BOOK NOW
Enquire Now Book Online

Spekboom: 5 Things You Didn’t Know

By Samara on March 25, 2019
There’s no doubt about it, Spekboom (Portulacaria Afra) is a very special plant.

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. Whether you’re a succulent fan or have yet to hear about this magnificent tree, here are 5 things you probably didn’t know about this wonder plant.

1. Spekboom is proudly South African

It is found predominantly in the Eastern Cape, and especially in the semi-arid Karoo region, where growing conditions are ideal for this resilient plant. It favours North-facing slopes where it is exposed to maximum sunlight. Thriving in poor soils, it tolerates both drought and frost.

2. Spekboom is one of the best carbon sequestrators in the world

Hectare for hectare, in optimal conditions, Spekboom thicket can be as effective as the Amazon rainforest at removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere – quite a feat for a plant endemic to semi-arid areas. 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.

3. Spekboom can live up to 200 years

And Spekboom trees can grow as tall as 5 metres. Prior to the advent of large-scale livestock farming, some areas of the Eastern Cape had Spekboom forests so thick that it was said a grown human could walk across the top as if walking on a carpet. Spekboom propagates very easily, and a broken-off branch can quickly grow roots and create a whole new plant.

4. Spekboom are equipped with a unique mechanism for adapting to their surroundings

In the wet, cool months, Spekboom photosynthesises like other plants, opening its stomata during the day to absorb carbon dioxide. During drier times, the plant has the ability to open its stomata at night in order to prevent water loss during the heat of the day.

5. Spekboom is edible, with a very high nutritional value

It is a favoured food of black rhinos, elephants and kudus. The good news is that we can eat it too. With a slightly lemony taste, Spekboom leaves are juicy and full of moisture, making them the perfect ‘pick-me-up’ during a long day’s hiking in the arid Karoo. Popular Cape Town restaurants like the Pot Luck Club use this succulent as accents to their beautifully crafted dishes.

Planting spekboom at Samara Private Game Reserve, Great Karoo, South Africa
How can Spekboom be used for conservation?

Due to its multiple beneficial properties, Spekboom is a favoured plant for landscape restoration projects. One such programme is located in the Eastern Cape’s Great Karoo at Samara Private Game Reserve. Consisting of 11 former livestock farms in a Global Biodiversity Hotspot, one of the reserve’s vegetation biomes is the sub-tropical thicket. 200 years ago, this biome would have been home to impenetrable Spekboom thicket. Today, overgrazing by goats and sheep has denuded the landscape of much of its vegetation, leaving only pockets of Spekboom amidst the bare red earth.

Samara’s mission to actively restore its degraded landscapes has focused on the planting of Spekboom in previously overgrazed areas. Not only is the plant indigenous, but its roots act to compact the soil, preventing it from being washed away. The benefits are multiple – better-quality soil, ideal conditions for the growth of grasses and other plants, forage for wildlife, and of course climate change mitigation.

Spekboom planting, Samara Private Game Reserve, Great Karoo, South Africa

In May 2010, the first batch of Spekboom was planted on the reserve by a class of learners from Spandau Secondary School, Graaff-Reinet. Since then, Samara has worked with the University of Stellenbosch and other scientists to develop a Spekboom conservation model that ensures the highest rate of success and plant survival. Samara’s volunteers, staff and guests take part in this planting project as a means of offsetting their carbon debts.

Ultimately, Spekboom planting could provide an opportunity for carbon sequestration and job creation on a much larger scale in the province.

How can you get involved?

As part of Samara’s collaborative conservation initiative, the reserve has launched a Spekboom planting project that anyone can get involved with.

All you have to do is fill in the form below. Then, when the time comes, we will plant a Spekboom in your honour. The more birthday Spekbooms we can plant, the more successful the project will be. With your help, we can rewild one of South Africa’s most spectacular environments.

  • MM slash DD slash YYYY
  • * If you don’t join our mailing list you will not receive the birthday email and we will not be able to plant your Spekboom.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Spekboom planting, Samara Private Game Reserve, Great Karoo, South Africa

 

 


Samara Private Game Reserve is a luxury 5-star destination with a passionate conservation mission set within breathtaking wilderness. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or click here to start planning your stay with us today. A safari for the soul.

 

Related Posts

Subscribe
Notify of

60 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Anne Kilian
6 years ago

Hi, I absolutely love this tree. I would, however like to know when to transplant my Spekboom that is rootbound. I live in Noordhoek in the Southern Peninsula. Appreciate your response.

Francis
5 years ago
Reply to  Anne Kilian

Best time to transplant is harvest to spring time.

