or decays, but as long as the forest is able to grow back at the same rate as its biomass is lost, due to oxidation of organic carbon, the net result is carbon neutral.

So far, we have planted a specific number of each tree listed below which will, in due course, be labelled to ensure we can all enjoy their particular development:

The Lucky Bean Tree (Erythrina lysistemon) is our signature tree. Please see the detailed section on 'umSisi ' in our blog for a comprehensive overview.

Brown Ivory (Berchemia discolor)

A large to medium-sized tree. It flowers in small clusters of yellowish-green between November and January. The fruit is a fleshy drupe, slightly oval, and yellow when ripe between January and May. The pale brown wood works well and is used to make furniture. The sweet fruit is high in vitamin C and sugar and the seeds taste like walnuts. This date-like fruit is eaten by animals and humans and sometimes used medicinally for toothache. The fruit and bark are often used to treat infertility. Leaves have anti-microbial properties. The fruit is sometimes eaten boiled with sorghum and tea-like beverage is made from the leaves. A strong alcoholic drink is distilled from the fruit. Large quantities of the fruit are collected, dried and stored for later use. The fruit and leaves can also be used as fodder. Bees are attracted to the small yellow-green flowers found in loose clusters on the tree. The wood is excellent for making furniture such as tables, chairs and benches and is also used in making poles, pestles and hair combs. A black dye, popular with basket makers, is produced from powdered heartwood and roots and its ash is used as a whitewash for painting houses. The spreading branches and heavy, rounded crown make this an effective shade tree and windbreak.

Cape Ash (Ekebergia capensis)

A medium sized tree found in Afro-montane and riverine forests. Small white to green flowers are found between the leaves with male and female flowers on separate trees. The tree is in flower between August and December. Round fleshly berries, red to black when ripe, are visible from November to June. This light, valuable wood is used to make furniture. The fruits are eaten by birds and mammals and the leaves are eaten by browsers. Water in which roots or bark has been simmered is used to treat heartburn, coughs and chest complaints. Leaves are used in a decoction with other plants as a purgative. Also used for treatment of headaches, backaches and skin ailments. It was also used to magically protect the chief against witchcraft.

Common Wild Fig (Ficus burkei subsp. Petersii)

This is a large, single-trunked tree that branches low down to form a wide-spreading, semi-circular canopy. This is a strangler fig, and often masses of aerial roots can be seen hanging from the branches and main trunk. The flowers are inside the fruit and not visible. The fruit is eaten by monkeys, baboons and a wide variety of fruit-eating birds and bats. Leaves, twigs and fallen fruit are eaten by elephant, giraffe, kudu, nyala, impala and bushbuck. The fruit is edible to humans as well and used to make beer. Bark fibre is used for making mats, and twined bark to make strong rope. Extraction of bark is used for colds and throat infections, to prevent constipation, to stop nose bleeds and to stimulate lactation. It is believed that miscarriage can be prevented by drinking a tea made from the root. The milky latex, dropped into the eye, is used to treat cataracts.

False Olive (Buddleja saligna)

This tree can by up to 10m tall and is found in warm moist areas. Saligna is a reference to the leaves being willow like. The flowers are tiny, creamy white and borne in dense sprays usually at the ends of branches. The flowers have a lovely honey scent and appear from August to January. The seeds are minute, forming in small, hairy capsules which develop in the dried out flowers between October and March. The plant is used for traditional medicinal purposes, the roots as a purgative and the leaves to treat coughs and colds. The wood is very fine grained and used to make small pieces of furniture including assegai handles. The straight branches are used to make fence posts. It also makes good fuel wood as it burns with an intense heat. The large amount of pollen and nectar it produces makes it popular with bee farmers.

