Spekboom is good for: oxygen and health benefits

South Africa’s miracle plant

The Spekboom is a nice-looking, indigenous to South Africa, drought-hardy plant. Spekboom is good for:

Spekboom is good for growing a windbreak or privacy hedge. These plants are very easy to shape when a box hedge is desired.

  • Spekboom is known for its incredible carbon-storing capabilities and
  • many health benefits.
  • It is one of but a few plants that release oxygen during day and night and as Spekboom creates clean air – it is a fantastic indoor plant
  • It promotes soil binding flora, which helps prevent erosion.
  • Another benefit of the Spekboom is being edible. The plant offers many health reasons and it is an eady-to-grow food source.
    This sprawling shrub, or small tree, naturally grows in the rocky areas of the bushveld and semi-desert regions. Bees and butterflies love its masses of soft pink nectar-rich flowers, which is followed with small papery three-winged fruits.

Indigenous people use the plant for medicinal and domestic purposes, including:

  • Spekboom has skin soothing properties and treats ailments like rashes, insect stings, sunburn or blisters with crushed leaf juice.
  • Plant parts treat heatstroke and thirst by sucking a leaf or throat and mouth infections by chewing leaves.
  • The stems are good building material when dried and used as thatch for roofing of the huts/homes.
  • Mozambican breastfeeding mothers believe these leaves help increasing their milk production by eating the leaves.
  • The leaves are best eaten in the mornings while still sweet. The succulent leaves turn more sour and bitter with the climbing sun.

Most importantly: Comparing the Amazon forest hectare for hectare with a Spekboom thicket and Spekboom wins at removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Ten times over. 5 Hectares of Spekboom can remove 20 – 50 tonnes of carbon per year.

2020 kicked off for South Africans with this Spekboom Challenge:
A) plant 10 spekboom trees,
B) share and post it on Social Media as #spekboomchallenge and
C) challenge a friend to do the same. (Gardening Eden wants to up this challenge to 20 spekboom trees in 2020 – add #20spekboomchallenge to your share)
Because of this challenge, thousands of spekboom trees have since been planted and in some cases, the challenge amount has grown to 10 plants per person (or more). Which is great since a single mature spekboom can remove 8.5kg of carbon a year. Keep in mind that typically 9.18 tons of carbon emissions per person are released from vehicles alone.

More good news…
Stellenbosch – outside Cape Town, South Africa – will soon host the largest African labyrinth with 13 circuits – consisting of spekboom trees. The garden diameter will be 220m and visible far from above.
It will be called “The Great Labyrinth of Africa” and be built at the Stellenbosch Bridge Smart City development.
“If we don’t regress carbon emissions by 2025, we’ll go past the tipping point and all of humanity will face extinction,” said Peter Shrimpton, Chief executive of the Heart Capital and founder of the Great Labyrinth Project .

The Labyrinth of the Chartres Cathedral in France is the design that the “The Great Labyrinth of Africa” is based on.
Image: Smithsonian Magazine

Propagating is easily done from cuttings in spring, summer and autumn. Keep them dry-moist and use river sand to root in – and ensure your final soil is well-draining. These plants are quite fast-growing and will not need, but respond, to compost and water. Seeing that this succulent needs very little to thrive – growing as many as possible is ideal. It is ideal for windy areas as a windbreak. They can be planted in dry desert or coastal gardens.

Spekboom is the best plant for the beginner gardener because it needs very little attention. As long as you elliminate poor drainage and overwatering, you can’t really get it wrong. Since this anazing plant is a greenhouse hero, it shouldbe on every balcony and windowsill, and we believe all traffic islands and highways should be hedge-planted with it too.

Celosia a.k.a garden cockscomb

Sensational Celosia a.k.a garden cockscomb


Celosia a.k.a garden cockscomb, a member of the Amaranthaceae family, is also known as garden cockscomb, or wool flower, and originated in tropical Asia, most commonly India. It is invaluable as a mass-planted bedding variety, container filler, and glorious mixed summer-border specimen. The flowers show in vibrant shades of orange, yellow, bronze, red, scarlet, pink and magenta, so make for wonderful ‘hot-spots’ of intense, textured colour in the garden.

There are two distinct species of Celosia. C. argentea is cultivated for its tall, showy heads of dainty, plumed flowers. C. cristata is a lower growing plant, and produces distinctive heads of stiff, compact, densely packed blooms. They put on a long and delightful display of colourful abundance during the warmer months. Hybridization has resulted in the availability of tall and dwarf varieties in both species.

Celosia, a.k.a garden cockscomb, was originally classified as a weed, but has become an incredibly popular summer bedding variety. It can take lots of direct sunlight, and requires only minimal care and watering once established. The plant is hardy and wind-resistant, so is particularly useful in gardens which are exposed to strong winds, or are located in coastal areas.

