Last year (2019) a green initiative, known as the Spekboom Challenge, swept across South Africa like a tidal wave. Understandably, many people around the world are worried about climate change and are looking for small ways they can help avert it. It seems spekboom might be of some help. Here’s some info on the plant, the challenge and the big question: Are we participating?
What is Spekboom
Spekboom (known as elephant bush, dwarf jade plant, or pork bush in English) is a succulent plant that grows naturally in the Eastern Cape of South Africa. Spekboom is the plant’s Afrikaans name and the name by which it was introduced to me.
Spekboom has some great features:
- It is extremely drought resistant
- It is edible, with high levels of vitamin C
- It can live for up to 200 years
- Adaptable and therefore easy to grow
- Can be grown into hedges
- Like most succulents, it is really good at cleaning carbon dioxide out the air, which is why this humble little plant has suddenly got so much attention
- Spekboom flowers are beautiful
Photo credit of flowering spekboom to My Boozy Kitchen.
But, it has a couple of bad points:
- It may be edible, but I find that the leaves are very sour.
- Because it grows so easily, it can become a menace if not grown in a controlled environment such as your garden, or if it is planted in conservation areas where the Spekboom plant does not naturally belong.
The Spekboom Challenge
The challenge is quite simple. People around South Africa are planting spekboom in the hopes that its carbon dioxide munching capabilities might improve the quality of our air.
Spekboom And Us
On moving to the plot on which the container house project sits, we obviously took all our pot plants with us. At that time, I was planning on a small garden of indigenous and drought resistant plants, with as many edible plants as possible thrown in for good measure. (Very similar to our current plans for plants). We were in the middle of the Cape drought at the time. We were keeping our plants alive in pots, by watering them with water left over from washing dishes. So, we had quite a few small plants and cuttings to take with us to our new home.
Since then, Gwen has been looking after them and growing more cuttings from the original plants. We will be using all these cuttings and plants for our new garden.
So what have we been growing in preparation for our garden? Many different succulents, geraniums (that, I have found out today, are actually pelargoniums) and, of course, spekboom (quite a bit of it).
In conclusion; we have therefore been growing spekboom from before it was cool.
Does that make us participants of the spekboom challenge? By accident, more than by design.
PS: For a really interesting #spekboomchallenge green initiative; read about a huge Spekboom labyrinth as a living monument to environmental preservation.