What you didn't know about the Spekboom

Today I had a pleasant surprise when I received an unexpected gift from The Glass Recycling Company.

Spekboom Gift from The Glass Recycling Company
Photo Credits Ziyaad Plaatjes

It was rather weird answering the door and a guy is standing with a glass bottle and a glass vase with a Spekboom in it, in his hand.

The reason why it was weird for me, is because normally we are the ones on the other side of the door delivering the plant.

What most might not know, is that more than 10 years ago I started a Bonsai hiring and landscaping business with my dad.

The business initially started more than 30 years ago as just a hobby, as my mum had bought my dad a Bonsai and he enjoyed nurturing it so much that he joined the local Bonsai society and started a collection.

Over the years the collection grew and grew and grew to a point where we actually had a mini nursery in our back yard.

Due to the exquisite variety of trees that my dad had acquired over the years, people saw them and wanted to purchase them. Selling his prized possessions wasn't going to happen, so he decided to grow trees from cuttings of his trees to sell instead.

As I grew older I helped him out and we would supply various nurseries, florists, supermarkets, and what we used to call "flea markets" (now pop-ups) around Durban.

At the time, there was a principal of a school who would hire a Bonsai for his office, but everyone else preferred to purchase their own and attempt to look after it themselves.

Fast forward to 2007 when we made the decision to move up to Johannesburg with the huge collection of Bonsai trees.

It was then that I had the idea of hiring the collection of trees out to corporates and restaurants as a change to the usual bouquet of followers that they were used to.

The concept was that we would place a tree in people's offices, reception areas or in strategic places in a restaurant, and would change the tree once a week so that they would not need to worry about watering or maintaining it.

Like many of the things that we do, it was a "First of its kind" business in the world - which in fact has only started hitting the European market recently and nowhere near anywhere else in the world.

The collection once again grew and in 2015 when Nabihah and I started what is now iloveza.com we decided to sell some of these Bonsai trees at a local Sunday market. Incidentally, one of the type of trees that we sold at the market was the Spekboom.

Bonsai at Sunday Market
Photo Credits Ziyaad Plaatjes

The reason why we chose this tree besides all the environmentally friendly characteristics which people are highlighting this year in what is known as the Spekboom Challenge, was that over the years we found that no matter what people did to these trees, they wouldn't get as damaged or die as easily as a Ficus or Acacia would (the common Bonsai trees).

For Bonsai beginners this tree was perfect, and the health benefits of having one of these in your home was an added bonus.

We still Sell and Hire out the Bonsai Spekboom and probably will long after the #SpekboomChallenge has died down.

Bonsai Spekboom
Photo Credits Ziyaad Plaatjes

The glass vase which The Glass Recycling Company had put ours in, was a nice touch because of the focus on the carbon-reducing element of the Spekboom and of recycling your glass bottles and jars.

We found that the glass containers has always been well received over the plastic or ceramic dishes, especially when we had supplied them for corporate gifting, weddings, and even when someone decided to give them to guests as gifts for their 21st.

Portulacaria Afra commonly known as the Spekboom, Elephant Bush or Dwarf Jade is an amazing small leaved succulent plant as it has the unique ability to switch it's photosynthetic mechanism from that of a rainforest plant in wet conditions to that of a desert cactus in semi-arid conditions and can survive on 250-350mm of rain per year and still grow to a height of 2.5m.

The Spekboom has an excellent ability to absorb carbon from the atmosphere like a sponge and use it to create its own plant tissue. This, in turn, improves the quality of air that we breathe, which is needed right now with COVID-19 spreading rapidly across the globe.

The list of reasons why one should plant a Spekboom in their garden or even just keep one in their house as a Bonsai tree are endless. What most might not know is that the Spekboom is also edible with a very high nutritional value. Animals such as rhinos, elephants and kudus enjoy them and we can enjoy them too. It is said to have a slightly lemony taste and are very juicy due to the high content of moisture in the leaves. So next time you are hiking and feeling for a snack you know where to find one.

If you do want to join the challenge and plant your Spekboom outside in your garden rather than keep it in its glass container, remember to visit one of the glass banks and recycle the container.

An interesting fact is that every ton of glass bottles and jars made using recycled glass rather than raw materials, prevents the emission of 670kg of carbon emissions.

If you would like to purchase or hire a Bonsai Spekboom or any other Bonsai tree, or are looking for some Landscaping advice contact us on howzit@iloveza.com.


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Ziyaad Plaatjes is the Co-Founder of iloveza.com.

He is a Bachelor of Commerce Honours graduate and has been running businesses since the age of 13. Ziyaad is a registered Financial Advisor, but has taken on many roles in various industries over the years. With his entrepreneurial skills and vast knowledge he assists individuals and businesses to grow and achieve their goals.  

Find him at: Instagram: @ziyaad_86 / @ilovezacom Twitter: @ziyaad86 / @ilovezacom Facebook: iloveza.com  LinkedIn: Ziyaad Plaatjes / iloveza.com YouTube: iloveza.com  SoundCloud: iloveza.com E-mail: ziyaad@iloveza.com

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