How cool is spekboom?

A recent study in the Eastern Cape has highlighted the fact that the humble spekboom (or ‘elephant’s food’ as it is also known) has an amazing ability to soak up CO2, equivalent to that of  sub-tropical forests. Findings suggest that up to four tons of carbon a year would be captured by each hectare. This is apparently making a lot of people excited about how much it could be worth on the carbon-trading market but I’m excited about how an indigenous South African plant could potentially be so valuable in turning back the tide of global warming.  Also, it raises the issue of what uses our other indigenous plants could have, that we have yet to discover.

And I’ve got it in my garden.  I currently have five plants, all grown from one cutting I took from my friend Em’s house in Salt Rock.  So, if anyone wants some (and lives in Durban), let me know and you can come and break off a branch.

Read up about it at the Mail & Guardian and Urban Sprout.

Update: Sasol may turn to Spekboom to capture carbon

Spekboom soaks up the CO2.

Spekboom soaks up the CO2.

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78 Responses to How cool is spekboom?

  1. Niall August 31, 2010 at 8:14 am #

    Hi Sante

    There is an NGO that should be able to assist

    It would be great to make a difference at the heart of Sasol!

  2. Kit September 9, 2010 at 9:14 am #

    This is great to know! We have plenty of spekboom growing here – it grows so easily, but I’ll have to keep planting more!

  3. Niall September 9, 2010 at 1:07 pm #

    hey kit. just had a look at your blog, its cool! you know you can make a salad with the spekboom leaves … there is a recipe in the comments above


  4. mol-d September 9, 2010 at 1:18 pm #

    throw some ribbon bush in there as well 😉

  5. sue maxwell October 21, 2010 at 4:21 pm #

    I am making cuttings of spekboom and they are piling up in my yard. I live in Cape Town on the west coast so if anyone wants a plant give me a shout.

  6. sam November 7, 2010 at 8:56 am #

    I’m excited about spekboom nursery shopping list check x

  7. Gareth November 16, 2010 at 8:30 am #

    Recently took a cutting from a beautiful 3m x 3m x 3m Spekboom plant in the Karoo. It truly is a magnificent plant. Also if anyone is interested, there’s apparently a Facebook group called the “Spekboom Carbon and Poverty Alleviation Project”, actively growing and distributing spekboom plants by obtaining sponsorships that enables them “to provide Spekboom cuttings to, and pay impoverished citizens to plant spekboom in rural communities such as Barrydale in the Western Cape, South Africa.”

    Spread the love.

  8. JUBY BUBB;VERMAAK December 11, 2010 at 11:56 am #

    I have opened a cacti and succulents nursery out of Despatch in the Easten Cape FUN IN THE SUN if u want spekbome for a good price let me know at this email adress

  9. Amen January 6, 2011 at 2:04 pm #

    I am working at cleopatra mountain farm the most of the time i spent on the garden ,since i visited this site ifeel like not lost by working on the garden , i also like feeding our weaver birds ,pegeons.the thing idon’t know how can i be asuccesful gadner ,like having my

  10. Anton January 25, 2011 at 2:35 pm #

    Awesome post, i got a Spekboom for Christmas, so going to make a bonsai out of it, and knowing that it is good for soaking up CO2, will use the cuttings make to grow more plants. 🙂

  11. Jane April 4, 2011 at 11:01 am #

    I have 1 very small Spekboom and would like to know if it is easy to propagate – Melbosstrand, Western Cape.



  12. mol-d April 4, 2011 at 9:04 pm #

    Hi Jane,

    It easy to propagate. Just wait until your plant is a bit bigger and you should be able to grow others from cuttings…

  13. Bridget April 5, 2011 at 10:16 am #

    Spekboom is one of the easiest plants to propagate. Just literally stick a small piece in a pot full of soil! A truly wonderful plant in a myriad of ways. It’s being nused at Babylonstoren to make a labrynth! Can you think of anything easier to use!!!! Have them at the nursery as well. Upright ones and the prostrate variety.
    Bridget Mountain Whisper Herb Nursery

  14. Marina April 25, 2011 at 9:59 am #

    Spekboom makes fantastic container plants. They hardly need any attention and look super

  15. Sharon Hamilton August 15, 2011 at 4:22 pm #

    Hi there,

    I know I’m a bit delayed, but I’ve become very interested in getting one of these trees. I came across your post and just wanted to know if I could come and collect a slip of the tree, or if you know where in Durban I could buy a plant?

  16. Bridget Kitley August 16, 2011 at 10:24 am #

    Hi Sharon

    I could post you a slip and you simply pop it into the ground and it will grow!


    Bridget Kitley Herb Nursery & Potager Garden Landscaping
    Web site:

  17. Helen August 17, 2011 at 12:32 pm #

    Hi Sharon, I have a large bush that you can take plenty of slips from. I live behind Westwood shopping mall and you can call me on 031 2666506.

  18. jenny October 26, 2011 at 9:43 am #

    I’ve just recently learnt about the spekboom.. Why is it that our authorities are not planting these life saving trees all over the townships, cape flats, new housing developments and especially our cities? I received this funny looking plant when I received my loyalty card at my local nursery and just planted it without knowing it’s properties…. I have since planted 6 more AND they are inexpensive….

  19. mol-d November 1, 2011 at 11:39 am #

    hi jenny, i agree. if you have some spekboom seeds, do it yourself! make some guerrilla gardening spekboom bombs!

