Crassula arborea L.
Crassula portulacaria L.
Common Name: Elephant Bush
Cultivated plants at Calle Arrecife in Playa Blanca, Lanzarote, Canary Islands
Photograph by: Frank Vincentz
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.
Eastern tropical Africa - Kenya; Southern Africa - S. Africa, Swaziland.
Warm situations on rocky slopes and dry river valleys in in rocky areas of dry succulent karoo scrub, thicket and bushveld[
|Other Uses Rating||
|Cultivation Status||Ornamental, Wild
A plant of drier areas in the subtropics and tropics. It can tolerate a moderate degree of frost, down to at least -1Â°c[
Succeeds in full sun or semi-shade[
]. Established plants are very drought resistant[
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[
Leaves - raw[
]. Pleasantly acid, they are used to add a tart flavour to mixed salads[
The plant can be used as a soil binder to prevent erosion[
The plant can be used as a screen or a clipped hedge[
At least one form of the plant can be grown as a prostrate, low-growing ground cover[
Cuttings, even when quite large, root easily. They can be planted directly into the ground where they are to be grown[
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[
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