Responsible Tourism at Bellevue

Grow Green is a ‘green’ project developed through the Bellevue Foundation. The Foundation is the non-profit branch of Bellevue that focuses on the conservation of the bio-diverse fauna and flora and community upliftment.

With Future Growth guests can donate R250 towards the project and a Spekboom tree will be planted. Guests can choose to either get their hands dirty and help plant the tree or rely on one of the students to plant in their honor. The donators will get to receive the GPS coordinates to monitor the progress and visit their tree on the next visit to Bellevue. Guests that contribute to this endeavor will receive a certificate acknowledging their important role with the GPS coordinates of the tree.

The main drive behind the Future Growth project is to maintain and preserve the indigenous vegetation.
One can take in the surreal beauty on a walk through this enchanting forest and hear the whispers of hundreds of years of wisdom. The gnarled branches are testament to the perseverance of these twisting branches as they slowly creep their way up in search of sunlight. There are also draping branches that completely encapsulate anyone walking through the forest in a moment where time stands still and the rest of the world fades away. The only sounds that make it into the forest are those of the twittering birds and sway of the creaking branches.

The Spekboom trees on Bellevue are covered in lichen, which looks like a fungus but only adorns the branches and takes nutrients from the air. Lichen comes in various forms, it can look like furry green foliage, small turquoise leaves or wispy strands that hang from the tree like a grandfather’s beard. It is generally a sign of fresh air, so take a gulp of the ‘Champagne Air’ whilst losing yourself in a fairy-tale.

1. SPEKBOOM IS PROUDLY SOUTH AFRICAN

It is found predominantly in the Eastern Cape, where growing conditions are ideal for this resilient plant. It favors North-facing slopes where it is exposed to maximum sunlight. Thriving in poor soils, it tolerates both drought and frost making it a very hardy plant.

2. SPEKBOOM IS ONE OF THE BEST CARBON SEQUESTRATORS IN THE WORLD

Hectare for hectare, Spekboom thicket is ten times more effective than the Amazon rainforest at removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. One hectare of Spekboom can sequester between 4 and 10 tons of carbon per year. This makes it a powerful tool in the fight against climate change and the move towards a zero-carbon world.

3. SPEKBOOM CAN LIVE UP TO 200 YEARS

And Spekboom trees can grow as tall as 5 meters. Prior to the advent of large-scale livestock farming, some areas of the Eastern Cape had Spekboom forests so thick that it was said a grown human could walk across the top as if walking on a carpet. Spekboom propagates very easily, and a broken-off branch can quickly grow roots and create a whole new plant.

4. SPEKBOOM ARE EQUIPPED WITH A UNIQUE MECHANISM FOR ADAPTING TO THEIR SURROUNDINGS

In the wet, cool months, Spekboom photosynthesizes like other plants, opening its stomata during the day to absorb carbon dioxide. During drier times, the plant can open its stomata at night in order to prevent water loss during the heat of the day.

5. SPEKBOOM IS EDIBLE, WITH A VERY HIGH NUTRITIONAL VALUE

It is a favored food of black rhinos, elephants and kudus. The good news is that we can eat it too. With a slightly lemony taste, Spekboom leaves are juicy and full of moisture, making them the perfect ‘pick-me-up’ during a long day’s hiking in the arid Karoo. Popular Cape Town restaurants like the Pot Luck Club use this succulent as accents to their beautifully crafted dishes.