With such a rich floral diversity in our beautiful country, we don't have to look further than our own doorstep for plants that thrive in the local climate and attract native fauna. However, as the saying goes, 'unknown unloved'. So what do you say we get to know our local flora a little better? This week we shake hands with Spekboom (Portulacaria afra).
A quick look at Spekboom:
Latin name | Portulacaria afra
Common names | Porkbush, Elephant's Food, Spekboom, Olifantskos
Family | Portulacaceae
Without a doubt, Spekboom is a firm favourite in South African gardens. This miracle plant is not only water-wise, drought-resistant and deliciously crunchy in salads but is also well renowned for its remarkable carbon sequestering abilities.
Portulacaria afra, also known as Elephant’s food, has round succulent leaves with distinctive red stems. During late winter to spring, small pink star-shaped flowers burst into bloom, providing a sweet treat for insectivorous birds and insects.
Photo by succulent-guru @emily1.
Tip Don’t confuse Spekboom with the inedible Crassula ovata (Jade plant). For comparison, check out the profile below.
This evergreen succulent shrub can reach a height of 3 metres and can very easily be trimmed into hedges and screening plants, making it an excellent green break in fire-prone areas.
Native to the Klein Karoo and Eastern Cape, Spekboom is ideal for rock gardens, coastal gardens, and frost-free areas. This versatile beauty can serve as a ground cover to fight soil erosion, it makes for beautiful container plants, and can even be trained into a bonsai.
The humble Spekboom is regarded as a powerful tool in the fight against climate change as it is highly efficient in trapping carbon dioxide. Many South Africans are planting this carbon sponge en masse to take action in lowering carbon emissions and leaving a greener footprint for generations to come.
With a resume like this, there is no doubt that Spekboom is the perfect gift and a must-have in the garden!
Portulacaria afra performs best in a sunny position in well-draining soil. It is easily propagated by quick-rooting cuttings. Cuttings can either be planted directly into the soil or allowed to dry first and subsequently planted in washed river sand.
Community posts of flowering Spekboom: