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This post was originally published on 30 July 2015
Portulacaria afra, better known as Spekboom, is an indigenous evergreen succulent tree that is predominantly found in the Eastern Cape. The tree forms an important part of the Valley Thicket Biome as it is both fire-resistant and water-wise.
Climate & Photosynthesis Spekboom is able to adapt its process of photosynthesis depending on its conditions and availability of water. In wet conditions it uses the same system as rainforest plants and switches its system to one used by desert cacti in dry conditions. Through this switch, it is able to store solar energy to photosynthesise at night when temperatures are cooler.
Studies have shown that a single hectare of Spekboom is able to convert 4.2 tons of carbon-dioxide into oxygen per year. The tree’s carbon-storing capabilities makes it up to 10 times more effective than any tropical rain forest.
Structure & Growth Spekboom flourishes in warm summers and areas where rainfall is between 250 and 375mm per year. During Spring, star-shaped pink or light purple flowers appear which can be used to make honey. The tree’s cork-like roots measure up to 20cm in diameter and can reach heights of between 2.5 and 4.5m, making it ideal to use as a natural hedge.
Health Benefits Spekboom is rich in manganese, cobalt and magnesium. It also contains micro elements, iodine and selenium which act as an antioxidant. The leaves have a refreshing, slightly tart, lemony taste and can be used to treat a number of ailments including heart burn, dehydration, exhaustion and heat stroke. The leaves are typically suckled on or can be eaten as part of a salad.
Cultivation In order to propagate Spekboom, cut a small branch just below a node. Remove the bottom leaves and dip the end of the stem into hormone powder. Create a small hole in soil and plant the stem. New roots will form on the stems within 3-4 weeks. Plant the stems in the desired locations and fill the holes with soil. Water the stems well to ensure that the roots settle. Spekboom grows best over a period of three years or greater and can reach ages of up to a 100 years.
Bonsai (Japanese ‘tray planting’, is a Japanese version of the original traditional Chinese art penjing or penzai. The Japanese “bonsai” only attempts to produce small trees that mimic the shape of real life trees. Similar versions of the art exist in other cultures.
The loanword “bonsai” (a Japanese pronunciation of the original Chinese term penzai) has become an umbrella term in English, attached to many forms of potted or other plants. In the most restrictive sense, “bonsai” refers to miniaturized, container-grown trees adhering to Japanese tradition and principles.
Purposes of bonsai are primarily contemplation for the viewer, and the pleasant exercise of effort and ingenuity for the grower.] By contrast with other plant cultivation practices, bonsai is not intended for production of food or for medicine. Instead, bonsai practice focuses on long-term cultivation and shaping of one or more small trees growing in a container.
Bonsai can be created from nearly any perennial woody-stemmed tree or shrub species that produces true branches and can be cultivated to remain small through pot confinement with crown and root pruning. Some species are popular as bonsai material because they have characteristics, such as small leaves or needles, that make them appropriate for the compact visual scope of bonsai.
The source specimen is shaped to be relatively small and to meet the aesthetic standards of bonsai, which emphasizes not the entirety of grand sceneries but rather only the tree itself. When the candidate bonsai nears its planned final size, it is planted in a display pot, usually one designed for bonsai display in one of a few accepted shapes and proportions. From that point forward, its growth is restricted by the pot environment. Throughout the year, the bonsai is shaped to limit growth, redistribute foliar vigor to areas requiring further development, and meet the artist’s detailed design.
The practice of bonsai is sometimes confused with dwarfing, but dwarfing generally refers to research, discovery, or creation of plants that are permanent, genetic miniatures of existing species. Plant dwarfing often uses selective breeding or genetic engineering to create dwarf cultivars. Bonsai does not require genetically dwarfed trees but rather depends on growing small trees from regular stock and seeds. Bonsai uses cultivation techniques like pruning, root reduction, potting, defoliation, and grafting to produce small trees that mimic the shape and style of mature, full-size trees.
Ravenala is a genus of flowering plants with a single species, Ravenala madagascariensis, commonly known as the traveller’s tree, traveller’s palm or East-West palm, from Madagascar. It is not a true palm (family Arecaceae) but a member of a monocotyledonous flowering plant family, Strelitziaceae. The genus is closely related to the southern African genus Strelitzia and the South American genus Phenakospermum. Some older classifications include these genera in the banana family (Musaceae). Although it is usually considered to be a single species, four different forms have been distinguished. Wikipedia
coconut palm, (Cocos nucifera), palm of the family Arecaceae, cultivated extensively in tropical areas for its edible fruit, the coconut. Coconut palms are found in tropical coastal areas nearly worldwide and probably originated somewhere in Indo-Malaya. They are the most economically important palm species, coconuts being one of the predominant crops of the tropics.