  20. Bridgette Devin that be Irish :) Tree Hugger December 26, 2011 at 5:48 pm #

    Hello Helen . I live in the round house on the opposite hill to Westwood Mall so I might even be able to see your property from mine .

    I have been looking in the local and Dunrobin Nurseries for spekboom but they did not stock it . May I please impose on you for a few slips from the bush in your garden ?

    I was looking for the plant for a different reason to that of reducing the carbon footprint but with all the squatter camps around me in Palmiet Rd and Chiltern drive I could do with purifying the air 🙂 .

    I have taken your number and will call you in the new year if you are happy with that . I was almost murdered in an armed robbery by my gardener at my house in Feb this year but cannot get over the trauma so life has been hectic . I have been removing tall plants and replacing with low growing ones that are easier to maintain . I do not keep servants . I employed the gardener as a casual ( I knew him from other properties he worked at in the family ) as a favour to help him out after he was put on short time . How ironical .

    Wishing you all the best for the festive season .

    Yours sincerely

    Bridgette Devin
    0726249050 mobile direct

  21. Alexander Dowding April 11, 2012 at 1:31 pm #

    Spekboom holds a very special place in my heart. I’ve lost track of the amount of Portulacaria cuttings/clones that I’ve taken over the years. There are currently three spekboom growing in containers on the 7th story roof of the Penthouse-on-Long backpackers in the city bowl where I am currently employed. They are ideally suited to dealing with the high heat generated by the concrete dominated urban landscape. I have one small leaved/regular spekboom and two large-leaved specimens, one of which I took as a cutting last November when I went on holiday to Swaziland. After a brief time in Joburg, because I forgot it at a friends house in Lanseria, it was sent down to me here in Cape Town so it has ended up doing quite a bit of traveling around the country 🙂
    With regard to cold hardiness I did notice that my young plants in Barrydale were taking a knock from the frost for their first two or three winters, but thereafter when the plants have reached about 60cm-1m they seem able to cope with light to moderate frost pretty well. I have noticed that the plants sometimes differ in growth habit. Some of them tend to grow more or less upright whereas others have a creeping habit horizontally along the soil surface. The upright ones are great for using as hedging plants being very popular with birds for nesting owing to the dense network of branches and foliage and the latter are more suitable as a ground cover providing a superb environment for lizards and other garden ‘beneficials’.

  22. clark March 8, 2014 at 2:24 pm #

    Anyone that requires more info on planting the spekboom can contact Jan Vlok via e-mail at He is currently starting a project to plant it in the Klein Karoo as a job creation project, to stop erosion and also as a feeding project for animals in that area.
    Anyone visiting Mosselbay can go to the museum and see the large spekboom which was used as a postoffice by the 1800/1900 shipping vessels that visited the bay. This tree is more than 100 years old. If you are looking for cuttings, just walk around your area and look at people’s gardens. If you look at the picture on this website, you will find it and can ask for a cutting or two, end get it for free (note the small leaves). It makes a very attractive potplant, and you can eat the leaves in salad as previous people indicated. Just make sure that you leave the cutting for a day or two in a shaded area for the cut to heal (or close) before planting it. The cutting may be small for a pot, but need to be about 30cm or more to plant in your garden. Allow for a 1.5 to 2 sqm area around the plant, as the lower limbs tend to lie on the ground and if you do not trim it, it will sprout roots and grow further from there. To grow to a 2m height will take a very long time. It is suggested that it be left for 20 years to reach it’s full height. Most of this info was given in a RSG radio talk on Saturday 8 March by Jan Vlok.

  23. Justin March 28, 2014 at 10:00 am #

    Hi All.

    I started with four plants. I know have 57 plants growing in my yard. We live on a small holding and have decided to plant the trees in the surrounding bushy areas. This plant is truly amazing and I have never been more pationate about anything. We really need to spread the word.

    I agree with Jenny, why has the government not ceased the opprtunity in developing townships. Teach people to propagate and then sell the plant. I have an informal settlement near to me and I plan on going there and teaching people to do just that.

    There are so many opportunities out there to improve the quality of peoples lives yet hardly anyone is taking them.

    To add to it all, we are saving our planet in planting this plant.

    I am in East London so if anyone needs some of this plant I give it away at a steal. R5 a plant.

    my email is

  24. Kally July 10, 2014 at 6:52 am #

    I was at Kroger and decided to buy two new plants. I bought the elephant bush – spekboom and a bromeliad. My interest in the elephant bush is if it can be groomed a certain way to become a bonsai. Does anyone know?

  25. Desiree July 22, 2014 at 3:53 pm #

    A recent study in the Eastern Cape has highlighted the fact that the humble spekboom (or ‘elephant’s food’ as it is also known) has an amazing ability to soak up CO2, equivalent to that of sub-tropical forests.All good but I would like to know if the spekboom have any health properties if it can be eaten

  26. suzie September 8, 2014 at 12:24 pm #

    I have planted quite a few spekboom trees in the Klein Karoo around our little house which is on a game and nature reserve. THe only problem is that the buck come and break off huge branches to eat the leaves. Often the branch is left on the ground and eventually roots itself and starts growing a new tree without any watering or nurturing. There are a lot of big spekboom growing on the side of the road ( R62 )as one gets into Ladismith from Barrydale. I have stopped to take slips from those from time to time.

  27. carla January 29, 2015 at 1:23 am #

    would it cost very much to mail some cuttings to the United States. I love this plant. thank you, Carla

  28. Tanya March 23, 2017 at 9:42 pm #

    Hi , can anyone tell me if the leaves are good to eat for chlostrol or blood pressure. Thanks Tanya

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