Clark
5 years ago
Reply to  Anne Kilian

You can plant cuttings or even single leaves at any time of the year. This plant grows very easy from both, but single leaves takes more time to grow new leaves

Princess Sarah
3 years ago
Reply to  Clark

Absolutely. But patience is a virtue. You plant today and they live 200 years. Plant and leave a treasure for the next generation.

Karen
5 years ago
Reply to  Anne Kilian

Contact Ronderberg Nursery they have plenty in stock and could advise you
Contact number 079 036 8226
If you cannot get hold of my brother call me on 083 7081799
Karen

Admin
5 years ago
Reply to  Anne Kilian

Dear Anne, apologies for the delay in getting back to you! As Clark mentions below, in our experience you can plant at any time of year. The easiest way to do it is to get a cutting and place it in water until it begins to grow roots, and then to transplant into potting soil.

Cheryl van Eekelen
3 years ago
Reply to  Anne Kilian

Hi Anne see you live in Noordhoek I live right on the coast 40 km from PortmElizaveth have you been successful in growing spekboom so close to the coast. Regards Cheryl

Annette Hermans
2 years ago

Grows like crazy in Blaauberg..just from cuttings straight into ground

Anne Kilian
2 years ago

Hi Cheryl,
I am not often on the this website, apologies for only responding now. I have been very successful in growing spekboom where I live. I love these plants and recommend it to anyone wanting to experiment. You will love them too. Good luck.

Carrina Le Roux
5 years ago

Can somebody give us a recipe for spekboom jam please !

Admin
5 years ago

Great question Carrina! We’ll keep our eyes peeled for one and keep you updated.

luis bicho
4 years ago

Nutritional value: Magnesium, manganese, cobalt, iodine, selenium. Spekboom can be added to salads, soups or pickled.

Bill
4 years ago

Found recipes if you google

Jen Charles
5 years ago

Hi! I heard the Spekboom with the red stem is of particular medicinal value, would you agree?

5 years ago

Hi we have added small potted plants to each of our bed and bathrooms in our guesthouse to assist with freshness inside. Yes indeed they do grow very easily and most guests sometimes leave with a plant to take to their homes.

Aldo De la Roche
5 years ago

Dear all, many thanks for the informative blog. Q: is there a way to get Spekboom seeds? somewhere. Best regards and thanks. Aldo

Darren Sleister
4 years ago

Is Spekboom available in the United States? I’d like to plant a privacy hedge to visually separate several acre size lots from the neighbors. Sequestering loads of CO2 AND having a food source sounds like a real win-win-win

John Hofmeyr
4 years ago

If you know of anybody growing spekboom commercially in the USA please put me in contact with him / her / them. John Hofmeyr. lanstar@global.co.za

Paula Shank
4 years ago

I found mine at Lowes hardware store in South Carolina.

4 years ago
Reply to  Paula Shank

Thank you. Lowes hardware in Colorado – here I come.

Cheryl
3 years ago

I do believe that people do have it there in the States. They call it Elephant Bush.

Claudia Benade
4 years ago

I have one of these in my garden, but haven’t had the courage to try eating it yet.

Milly Rasch
3 years ago
Reply to  Claudia Benade

I pick a leaf or 2 everyday and eat it very healthy and tastes lemony also nice in a green salad or tomato salad. I have lots growing in my garden

Renee'
1 year ago
Reply to  Claudia Benade

I have grown them by the top of the Gulf of Mexico for many years. My grandson and I eat 2 or three every time we are out in the garden and I also sprinkle several leaves on my salads and sometimes in soups. Once you find the courage to try them, you’ll enjoy them the rest of your life!

4 years ago

Hi. We live in Johannesburg and received two kinds of Spekboom from an avid Wildlife Photography expert. He said that the one species was from the Addo Elephant park area and the other from the Waterberg. The one from the Addo Elephant Park is kind of wild and has a red/pink stem and the one from the Waterberg grows more dense and upright. Both grow easily from a cutting. It does feel so good to be part of a carbon sequestration movement. We do share these very special plants with friends and family in South Africa. Another friend told us… Read more »

4 years ago

This makes it a powerful tool in the fight against climate change and the move towards a zero-carbon world.

I don’t get this! Without carbon nothing will stay alive! And fighting climate change? How on earth can you fight something that’s been ongoing for millions of years? No… don’t share the scaremongery and dogma… you ruin a perfectly cool post with that bull!

Cheryl
3 years ago
Reply to  AJ Vosse

There is too much carbon, just trying to lessen the impact.