Celosia can be grown with success in all regions of the country. It will do particularly well in well-drained soil enriched with compost, and with an occasional sprinkling of complete, water-soluble fertilizer. Varieties such as celosia argentea ‘Pyramidalis’, with its brilliant red clusters of feathery flowers, is just one example of the many cultivars which bring vibrant colour, and enduring vigour to the summer landscape.

Text by Liz Killassy

Information Supplied by the Bedding Plant Growers Association. Contact Bronwen Tuck, chairperson 083 678 5907

Bulbophyllum collettii syn. wendlandianum

Bulbophyllum collettii syn. wendlandianum

Planting and growing requirements: well-draining conditions in shallow pots, tree ferns or cork bark.
Ideal temperature: 12°C

The spring flowers of this plant is produced 4 – 6 per flower spike, are maroon and striped yellow. Fine hairs cover the top sepal and petals, fluttering easily in slight breezes.

Keep your plants in shade, mild to warm temperatures, moist in summer with reduced watering in winter. Do not allow the mix to dry, and ensure good air flow to prevent fungal growth. Pot plants in sphagnum moss, fine bark, or mounted.

Gladiolus liliaceus – Brown afrikaner, ribbokblom

Gladiolus liliaceus Brown afrikaner, ribbokblom

Indigenous to South Africa; 50cm
Planting position: Full sun or semi-shade.Ideal for areas with high winter rainfalls. Regions without severe heat, drought or humidity.
Requires regular winter watering, but kept dry during summer.Well-composted, well-draining sandy soil.Watch out for botrytis, thrips and virus infections.
Propagate from division of cormlets after flowering.

Its spring flowers are perfumed at night and creamy, striped brown, with a centre stripe of purple.

Scadoxus multiflorus – Powder brush

Scadoxus multiflorus Powder brush

Indigenous to South Africa;
Planting position: Full sun or semi-shade.Regions without humidity.
Scadoxus multiflorus (Powder brush) requires regular summer- and autumn watering, keeping bulbs dry in winter.Well-draining, compost-enriched loam soil.
Propagate from division after flowering.

The bulbous species known as Scadoxus multiflorus – Powder brush has deep green foliage and bright red, globular flowers.  

Chlorophytum comosum, Spider plant

Chlorophytum comosum, Spider plant

Indigenous to South Africa; 50cm
Requirements: regular watering during growing season, and less during winter. Potting mixtures of soil-based and perlite.Medium-light-intensity.
Propagate from layering.

The spider plant is an easy-to-grow subject with soft, green and cream, arching rosettes and summer flowers. These small blooms are star-shaped and white.
C. comosum ‘Variegata’ is the popular, trailing Hen and Chicks plant which has numerous plantlets on the stolons’ ends.

It is drought-tolerant and quite disease- and pest-free. It easily propagates by means of growing succulent roots from plantlets on the spreading flower stems and prefers filtered sunlight.

Other common names of the perennial plant include:

Airplane plant, St. Bernard’s lily, spider ivy, ribbon plant, and hen and chickens.

Arundo donax “Giant reed” is edible and useful

Arundo donax “Giant reed”

S. Europe; 3 – 5m
Planting position: Full sun.Areas without severe frost.Ideal for coastal areas.Ideal for high rainfall regions.
Requires regular watering during dry periods.Well-draining, compost enriched soil.Pruning at the end of summer, ensuring new growth
Propagate from root division

A large, upright plant with grass-like, greyish-green leaves.
Arundo donax var. variegata (3 -4m) with its long leaves streaked cream.

The perennial Arundo donax “Giant reed” or cabe is edible and also known as  giant cane,elephant grass, carrizo, arundo, Spanish cane, Colorado river reed and wild cane. A. donax is a super strong, even aggressive grower that reproduces fast.

It is the rhizome that are mostly eaten, raw or cooked or they can be dried and ground into a powder or flour to make bread with. Young shoots and (quite bitter) leaves are also eaten cooked as a potherb.

This plant is very useful as a construction material.

Banksia speciosa, Showy banksia

Banksia speciosa, Showy banksia

Indigenous to Australia; 1,5m

Planting position: Full sun. Non-humidity regions. Ideal for areas with high winter rainfall.
Tolerates drought once established.
Requires regular watering, during dry spells especially, until established. Well-mulched, well-draining slightly acidic soil. Regular checking for borers’ attacks.
Propagate from seed.

This banksia is compact with creamy-yellow flower-cones in early spring. Its leaves are serrated, dark green and slim with silvery undersides. Small seed-storing follicles appear on older flowers. These help propagate banksias after destructive fires as they  burst open by fire. Thus, fires kill banksias but are also the reason they peopagate.

The Banksia speciosa, Showy banksia is ideal for low-maintenance  gardens.

