Spekboom – Our indigenous  wonder plant

Spekboom – Our indigenous  wonder plant

According to the The Spekboom Foundation, ‘Spekboom has enormous carbon-storing capabilities. Its capacity to offset harmful carbon emissions is compared to that of moist, subtropical forests. This remarkable plant is unique in that it stores solar energy to perform photosynthesis at night. This makes a spekboom thicket 10 times more effective per hectare at carbon fixing than any tropical rainforest. Each hectare of spekboom could capture 4.2 tonnes of carbon yearly.’

This rather unassuming looking bush grows in abundance in and around Addo National Park where elephant and other game feed on the nutritious  succulent leaves.  It is very widespread in the drier eastern parts  of South Africa, from the Little Karoo in the Western Cape, eastwards to the Eastern Cape.  It grows prolifically in Albany thickets, a woodland region, which is locally often called noorsveld, after the high number of succulent Euphorbia species.  (which are often called noors plants).

Portulacaria afra (known as elephant bushdwarf jade plantporkbush and spekboom)  is a small-leaved succulent plant.   These succulents commonly have a reddish stem and leaves that are green, but also a variegated cultivar is often seen in cultivation. In their natural habitat they bear soft pink flowers.

They are simple to care for and thrives in a hot sunny location. In the landscape garden they  blend well with rockery and fynbos species.   They are also excellent subjects for container gardening,  they can withstand  sea breezes and are relatively pest free.

The juicy little leaves can be used in salads, it is high in Vitamin C

Several varieties exist – some bred in cultivation, others naturally occurring:

Spekboom – Our indigenous  wonder plant
Portulacaria afra "Limpopo"
Spekboom – Our indigenous  wonder plant
Portulacaria aurea

Several varieties exist – some bred in cultivation, others naturally occurring:

  • “Limpopo”: A variety with much larger leaves. It is the natural form from the far north of the species’ range.
  • “Prostrata”: A low-lying, decumbent form that is frequently used as a ground-cover.
  • “Aurea”: A compact, upright form with rounded leaves that go bright yellow in the sun.
  • “Foliis variegatus”: A variegated form.
  • “Medio-picta”: Variegated with a lighter centre.
Spekboom – Our indigenous  wonder plant
Portulacaria afra 'Foliis variegata"
Spekboom – Our indigenous  wonder plant
Portulacara afra "Medio picata"

If we all  plant a couple of these plants in our gardens or in pots, we will collectively  make an impact on climate change.