It’s time to discuss Portulacaria afra or Spekboom, which also goes by the name Pork Bush or Elephants Food.
This miracle plant is said to combat carbon emissions and has been the talk of the town – talk about being a plant with benefits!
This drought tolerant plant can survive both moderate frost and extreme heat, both of which it encounters in abundance in it’s natural habitat – the vast dry slopes of the Karoo in South Africa.
If you haven’t seen our previous Succulent Series and are interested, get updated|HERE|
Why the Hype for Spekboom?
This succulent is known to sequester (or capture) up to 10 tons of carbon emission per hectare. It’s proudly South African status and humble green leaves and red stems are making waves in in discussions worldwide, specifically relating to assist in the fight against global warming.
When we think back to the recent California fires and how rows of Euphorbia tirucalli Sticks on Fire were used as unintentional firebreaks – we really can be appreciative of this unique category of plants!
Why is planting Spekboom so hugely important?
Finding a way to combat global warming by reducing our carbon footprint is of immense relevance.
Having evolved to self-sustain in the arid Karoo, Spekboom comes with a few tricks up it’s green sleeves! It photosynthesises as any other plant would, when moisture comes its way during cooler weather. When warmer weather comes, carbon dioxide (CO2) is absorbed during the day, which is then stored as carbon compounds in the spekboom’s leaves, stems and roots.
Our Planet currently has carbon dioxide levels of 400 parts per million – an incredibly high level- in fact the highest level in 3 million years. Effectively, Spekboom should be planted en-masse on a global scale to start to reduce carbon dioxide levels. The need to decrease global temperature is critical, in a time when we are expanding, building and constantly growing! We are hypothetically (and physically) landing ourselves in hot water!
Spekboom grows slowly, but amends soil quality. In places where drought has left dams dry, water is flowing again. The long term pay-off needs to be understood to be implemented – in this case, Spekboom is an essential environmental ‘bandage’ which also acts as a source of food and a way to build profit in South Africa.
Find a very informative article |HERE| about how Spekboom could change South Africa’s land, economy and ecosystem, and influence climate change reversal.
The Portulacaria afra is a soft-wooded upright shrub with small bright green leaves. A variegated variety exists with lighter tones to the leaves. Extremely similar to, and often confused with the Crassula ovata or Jade plant, the Spekboom is more compact in it’s growth pattern.
It is also said to be hardier and with a rounder leaf shape as opposed to the Jade plants oval leaves.
Spekboom makes for a low-maintenance house or garden plant.
Remember as with all succulents not to over-water. Signs of over-watering are swollen, unhappy looking leaves which look yellow or translucent. Once a week is sufficient in summer time. With heavy rain, this becomes even less of a necessity.
It is not necessary to fertilise succulents, however the soil used should be a good quality aerated succulent mix. You can find this particular soil at Lifestyle Home Garden.
Light and Temperature:
Spekboom can tolerate cold temperatures as well as extreme heat. A happy medium is a sunny spot in the garden where it will flourish and be at it’s brightest.
Ensure you plant plants with similar water requirements in the same beds – roses for example or other thirsty plants are not good companions of Spekboom.
Propogation of Spekboom:
Break off a piece and plant it – it really is simple to grow this wonder plant.
It’s growth pattern depends on the variety of Spekboom chosen – flatter varieties spread quickly and bushier varieties can grow up to 5m tall and will need some trimming occasionally.
Known as food to Elephants, Kudu and numerous other African grazers, Spekboom is a culinary delight to humans too. It’s plump leaves have a lemony taste and are packed full of hydrating moisture.
Interesting Facts about Spekboom:
In previously overgazed areas, Spekboom can be planted to compact the soil; this prevents it from being washed away.
The results are better quality soil with ideal conditions for the planting of other indigenous plant species.
An Indoor Plant choice?
Succulents and other cacti do best outdoors, as many of them etiolate and distort without sufficient direct sunlight.
However, with it’s purifying properties, Spekboom is a popular choice for bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchens and work spaces. Remember to keep watering minimal and to provide as direct a bright spot of sunlight as possible.
They also make for a very attractive bonsai!
For more information on the Benefits of Indoor Plants click |HERE|