There was a time when it covered vast sections of the landscape in the Eastern Cape, spreading for kilometres in every direction. But today, as a result of overgrazing farm animals, spekboom, Portulacaria Afra, is limited to small patches scattered loosely throughout the province.
Indigenous to South Africa, spekboom is considered by some to be a wonder plant of sorts. Given its remarkable ability to draw large amounts of carbon from the atmosphere, it is no surprise that it is regarded so highly.
With climate change a growing problem worldwide, there are widespread efforts to reduce our carbon footprint and impact on the environment. Tapping into the under-utilised potential of local flora such as spekboom may be part of the answer.
Most of South Africa’s energy is still generated by burning coal and this, coupled with the country’s energy- and carbon-intensive mining and industrial sectors, made it the thirteenth highest producer of carbon emissions in the world in 2008, according to data collected by the Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Centre (CDIAC).