[…] Samara Private Game Reserve aspires to rehabilitate the Great Karoo landscape. While I don’t usually recommend projects I have no personal experience of I am making an exception for this one, which I came across while browsing the internet. If you would like to support their efforts visit: https://www.samara.co.za/blog/five-things-didnt-know-spekboom/ […]

Francois Smith
4 years ago

Good day
Will the spekboom survive in Secunda? (Highveld – cold winters, moderate summers with the world’s largest single point emitter of CO2)
Regards

Francois Smith

maria
4 years ago
Reply to  Francois Smith

they should. the karoo has really cold winters and hot summers, so why not?

Rinesh Singh
4 years ago

Can these be planted near wall or do their roots cause damage to wall?

Marcel
4 years ago

Is this trea safe for dogs to eat on

Samantha Nupen
4 years ago

I would like to add my brother-in law to your birthday list, so that a Spekboom can be planted on his birthday. Can i do this?

LIZ
4 years ago

Should Spekboom be planted more widely? For instance in Durban?

Ruan Roody
4 years ago

Where can I get spekbome to plant. Based in northen cape and would like to contibute to the program in my region. I have 50 hectars of grassland and would like to get live back on this land.

Matokgo
4 years ago

I bought my first two spekboms today. Will be planted tomorrow. I plan to get more.

[…] to Samara.co.za, these are the five things you probably didn’t know about the Spekboom […]

[…] to Samara.co.za, these are the five things you probably didn’t know about the Spekboom […]

4 years ago

Thank you for what you are doing and my own Spekboom. Peter

Isaac
4 years ago

I’m passionate about conservation because we only have one earth.

Isaac
4 years ago

We all have to join hands for the sake of our coming generations

Victoria
4 years ago

I’d like to know about exporting Spekboom to other countries please?

[…] Then, I read the article about Samara and if you join their mailing list, they will plant a Spekboom for you on your birthday on their farm! I love initiatives like this – you can sign up here: Samara […]

Zandra
4 years ago

I will be buying my first spekboom plant today!! And planting it in my little garden!!

HENRIETTA myburgh
3 years ago

Who can help me with cuttings of the plant please

3 years ago

Thanks for your site I found it helpful

Axe Men Tree Feller
3 years ago

Great and well contsructed post. Thanks for sharing with us. For a tree to grow healthy and strong it need the necessary conditions and care. Axe Men Tree Feller offers affordable gardening and tree pruning services in South Africa, people can contact us on 0815308164 or email us on axementreefeller@gmail.com for a price quote.

Noel van der Merwe
3 years ago

Hi. I live in Waterfall in KZN and have two of these trees.Never knew what they were until browsing the net and came across the amazing article, explaining in great detail it’s ‘miraculous qualities’. In fact what caught my attention were the words ‘miracle tree’ because I discovered a tree called the ‘miracle tree’, aka ‘drumstick tree’ which also has amazing medicinal qualities among others. On a recent trip to Australia to visit my daughter and grandchildren, I noticed one of theses trees in a complex and had a good look. Sure enough it was the same tree we have… Read more »

Jean Johnson
3 years ago

My brother’s & I have been growing Spekboom bansai’s & also just in pots & in any space in the garden for years ! It’s really easy to grow … No need to nurse or fuss !

Annette Hermans
2 years ago

Why does my plants not bloom..have them dotted all around garden and only seen 1 small newly planted cutting bloom…splashes of small pink flowers

2 years ago

Hi, me and my sister in law makes chutney from spekboom, it is expensive to make but it is delicious.

Linda Badenhorst
2 years ago

Is any of the Spekboom leaves dangerous to eat. I heard that the one with the small leaves that grows flat or trails down from the pot is poisonous.

Mrs Amanda Heim
1 year ago

How can i make a sm oothie from the keaves when trimming don please my bath tub is full😅😅

Konrad Schaffner
1 year ago

Have been a spekboom “disciple” for the past couple of years, what an amazing plant. Planting it in every available corner. Grows very easily from cuttings, makes do with almost no water whatsoever. Based in Pretoria, even tolerates frosty winters with no adverse effect (in clay like soil). I have yet to see the plant bloom.Could the Karoo, Namib, Sahara desert be “greened” with this plant?

Hanlie
1 year ago

Just corcious to know…. Will this plants grow in Egypt or Saudi?

Brian Kajengo
1 year ago

I have planted many of it

OLIVIA
1 year ago

I am very excited to join in this venture. Myself and a friend helped planted spekboom cuttings on the riverbank in Pinelands Cape Town in 2020. She has a hedge grown spekboom in her garden.

I believe you can chew 3-4 leaves for restless legs. I started eating it 3 days ago and will continue to do so. I have spekboom plants in garden potplants.

Stella Watson
1 month ago

Is Portaluca the same as spek boom?

60
0
Comments or questions? Click here to join the conversation.x
Enquire Book Call