By Nico Strydom
The porkbush (Portulacaria afra) is a succulent indigenous to South Africa.
The plant is also known as elephant’s food, sweet porkbush and sour porkbush and occurs almost everywhere in the country. In its natural habitat the tree or shrub can grow to a height of up to four metres and has round or oval-shaped lime green to dark green leaves.
The big fuss about the porkbush, however, is about its ability to store carbon and convert it into oxygen. People all over the country are now planting the porkbush in an effort to combat climate change.
It is reported that a hectare under porkbush van absorb between four and ten tonnes of carbon dioxide, which makes it more effective than the Amazon rain forest for removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
The porkbush is evergreen, drought resistant and free from pests and diseases. The plant can survive on as little as 250–350 mm of water a year and is very adaptable to all seasons and weather conditions. The only places in the country where the porkbush will not grow well are where black frost and snow occur The plants can withstand light frost.
It is very easy to grow the porkbush. Break off a piece of the plant, let it dry out for a few days and then put it in the soil. Give it a little bit of water every few days but not too much otherwise it will rot.
Porkbushes are very versatile and can be used in almost any way in the garden. It can be left to grow and thrive by itself or can be pruned to form a hedge or screen. It can also be pruned in a certain form and can grow in a rockery or pot.
Porkbushes prefer warm, sunny spots and grow easily in any well-drained soil. It also helps to prevent soil erosion and can be transplanted to the garden any time of the year. Porkbushes can also grow indoors in pots as long as it gets sunlight. It can also be grown in light shade.
The plant blooms toward the end of winter. It forms clusters of small, pink flowers that attract honey bees and butterflies. Wild animals, especially elephants, are fond of eating the leaves and people can also eat it and add it to salads.
The porkbush is long-lived and can live up to 100 years.
Garden and Home https://www.gardenandhome.co.za/gardening/7-reasons-plant-spekboom-garden/
UN environment https://www.unenvironment.org/news-and-stories/story/big-potential-benefits-restoring-spekboom-thicket-ecosystems-south-africa
Life is a garden https://www.lifeisagarden.co.za/portulacaria-afra/