Fever Tree (Acacia xanthlophea)

This tree is unique in appearance. No other thorn tree in this area has a trunk and branches that are yellow-green and covered in yellow powder. If the powdery surface is rubbed away with the finger it will reveal a green bark beneath. Young twigs have a red-brown bark which peels off leaving sulphur-yellow twigs. The long, straight white thorns are arranged in pairs and although they are very significant on young trees they often become barely noticeable on mature specimens. Bright yellow, golden, ball-like flowers which are sweetly scented are borne in clusters on the ends of branches. Flowering occurs from August or September to November. Flowers are followed by the production of flat, bean-like, papery, brown pods which hang in clusters and split open to reveal small brown seeds. They can be harvested from January to April. The genus name Acacia is derived from the Greek word acantha meaning spine, thorn or prickle and the species name xanthophloea is derived from the Greek words xanthos meaning yellow and phloios meaning bark. This tree is popular amongst birds for nest building as the thorns add extra protection against predators such as snakes. Young branches and leaves are eaten by elephant and the leaves and pods are eaten by giraffe and vervet monkeys. Monkeys and grey louries also eat the flowers. T he gum and green seeds are eaten by baboons. Insects such as bees are attracted by the yellow colour and sweet scent of the flowers and perform a pollination role. The wood is hard, heavy and is considered to be a general purpose timber. Medicinally the bark is used for treating fevers and eye complaints. Early pioneers thought that this tree caused a fever since people travelling or living in the areas where it grew contracted a bad fever. They therefore associated the fever with the tree. This however was erroneous as the swampy places where fever trees grow are also ideal breeding grounds for mosquitoes which carry malaria. Thus through these early settlers the myth was born and the plant acquired its name as the fever tree.

Flat-crown Albizia (Albizia adiantifolia)

As the common name of this magnificent tree suggests, Albizia adianthifolia has a conspicuous flat crown, which makes it easily identifiable. It can reach a height of over 40 metres. The flowers are striking, forming relatively large, half-spherical heads. Petals are white or greenish white and joined for at least two thirds of their length. The tree flowers in spring during the months of August to November. The fruit is a thin pod with a conspicuous margin and veins. As the pod dries and opens up, the margins often persist as the centre parts fall off. The seeds are flat and brown. It is unbelievable how many uses this tree has! The golden-yellow wood is light and soft-grained and used for naves; however, it may be used for many other general purposes as well. A sauce is said to be made from the seeds for use over food. The sweet-smelling gum or resin of this tree is used in cosmetics in some African countries; however it is of a somewhat inferior quality. Medicinally the tree has many uses. An emetic prepared from the bark is used to treat skin diseases and bronchitis. Extracts from the roots are applied to inflamed eyes and in some African countries the plant is one of the ingredients in a remedy for snakebite. The bark is also said to be effective in humans and animals for tapeworm treatment as well as headaches and sinusitis when powdered. In other African countries, the plant is used to ward off evil spirits and Zulus make a love charm emetic from it. The tree is also planted in some areas to conserve soil and control erosion. It is also valued for the shade and shelter it provides.

Natal Mahogany (Trichilia emetica)

This large, handsome, evergreen tree has a wide spreading crown which casts dense shade. The sweet smelling flowers are a creamy-green colour and are produced in tight bunches between August and November. The fruit is a round, pale-green woody capsule that splits open to reveal black seeds covered in red skin from December to April and favoured by birds. Occasionally a tree will only bear male flowers, so will never fruit. Monkeys feed on the flowers and baboon and antelope eat the fruit. The light wood is sought after and used to make furniture, canoes, bats, musical instruments and household items. Water in which bark has been soaked is used as an emetic or as a purgative. Powdered bark is used as an emetic or an enema and may also be used to make a pinkish dye. The seeds produce a good quality oil which can be rubbed into the body or used to heal bones. The fallen seeds are boiled in water and skimmed to obtain the oil. Seeds also used to make cosmetic oil and candles. Local Africans soak seeds in water, which leave behind a milky substance, which is sometimes eaten with spinach. The tree is valued by local Africans and seldom used as firewood.

