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Useful Tropical Plants

Portulacaria afra

(L.) Jacq.

Portulacaceae

+ Synonyms

Crassula arborea L.

Crassula portulacaria L.

Common Name: Elephant Bush

Portulacaria afra
Cultivated plants at Calle Arrecife in Playa Blanca, Lanzarote, Canary Islands
Photograph by: Frank Vincentz
Creative Commons License
Portulacaria afra Portulacaria afra Portulacaria afra Portulacaria afra Portulacaria afra Portulacaria afra Portulacaria afra

General Information

Elephant bush is an evergreen, succulent shrub or small tree growing 2 - 5 metres tall.
The plant is harvested from the wild for its edible leaves, which are used locally. It is also grown as an ornamental and as a bonsai subject.

Known Hazards

None known

Botanical References


Range

Eastern tropical Africa - Kenya; Southern Africa - S. Africa, Swaziland.

Habitat

Warm situations on rocky slopes and dry river valleys in in rocky areas of dry succulent karoo scrub, thicket and bushveld[
295
Title
PlantZAfrica.com
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.plantzafrica.com
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent site giving detailed descriptions and uses of many S. African plants.
].

Properties

Edibility Rating *  *
Other Uses Rating *  *  *
HabitEvergreen Shrub
Height2.50 m
PollinatorsInsects
Cultivation StatusOrnamental, Wild

Cultivation Details

A plant of drier areas in the subtropics and tropics. It can tolerate a moderate degree of frost, down to at least -1°c[
295
Title
PlantZAfrica.com
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.plantzafrica.com
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent site giving detailed descriptions and uses of many S. African plants.
,
423
Title
Desert Tropicals
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.desert-tropicals.com/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
The main focus of the site is succulent plants, but it also contains information on a wide range of other species. Usually at least one good photograph, plus basic information about the plant and its cultivation.
].
Succeeds in full sun or semi-shade[
295
Title
PlantZAfrica.com
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.plantzafrica.com
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent site giving detailed descriptions and uses of many S. African plants.
]. Established plants are very drought resistant[
423
Title
Desert Tropicals
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.desert-tropicals.com/
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
The main focus of the site is succulent plants, but it also contains information on a wide range of other species. Usually at least one good photograph, plus basic information about the plant and its cultivation.
].
An interesting ecology has been observed with this plant in the Eastern Cape where it forms part of the diet of the Addo elephants in the Addo National Park. Elephants eat the plant from the top downwards allowing the plant to spread itself vegetatively by spreading horizontal branches at ground level. Outside the park the same plants are eaten by goats who eat the plant from ground level upwards preventing the plant from spreading vegetatively. Consequently these latter plants must rely solely on seed to proliferate the species, which often proves difficult in such a dry climate. As a result is was observed that inside the park where the plant is subjected to browsing by elephants, Portulacaria afra survives and spreads successfully, whereas outside the park the plant is becoming sparse as a result of overgrazing and poor regeneration[
295
Title
PlantZAfrica.com
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.plantzafrica.com
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent site giving detailed descriptions and uses of many S. African plants.
].

Edible Uses

Leaves - raw[
301
Title
Cornucopia II
Publication
 
Author
Facciola. S.
Publisher
Kampong Publications, California.
Year
1998
ISBN
0-9628087-2-5
Description
The second edition of an excellent guide to the edible uses of plants, though it does not give any details of cultivation etc.
]. Pleasantly acid, they are used to add a tart flavour to mixed salads[
301
Title
Cornucopia II
Publication
 
Author
Facciola. S.
Publisher
Kampong Publications, California.
Year
1998
ISBN
0-9628087-2-5
Description
The second edition of an excellent guide to the edible uses of plants, though it does not give any details of cultivation etc.
].

Medicinal

None known

Agroforestry Uses:

The plant can be used as a soil binder to prevent erosion[
295
Title
PlantZAfrica.com
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.plantzafrica.com
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent site giving detailed descriptions and uses of many S. African plants.
].
The plant can be used as a screen or a clipped hedge[
295
Title
PlantZAfrica.com
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.plantzafrica.com
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent site giving detailed descriptions and uses of many S. African plants.
].
At least one form of the plant can be grown as a prostrate, low-growing ground cover[
295
Title
PlantZAfrica.com
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.plantzafrica.com
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent site giving detailed descriptions and uses of many S. African plants.
].

Other Uses

None known

Propagation

Seed -
Cuttings, even when quite large, root easily. They can be planted directly into the ground where they are to be grown[
295
Title
PlantZAfrica.com
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.plantzafrica.com
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent site giving detailed descriptions and uses of many S. African plants.
].
Alternatively, the cuttings can be taken in the normal fashion and allowed to dry out for a day or two in a cool dry place and then planted in washed river sand and kept in a shady position until they are rooted and ready to be planted out. They root quickly and can usually be planted out after four to six weeks[
295
Title
PlantZAfrica.com
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://www.plantzafrica.com
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent site giving detailed descriptions and uses of many S. African plants.
].

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