Also known as Pork Bush or Elephant’s Food, this indigenous evergreen is an environmental miracle worker, with the potential to tackle carbon emissions like no other plant can.
South Africa – Spekboom (Portulacaria Afra) is an incredible plant found in South Africa which is a marvellous drought tolerant, a phenomenal carbon sponge and an excellent soil binding flora that prevents soil erosion.
And planting it in your own garden is a way to help the environment and climate change!
The name Spekboom literally translates to ‘bacon tree’, but this lush, emerald succulent plant with juicy, round leaves and an unmistakable, lemony flavour is very far from bacon at all. It grows naturally in the Western Cape and very prolifically in the Eastern Cape, where it earned its other name, ‘elephant’s food’, due to its important place in the diet of elephants… the elephants of Addo Elephant Park have been known to eat up to 200kg of Spekboom per day!!!
But it’s real power lies in its ability to tackle carbon emissions.
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 tonnes of carbon per year. This makes it a powerful tool in the fight against climate change and the move towards a zero-carbon world.
According to 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.”
The miracle plant has been shown to be an outlier, relatively unrelated to the other genera in the family, which are all restricted to small ranges in the arid far west of Southern Africa.
It is very widespread in the east of South Africa (including Eswatini). In this moist climate, it is relatively rare and tends to favour dryer rocky outcrops and slopes. The plant is also found in much denser numbers in the dryer southern Cape. Here it occurs from the Little Karoo of the Western Cape, eastwards up until the thicket vegetation of the Eastern Cape.
But Spekboom can be grown almost anywhere in South Africa and is easily propagated, which is great news for budget gardeners. Simply cut or break off a piece of a spekboom, let it dry out for one or two days and then stick it in the ground.
Give it a little water every few days, and you’ll soon have a new spekboom plant of your own to help the environment and climate change!