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 Post subject: Tree: Spekboom (Portulacaria afra)
Unread postPosted: Fri May 15, 2009 8:18 am 
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I've just come back from Addo with a complete fascination with Spekboom, and thought i'd be able to learn more about it on the forum. But, no Spekboom topic :huh:

Anyway, what do you know about Spekboom?

I know that it's a succulent. It covers 80% of Addo. It's very well adapted to heavy grazing. And the Addo guide book says it tastes better in the evening than it does in the morning...


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 Post subject: Re: Spekboom
Unread postPosted: Fri May 15, 2009 9:27 am 
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Hi there, Moose!

I looked to see if I could find any info on this tree in my "Trees of Southern Africa" by Keith Coates Palgrave and "Voila!"

According to this source, the tree occurs naturally from the northern parts of KNP down to the Eastern Cape Province all along the coastline - but not found in Mocambique. It is said to become dominant in parts of the Eastern Cape. The flowers are small, star-shaped pale pink to purplish sprays at the ends of short lateral branchlets (Oct./Nov.)

Interesting to note that, traditionally the leaves are eaten by some women when they have insufficient milk for their babies. The leaves have also been dried and ground to be used as snuff.

The scientific name is Portulacaria afra S.A.no 104

Hope this would be of some help...

Kind Regards

lee lewis

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 Post subject: Re: Spekboom
Unread postPosted: Fri May 15, 2009 9:34 am 
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(Photo from Wikipedia Commons, which is a freely licensed media file repository.)
It's also known as dwarf jade, elephant's food, or elephant bush, and seems to be popular as a bonsai.

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 Post subject: Re: Spekboom
Unread postPosted: Fri May 15, 2009 11:40 am 
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Delicious in the evening - has a slightly sour tast and is an excellent addition to salads.

On the heavy grazing side it depends - eles etc which break bits off and leave them lying around are good but smothing like goats which feed on the lower branches effectivly lifting the branches away from the ground (or in a garden where some overconciencious gardner keeps raking under them) can seriously negativly affect them.

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 Post subject: Re: Spekboom
Unread postPosted: Fri May 15, 2009 4:41 pm 
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Lee Lewis: Cool fact about mothers. I wonder what it is about the plant that provides nutrients like that. Also, I didn't know they flowered! Will have to look out for some when they're flowering.

DuQues: Thanks for the pic :) I would love a Spekboom Bonsai!

Jeanus: I added some to a bland sandwich I had in Addo. It definitely brightened it up! I find it tastes like a garden pea, but sour and tangy. Pretty delicious actually. Can you eat a lot of it? I wasn't sure so I just had a leaf or two.

Thanks for all the fascinating info :) Keep it coming...


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 Post subject: Re: Spekboom
Unread postPosted: Sat May 23, 2009 1:35 am 
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A number of years ago , in an Eastern Cape Nature Reserve , a large number of Kudu were found lying dead in the veld one morning. This in an area where there is a very large number of spekboom concentrated in a fairly small area - to make a long story short however , it was at the start of the hunting season and many kudu's in the area had learnt to head for the relative safety of the reserve once the bullets started flying. On post mortem and examination of the dead kudus , it was found that the large amounts of spekboom leaves that they had eaten , was not digested as it was supposed to be - the reason being that the tannen concentration in the leaves were to high and had become undigestable to the kudus- on further studies there-after it was established that most all of the trees in the area where connected by underground rootstock , making all of the trees in the particular area . part of one , call it a 'oerplant' or mother plant - effectively making this expanse of spekboom in the area , one of the largest and probably oldest plants in the world. So once the area was too heavily grazed, because of the high number of kudus in this case , the plant protected itself by producing more tannen , which of course then spread to neighbouring and connected plants , making nearly all the leaves in the area undigestable to the kudus.
I often remember my first day in the reserve , when my boss told me to eat some of the spekboom leaves if and when I got thirsty- it tasted awfully good and certainly helped for the thirst - untill a while later when he gave me a little piece of 'Noors' or Euphorbia to try- needless to say I will never forget that experience!! :sniper:


Last edited by Blougansie on Sat May 23, 2009 4:15 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Spekboom
Unread postPosted: Sat May 23, 2009 3:36 am 
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Wonderful info, TX :thumbs_up:
So, can spekboom be eaten, or not? And, if so, what does high tannin content do to humans?

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 Post subject: Re: Spekboom
Unread postPosted: Sat May 23, 2009 4:10 am 
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Hi , I've spent many days walking all over the karoo and have always chewed spekboom leaves when I was thirsty with never any ill effects. I must admit I only swallow the 'sap' - the leaves do become desicated at times , as the plant stores its water in this way for drought periods , and then it does taste a little flour-ely-ga-puh. Even in Dubai where I'm currently doing landscaping have I used these plants , and occasionaly steel a leaf to remind me of home. But I agree with the previous writers that the plants do react when conditions seem to threaten their existence , like most other things in nature - they tolerate some but only up to a point and then their natural defence systems kick in- but I must admit , I've never really done the experiment but then again ,we boere are mostly carnivours!!! Cheers
Is that lovely protea one of Elsenburg Fynbos Research Protea "Suzanna"


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 Post subject: Re: Spekboom
Unread postPosted: Sat May 23, 2009 5:30 am 
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Good, Blougansie, I'll remember the spekboom blaar when I'm thirsty next time. Heck, I'm not sure of the protea species: great Q! Maybe someone else knows?

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 Post subject: Re: Spekboom
Unread postPosted: Sat May 23, 2009 11:31 am 
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Blougansie: That's such an interesting story about the Kudus. Thanks for sharing.

Spekboom is getting more and more fascinating!


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 Post subject: Re: Spekboom
Unread postPosted: Sun May 24, 2009 2:58 am 
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Why is it called Spekboom: does it smell or taste like bacon?

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 Post subject: Re: Spekboom
Unread postPosted: Sun May 24, 2009 5:47 pm 
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The Afrikaans name "spek" does not only refer to bacon. You can also say that a person is "spek vet." This means that he is very fat. Difficult to translate in to English ... Spek being another indication of fat.

The Spekboom is a succulent, having fleshy leaves, carrying a lot of water. So you can say that it is a "fat" or succulent type of plant.

So I suspect that this is the reason for the name, rather than a link to bacon. :wink:

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 Post subject: Re: Spekboom
Unread postPosted: Mon May 25, 2009 2:52 am 
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Thanks Imberbe :thumbs_up: Makes sense.

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 Post subject: Re: Spekboom
Unread postPosted: Tue May 26, 2009 3:53 am 
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Thanks Imberbe for saying it does not taste like bacon! This as vast areas of Spek in times gone past had already been destroyed , removed , chopped out, ploughed over , geboerbok etc over the last 150 or so years. Weird that the old boere sometimes did not notice that these things were disappearing , along with the number of other plants and animals on their farms , but I guess they just new so much abundance , because let's face it , it must have been exceptionally beautiful ,these productive lands where the ossewaens stopped. Ja , so thanks , one could have easily started a new tendency of habitat destruction here , ha ha. Does anybody know of other things Spekboom was or is still being used for ?
Going of the topic here , One of the other things this brings to mind is the Witgatboom - do you perhaps have statistics on numbers of these trees that remains in the parks , especialy refering to the Eastern Cape Parks. I have'nt seen to many , in fact , I think I have seen more Witgatbome that were used as trekpale by our forefathers on fences , than actual trees in the veld. Please let us know in which parks one can look for them.
Will the parks ever consider , or do they already , re-establish trees and plants where the numbers have been drasticly altered , if there is sufficient proof of the species that used to occur in particular areas - or is this left to natures own devices
Thanks / Cheers


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 Post subject: Re: Spekboom
Unread postPosted: Tue May 26, 2009 4:00 am 
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Excellent questions, blougansie :thumbs_up: Let's wait for the experts.

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