Paperbark Acacia (Acacia sieberiana var. Woodii)

A magnificent, widely spreading, flat crown of deep green, feathery foliage and attractive creamy-tan to yellow-brown corky bark make this an easy tree to identify. The flaky, papery bark peels off in flattish strips, revealing a yellow under-bark. Balls of creamy to pale yellow scented flowers are borne from September to November and entice insects. Paired thorns are long, strong, straight and white. Light brown, woody pods are formed from March onwards and are thick and cylindrical often with velvety hairs. It is a favourite nesting site for many. The flowers lure beetles, bees and butterflies which in turn attract insectivorous birds. The pods have a musty scent (like old socks!) and are eaten by cattle and game (said to taint a cow's milk). They contain hydrocyanic acid, so the quantities fed to livestock should be limited (also quantities of wilted leaves). Bark and root extracts are used to treat arthritis and tapeworm infestations, root infusions are used as oral antiseptics or as a wash for children with fevers and stomach ache. In other African countries, a decoction of bark and roots is used for inflammation of the urinary passages while leaf, bark and resin are used as an astringent for colds, chest problems, diarrhoea, haemorrhage and eye inflammation. It may also be used to treat gonorrhoea. The edible gum is a good adhesive and twine from the inner bark is used for threading beads.

Round-leaved Teak (Pterocarpus rotundifolius)

A small, multi-stemmed, deciduous tree reaching a height of 10 metres. Deep yellow, pea-shaped flowers that grow in sprays appear from September to February. During hot, dry weather the flower buds remain closed and they burst into flower only on wet days, lasting two to three days. But it may flower more than once a season. Bunches of flat, winged pods with only a single seed inside ripen to dark brown from November to April. The tree's scented flowers attract many insects like bees and wasps which play a vital role in pollination. Ripe fruits are often dispersed by wind. Cattle and game browse the young leaves, and birds use it for nesting. Larvae of the bushveld charaxes butterfly live on the leaves. The leaves are also browsed by kudu and impala. Elephant find the leaves and twigs very palatable. The wood is durable and insect-proof and is used for wagon wheels, furniture and household use. The tree is also a favourite amongst bee farmers as it is a good source of nectar and pollen for honeybees.

Stellar Raisin or Cross Berry (Grewia sulcata)

A multi-stemmed, scrambling shrub or small tree with reddish-brown bark. It can reach up to 3 metres in height and is usually found on sandy soils. Small white or cream flowers form at the end of branches in clusters of up to 10 between May and August. The main stem is densely hairy. This tree belongs to the linden family which is a large group of trees and shrubs that are widely spread, are similar in appearance and often occur in big groups. The fruit is always berry-like and hard, but the size differs between species. The fruit or 'raisin' of the Cross Berry is red.

Snuff-box Tree (Oncoba spinosa)

A shrub or small tree up to 8 metres high. The flowers are solitary, large, white and showy with a distinct central mass of yellow stamens. The flowers are bisexual and are borne at in the base of the leaves or at the end of the branches. It flowers from September to January. Flowers somewhat resemble a fried egg and in Zimbabwe it is called the 'fried-egg flower'. The fruit is large, round and hard-shelled, covered in faint longitudinal ridges. Small seeds are embedded in dry yellow pulp and are dark reddish brown when ripe in April to July. The fruit is edible but not often eaten because it is sour. Seeds contain a drying oil which could be used for varnishes but it is not easily extractable. In African medicine the roots are used to treat dysentery and bladder problems. The hard-shelled fruits are used as snuff boxes. If the fruit are left to dry with the seeds inside they it make amusing rattles for children and are also used as anklets and armlets for dancers to add rhythm when performing. It is said that the seeds contain a drying oil that is suitable for varnish, but it is too difficult to extract to be of any commercial significance.

