Porkbush or spekboom (bacon tree), scientifically known as Portulacaria afra, is sometimes referred to as elephant’s food. It is clearly eaten by other inhabitants of the Addo Elephant National Park as well, as this kudu bull is demonstrating. You can also eat a spekboom leaf or two!
It is said that a spekboom may live as long as 200 years. So, pay your respects when encountering a big one, but taste a leaf where you may, especially if your analyst suggests more carbon! The longevity of these trees (or shrubs) partly lies in their capacity for surviving fire, frost and drought. Don't worry about the browsers (yet).
Trees (and other plants) generally absorb carbon from the air. This is an important feature in our world suffering climate change caused by excessive carbon dioxide emissions into the air from the modern human lifestyle. The problem started by too many people using too much technology involving fossil fuels. Continually freeing more carbon dioxide into the sky eventually reached a tipping point.
Simultaneously the living mass of vegetation on earth capable of absorbing all this carbon from the air is being reduced for more living space for more people. The remaining plants can no longer absorb enough carbon into the tissues of leaves and stems for reducing the global excess.
The earth has simply become too small for us all! But think of it the opposite way for the solution: We can't be so many for the same sized earth, not the way we live now. The message: use energy, especially as derived from fossil resources more prudently and don't breed like rabbits.
Reducing the impact of carbon dioxide involves more plants, particularly those proven to be particularly good at sequestering the carbon from the air. The size of the participating plants matter, but certain species do more.
The spekboom is heroic in fixing our carbon problem, sequestering more from the atmosphere than most. It is said that a spekboom absorbs 100 times the amount of carbon a similar sized pine tree can do. This is why environmentally aware people today, jittery about global warming and other climate extremes, welcome the spekboom into their lives and plant it increasingly where they can.
In addition, the looming South African water crisis favours the indigenous, hardy spekboom for parks, hedges and gardens. Its succulence copes well in the semi-arid conditions spreading insidiously but at increasing speed to many parts of the country (www.wonderplant.co.za).