You might have heard of the spekboom – it goes by Pork Bush or Elephant’s Food too. But do you know why it’s so special? Spekboom is the hardy succulent that’s recently crept into South African’s hearts (and gardens).
The reason for its rise in popularity you ask? It’s been dubbed a ‘wonder plant’ thanks to its ability to absorb carbon dioxide – you know, that stuff cars release. In so many words, it’s in the front line of the fight against climate change. And if that wasn’t reason enough to plant this hardworking succulent, here are a few more:
1. Adapts Easily
While spekboom normally calls the Karoo and Eastern Cape it’s home, it’s one of those plants that can adapt to its surroundings. During the cooler, rainy months it absorbs carbon dioxide through its stomata during the day. In fact, it can absorb up to 4 – 8 kg of carbon dioxide per year!
Generally, the spekboom doesn’t require a lot of work or water. Even in hot and dry conditions – this plant manages to prevent water loss by opening its stomata only at night! It loves coastal conditions and thrives in heat. Though if your garden is prone to frost, it likely won’t survive the cooler weather without a little TLC.
2. Strong & Sturdy
These plants are incredibly drought resistant and can survive in very harsh conditions. And as an added bonus, spekboom rarely fall prey to garden pests! Because they’re so tough, spekboom are often used as firebreaks. But they also make great shrubs. You can even turn yours into a lovely bonsai!
3. Lives For Up To 200 Years
The spekboom is not only hardy – it is also a perennial and can live for up to 200 years! Some spekboom trees can reach heights of 5 metres. But be careful, these trees propagate very easily and need only have a branch fall to the ground for a second tree to sprout.
4. You Can Eat It!
Did you know that certain wild animals absolutely LOVE spekboom? Black rhinos, elephant and kudu to name a few. Some humans also eat the leaves which are soft and slightly tart – and full of vitamin C! Popular restaurants have even added the leaves to dishes like stews, salads, preserves or as a garnish.
Grow Your Own
Want one of these in your garden? It’s really easy to propagate if you have access to a spekboom. Simply snip off an 8cm branch and pop it into soil. It will quickly begin to root and grow. Alternatively, purchase one from your local nursery and wait for it to grow before propagating more!
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