Wild Mango (Cordyla africana)

A medium to large tree with a deciduous, almost flat, spreading crown. Flowers are produced below the leaves in tight yellow-orange clusters from August to October. The fruit is produced in large oval pods which turn to yellow when ripe between December and February. The fruit drops from the tree before it is quite ripe, completing the ripening process on the ground. It contains one or two large, pale brown seeds embedded in an edible, fleshy pulp. They often germinate while still in the fruit. The fruit is eaten by humans and very rich in Vitamin C. The bark is used often in traditional medicine. The wood is used in particular to make African drums by hollowing out the entire trunk. These drums are said to be sonorous and can be heard a great distance away. The wood is also used as building material. The unusual white latex sap from twigs and green fruit is used as gum.

Umdoni Waterberry (Syzigium cordatum)

The species name cordatum means 'heart-shaped' and refers to the heart shaped base of the leaves. This is a single-trunked, low-branching tree that forms a dense, semi-circular canopy. This tree loves water. The sweet-smelling, pin-cushion flowers are creamy white to pinkish and rich in nectar. They grow in bunches in the ends of branches and twigs in leaf-rosettes from October to June. The fleshy, berry-like fruit grows in bunches in the leaf-rosettes, which resemble posies. The fruit turns deep purple when ripe between June and January. Butterflies and moths feed on the tree. Monkeys, baboons, bushpigs and bush babies eat the fruit, as well as many birds such as louries and doves. Grey duiker, kudu, nyala and bushbuck browse the foliage. Ball-like webs are made by the bright ginger Tailor Ant which favours this tree. The succulent berries are edible and used to make beer. The wood is used in furniture manufacture. The powdered bark can be used as a fish poison. An extract of the leaves was used as a purgative for diarrhoea, TB, the common cold and any fevers. Bark and roots were used for headaches and wounds.

If you would like to support our 'indigenous forest' initiative, please talk to Paddy or Amanda directly.

Contact us

T.  + 27 (0) 13 750 1520
M. + 27 (0) 82 479 9700
M. + 27 (0) 82 969 4455
F. + 27 (0) 86 548 5686

Postal Address: 
PostNet Suite 123, Private Bag X11326, Nelspruit 1200, Mpumalanga, South Africa

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  • Your dining experience will be one of the highlights of your stay at umSisi House.

Meals are served at the chef’s table in the open-plan kitchen or outside on the veranda weather permitting. Indulge, and book your gourmet getaway today.

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  • umSisi Cottage offers luxurious self-catering accommodation in the Peebles Valley, Mpumalanga.

The cottage sleeps 4, so is perfect for friends and family wishing to explore the Kruger Lowveld region.

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  • Christmas holidays are around the corner!

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  • It is official! umSisi House is amongst the "best of the best"! We are proud to announce that umSisi House recently received the provincial winner reward for Mpumalanga in the Country House Category from Lilizela Tourism Awards!

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  • Today we are proudly celebrating #WorldRhinoDay! "A true conservationist is a man who knows that the world is not given by his fathers but borrowed from his children" – Audubon

The sad reality is that at the rate rhinos are currently being poached, there will be no rhinos left in the wild within a few short years. Lets all stand together and fight for their future.

Photo Credit Black Pot Safaris and Genesis Room

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  • How does a private day safari and sumptuous picnic hamper in the most diverse game reserve in the world sound?

We are located only 20 minutes from the gates of the Kruger National Park and can arrange private day safaris to Africa's most famous game reserve.

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  • Return guests say it best – “We have stayed here several times and love the little cottage. It's perfect with my three year old. It's totally equipped for self-catering and you have the option of delicious home cooked meals prepared by the owners if you prefer (and when they don't have house guests). Would definitely recommend to stay here for couples and families. Also we have stayed at umSisi House which is gorgeous for larger groups wanting a gourmet getaway.” Tripadvisor review from Casey C. www.bit.ly/umSisiTripAdvisor1

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