Evening Primrose Plant Uses and Care

Evening Primrose Plant Uses and Care: Oenothera biennis at a glance: Indigenous to USA; 50cm – 2m
Planting position: Full sun.
Suitable for all growing regions without humidity.
Requires a little watering during ongoing dry spells.
Sandy soil.
Watch out for fungal diseases, snails and aphids.
Propagate from spring-sown (in situ) seed.

Truly a biennial, but treated as an annual this species produces fragrant yellow flowers, which open towards evening, thus the name. These summer flowersare hibiscus-like and its foliage is prominently mid-ribbed.
O. macrocarpa (30cm) is a smaller variety with yellow summer flowers.

This 1 – 2m tall plant lives 2 years, but self-sows and is perfect for dry, open soils in full sun. As Evening Primrose Plant Uses range from edible to medicinal – this plant is a must have, especially in coastal drought-stricken gardens. It does not need a lot of water and needs to be left alone.

Evening Primrose seeds can be sown in sown in autumn or very early spring.

The yellow spring- and summer flowers only appear at night or on overcast days and each flower lasts a single night. These flowers can be smelled from afar as they also have a strong lemon scent. The small seed pods appear at the end of summer and contain many red seeds.

Evening Primrose Plant Uses: food

All of the Evening Primrose is edible.
– The highly nutritius (pre-flowering, early spring) Evening primrose leaves contain tannins, flavonoids, mucilage and sugar, resin and phytosterols. Add them to your diet and menu as you would baby spinach.
– Evening Primrose seeds are high in proteïn, oil and essential amino acids.
– The (young) stems are peeled first and then eaten raw, steamed or fried.
– The fruit, or seed pods make a good flash-fried snack with dip.
– The edible spring and summer flowers are sweet and can be added to deserts, salads or as garnish.
– Treat and eat the roots like any root vegetale. Roots from pre-flowering young plants are best.

Evening Primrose Plant Uses: Medicinal

The flowers and seeds are harvested during summer to be dried for teas or to extract the oils. The entire plant can be dried in autum, after flowering, for herbal use later.

Evening Primrose seeds are known for their amazing oil – which has been used to treat eczema, the Sjögren-syndrome, premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and menopausal symptoms, polyarthritis and multiple sclerosis.

The Native Americans traditionally boiled the entire plant as a tonic tea for energy. They also recommended the roots as an external treatment for piles and boils.

Medicinally, Evening primrose can be consumed as dried – in the case of leaves and flowers – as well as oils – and capsules is the most common form.

Experts advice should always be seeked before self-medicating and recommend dosage amounts should strictly be kept to.

Caution should especially (but not solely) be taken by:
– pregnant and breastfeeding mothers;
– people prone to epilepsy, seizure disorders, schizophrenia or mania;
– patients with bleeding disorders or taking medicine that may increase bleeding as Evening Primrose can increase the risk further.

Evening Primrose Plant Uses: Permaculture
– The night flowers attract night time pollinators
– Considered to be allelopathic to weeds by interfering with  the germination and growth of weeds.

– Because of the above reason, this is an excellent addition for a garden as cover-crop.  Match it with a legume as it needs a bit of nitrogen.

Other Common Names and Synonyms:
Fever plant, great evening-primrose, kings-cure-all, night willow-herb, scabish, scurvish, tee primrose, sun drop, suncups,
Brunyera biennis Bubani,
Oenothera chicaginensis
Oenothera chicagoensis,
Oenothera grandiflora,
Oenothera muricata,
Oenothera pycnocarpa,
Oenothera renneri,
Oenothera rubricaulis,
Oenothera stenopetala,
Oenothera suaveolens,
Onagra biennis,
Onagra muricata

Prunella grandiflora Self heal is super useful!

Prunella grandiflora Self heal

Indigenous to Europe; 20 x 40cm
Planting position: Full sun. Suitable for colder growing regions, with additional watering in dry areas.
Requires regular watering, keeping the soil moist.Well-draining, compost-enriched soil. Cutting of flower heads.
Propagate from late winter division.

The Self heal produces dense spikes of spring- and summer flowers, emerging from a carpet of large leaves. The flowers are purple- to pink shaded and white.

Prunella grandiflora Self heal is a member of the mint family, and looks very similar but doesn’t have the characteristics aromatic fragrance. Prunella vulgaris is a tenacious perennial ground hugging plant that loves lawns and has 5cm long leaves and  small 2 lipped purple – violet flowers.

Insects and pollinators love Self heal. Prunella ‘Freelander Blue’ is known for being a favirite of bees, butterflies​ and​moths. Its flowers ae rich in nectar and polin. This is a good option to add to your vegetable garden.

All parts of the Self heal are edible, but the younger leaves are a tastier addition to salads.

Prunella grandiflora Self heal includes medicinal properties such as wound healing, treatment of inflammation, sore throat and headaches. Also for treating fevers and liver and kidney disorders and using as a tonic. Please always seek professional advice before trying any plant (including Self heal) as a treatment.