Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Elephant Bush

Elephant Bush (Portulacaria afra) is a popular landscaping and potted plant in Phoenix. The plant was imported to North America from South Africa, where, true to its name, wild populations of this evergreen succulent shrub are an important food source for wild elephants, as well as other wildlife. In Africa, they call it Spekboom. The cut stems of Spekboom easily regenerate into new plants, a characteristic that may have evolved as a symbiotic relationship with elephants, since they scatter plant fragments as they feed. There is some speculation by scientists that growing spekboom on a large scale may be useful to store carbon dioxide in order to reduce atmospheric level of the gas that contributes to global climate change. This would dovetail nicely with objectives to improve wildlife habitat in Africa.


Nora Miller said...

Hey Katherine, your timing with this post is fortuitous! I have a pot of this that was left in my care by a friend from Phoenix when she went east to school. Most of it it now hanging limp and soggy after our recent cold snap. I figured it was dead, but your post makes me think I might be able to save the few healthy branches in the center and make a new plant. Yay! And if not, I now have a name I can use when looking for a replacement. Thanks! Nice blog, too.

Katherine Darrow said...

Yes, I think you can save it. They stems root very easily, or you can just trim off the frozen parts and let the rest rejuvenate. My potted elephant bush has suffered the same fate, but I'm hoping it will respond to a little TLC and some extra fertilizer. :)