Portulacaria afra, also known as Dwarf Jade Plant, Elephant's Food,
Elephant Bush, and Spekboom in Afrikaans, is a small-leaved
succulent found in South Africa.
It is a soft-wooded, semi-evergreen upright shrub or small tree,
usually 2.5 to 4.5 or more meters tall. Similar in appearance to the
Jade Plant ( Crassula argentea or C. arborea, family Crassulaceae,
order Rosales or Saxifragales ), P. afra has smaller and rounder
pads and more compact growth (shorter internodal spaces, down to
even 1.5 mm). It is much hardier, faster growing, more loosely
branched, and has more limber tapering branches than Crassula.
Distribution and Habitat
It is common in the East of South Africa. It is also found in the
Karoo of the western Cape.
The Spekboom is found most prolifically within a specific habitat
known as Thicket, which locally is often called noorsveld, after the
high number of succulent Euphorbia species, which is often called
Carbon Sequestration Ability
It is capable of either C3 or CAM carbon fixation, depending on
factors such as the season and the age of the leaves. In the wilds
of South Africa, large plants do survive the cutting frosts of
bitter winters by growing dense enough to provide their own natural
cover. Drought tolerant and fire resistant, it will endure desert
sun and heat which the jade plant will not.
It is popular as an indoor bonsai and as a hardy xeriscaping
Cuttings root very easily in most potting media.