Portulacaria afra, better known as Spekboom

Portulacaria afra, better known as Spekboom, is an indigenous evergreen succulent tree that is predominantly found in the Eastern Cape. The tree forms an important part of the Valley Thicket Biome as it is both fire-resistant and water-wise.


Climate & Photosynthesis
Spekboom is able to adapt its process of photosynthesis depending on its conditions and availability of water. In wet conditions it uses the same system as rainforest plants and switches its system to one used by desert cacti in dry conditions. Through this switch, it is able to store solar energy to photosynthesise at night when temperatures are cooler.

Studies have shown that a single hectare of Spekboom is able to convert 4.2 tons of carbon-dioxide into oxygen per year. The tree’s carbon-storing capabilities makes it up to 10 times more effective than any tropical rain forest.


Structure & Growth
Spekboom flourishes in warm summers and areas where rainfall is between 250 and 375mm per year. During Spring, star-shaped pink or light purple flowers appear which can be used to make honey. The tree’s cork-like roots measure up to 20cm in diameter and can reach heights of between 2.5 and 4.5m, making it ideal to use as a natural hedge.

Health Benefits
Spekboom is rich in manganese, cobalt and magnesium. It also contains micro elements, iodine and selenium which act as an antioxidant. The leaves have a refreshing, slightly tart, lemony taste and can be used to treat a number of ailments including heart burn, dehydration, exhaustion and heat stroke. The leaves are typically suckled on or can be eaten as part of a salad.IMG_20180618_162107.jpg

In order to propagate Spekboom, cut a small branch just below a node. Remove the bottom leaves and dip the end of the stem into hormone powder. Create a small hole in soil and plant the stem. New roots will form on the stems within 3-4 weeks. Plant the stems in the desired locations and fill the holes with soil. Water the stems well to ensure that the roots settle. Spekboom grows best over a period of three years or greater and can reach ages of up to a 100 years.FLORAL FRIDAY FOTOS

25 thoughts on “Portulacaria afra, better known as Spekboom

  1. Is spekboom a Dutch word? I can tell you love gardening as much as I do. I have heard of portulacaria, but not spekboom. When I was in the Netherlands, I loved listening to the language. How is it different from yours? Is it like British vs American English? Or do you speak an entirely different language?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Portulacaceae Common names: Porkbush, Elephant’s Food (English); Spekboom. Olifantskos (Afrikaans) Yes I really love my garden and mostly have succulents in it along with a few indiginous plants of this area. The Afrikaans language, also called Cape Dutch, West Germanic language of South Africa, developed from 17th-century Dutch, sometimes called Netherlandic, by the descendants of European (Dutch, German, and French) colonists, indigenous Khoisan peoples, and African and Asian slaves in the Dutch colony at the Cape of Good Hope. Afrikaans and English are the only Indo-European languages among the many official languages of South Africa. Although Afrikaans is very similar to Dutch, it is clearly a separate language, differing from Standard Dutch in its sound system and its loss of case and gender distinctions.


  2. We’re up in Jo’burg and I have one behind the kitchen wall. It’s about a meter tall and same wade. At least it certainly looks similar.
    Never realised what it was before now,and certainly never knew it could be eaten.
    What’s the best way to check if it is the same plant?

    And please don’t say eat a leaf and if you don’t fall down it is the same one!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I remembered another smaller patch on the rockery and went to look. It appears to be more like the species in your post, but I would appreciate the extra info as well. Regards,

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Lovely shots, Aletta. However, I think this is Crassula ovata. We have it growing very happily in Melbourne also and it is blooming profusely at the moment. There is some confusion with Portulacaria afra, as both have the common name “jade tree”.
    Thank you for joining Floral Friday Fotos and I hope you can share some more of your flower photos soon.


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