Meet spekboom: The miracle plant

South Africa is home to a great number of biomes and unique indigenous plants. Its best-kept secret? Spekboom. This humble succulent offers so much for its natural environment and holds incredible properties and uses. Learn about this super plant, why it truly is the miracle plant, and how you can start growing and adding it into your life.  

A closer look at spekboom

This wonder plant needs little introduction in the world of garden and environmental enthusiasts. Part sprawling shrub, part small tree, and packs punch in fun size as bonsai. The ‘bacon tree’ (as translated from Afrikaans), also known as the porkbush, hails from its native landscape of the semi-deserts, bushveld, and rocky plains in the Eastern Cape. To understand a little more on why this plant with many names is so incredible, explore our succulent series. Requiring fairly low maintenance, you can bring the plant inside your home as a succulent dish or hanging plant, while also adding it to your autumn garden as hedging or a natural screen. Being a plant so diverse, you will delight in knowing we stock several varieties. 

Find your favourite at Lifestyle Home Garden

When a multi-talented plant comes in not just one, but five forms, you know it’s a crowd-pleaser. Choose the best variety for your home:

  • Spekboom (also known as Elephant’s Food): This is the standard variety, with lush evergreen foliage and red stems. You will find lovely small blossoms blooming during the spring to early summer months.
  • Large leaf spekboom: A larger leafed form of this plant group — even more to love and shape into sculptural hedges. Also perfect for natural screening and smaller features like containers.
  • Variegated spekboom (also known as Rainbow Elephant’s Food): Express your newfound love for this plant type with its upright green and cream foliage, with a deeper tone of mahogany along its stems. Lovely as a hedge, in flower beds, containers, and rockeries.
  • Dwarf spekboom (also known as Dwarf Elephant’s Food): Cover more ground with this spreading variety. Also a great plant for retaining walls and growing as a cascading feature.
  • Yellow spekboom (also known as Yellow Elephant’s Food): Think of a limited gold series, but with all the joy of being evergreen. Spread its golden hues in usual spots like pots, flower beds, and rockeries, but also use its prostrate tendencies to assist in preventing ground erosion on slopes.

Nature’s homegrown multitool

We are in awe of this plant and what it offers – from its incredible medicinal and hydrating properties to its life-giving promises for a greener future. If you have an ailment, keep on reading.

Medicine

Traditional healers will be quick to reference this plant for a number of treatments. 

  • Hydrates: Just suck a leaf to alleviate thirst and dehydration, reduce exhaustion and symptoms of heatstroke.
  • Relieves: Crush a leaf and apply to blisters to alleviate pain. 
  • Treats: Chew leaves for sore throats and mouth infections.
  • Heals: Juice the leaves and use as an antiseptic on wounds.
  • Soothes: When the pulp gets applied to the skin, it can also calm sore pimples, sensitive rashes, nasty stings, and painful sunburns.

Nutrition

Nibbling on a Spekboom leaf won’t only cure an irritation, but also provide important health benefits. The edible leaves of the Elephantbush are rich in manganese, cobalt, and magnesium, as well as Vitamin C, iodine and selenium. The flavour interestingly changes throughout the day. During the daytime, it tastes very acidic and lemon-like. As evening approaches, the hint of acidity lessens.

It is a fabulous natural resource to eat during famine and also assists breastfeeding mothers in stimulating milk production. For meal ideas, add the leaves to freshen a salad or toss in a sprig to flavour a stew.

Landscaping and environmental uses

As seen in the five different varieties we stock and the ideal ways to plant them, they suit all forms of landscaping and environmental needs. Overall, the varieties are great for firescaping, xeriscaping and reducing greenhouse gases through carbon sequestration, and assist in binding soil to prevent erosion. Generally, the plants can withstand a well-watered bed but must have well-draining soil. They make a fabulous groundcover, roof greener, hanging plant, and vertical garden addition, and if maintained, are sweet in a succulent dish. When the stems are dried, they also serve as a natural thatch roof building material.

The plant is uniquely adapted to curb water evaporation during dry seasons with its ability to open its stomata (pores for gas exchange) at night and close them during the day to avoid water loss. Then, during wet months, the times the stomata are open reverses from nighttime to daytime. In addition, this plant defies nature by living up to 200 years old and can survive on only 250 – 350mm of water a year. Incredible! To top off this plant being a top choice for gardeners, its cuttings are easily propagated and roots easiest during spring up until autumn. Easy greening and water-wise? Yes, please.

Welcome this miracle plant home

However you decide to use spekboom in your life, we hope it brings both indigenous plant pride, as well as the magic of nature into your heart and home. For more information on the right plant type for your home, contact us.

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