A Marina da Gama resident, Pierre Janssens, has started a project to plant Spekboom (Portulacaria afra) trees. He was originally inspired by an article in Farmer’s Weekly, and the result of his passion is on display on the sidewalk opposite 31 Burgee Bend.

These succulent trees, also known as Elephant’s Bush, grow naturally in the arid areas of the Eastern and Western Cape (e.g. in the Addo Elephant Park and the Baviaanskloof), and have been shown by scientists to have remarkable rates of carbon sequestration (> 4 tons of CO2 / year / hectare) exceeding those of tropical rainforests. To put this into perspective, your household’s carbon footprint is probably around 12 tons/year. The trees are beautiful, drought-resistant and easily propagated from cuttings. They respond very well to trimming, and are ideally suited to forming hedges.

To obtain the resources to support our planting efforts, and meet our goal of making an impact on global warming and poverty alleviation, we are raising and deploying funds in a variety of ways. We have created a webpage devoted to the project, where we feature contributors, and document our progress. The page can be accessed through this short link: www.tinyurl.com/spekboom. Register, and we will keep you informed of all aspects of the project.

We have had some success: to date we planted in excess of 1200 trees and raised more than R4,000. A number of organisations have started to become involved: The Amy Biehl Foundation has been given some cuttings recently to plant at schools in Cape Town townships. In Barrydale, the Jam Tarts support us through selling sponsorships, Phillip Uys from the Barrydale Hotel ordered a large number of trees planted on his property outside of town, and the Magpies help us by manufacturing recycled plastic container with the distinct “Magpie look” whereby we can sell Spekboom trees in a beautiful and funky recycled container. The Magpies were recently featured in the Sunday Time and Business Day due to the chandeliers, made from recycled material, they have supplied to Obama’s White House.

How can YOU help?

You will be able to support the project by buying Spekboom in Magpie containers at the Starke Ayres Garden Centre in Liesbeek Parkway, Rosebank. We also sell Spekboom cuttings direct, or can arrange plantings for you. In addition, we are looking for plastic containers to grow the plants until they are ready to be supplied to the various projects we support. Moreover, introductions to potential corporate sponsors would be highly appreciated.

Contact: Pierre Janssens on Spekboom@Softcraft.co.za or 082 49 304 77 or ask to speak to Marion at the Starke Ayres Garden Centre.

The use of Spekboom for carbon sequestration has great potential and such a project needs support. Spekboom never occurred naturally within the City of Cape Town and as such can not be seen as being indigenous to the City. As a City we have a huge responsibility to conserve and protect the 19 vegetation types which occur naturally within our boundaries. In fact, 6 of these occur nowhere else in the world! The conservation of this unique natural heritage is therefore a huge priority. Where such natural remnants occur, there should only be the planting of locally indigenous species as we need to preserve the natural species assemblage in these remnants. There are however vast urbanised areas in Cape Town where there is absolutely no possibility of restoring the natural vegetation communities. The majority of these areas are in desperate need of greening. In such areas the planting of species that are not locally indigenous, but also not invasive, is a good option. From the information that I have I would think that the use of Spekboom in greening initiatives has great potential! Besides the significant ability to secure Carbon from the atmosphere these plants are water wise, they don’t burn and they are very attractive. It would be great to see some pilot projects rolled out on the Cape Flats which are in desperate need of greening. It would also be a good idea to get input and support from all the relevant City line functions as all possible implications, including maintenance requirements and the potential of creating cover for unsavoury activities, must be considered.
Clifford Dorse
Biodiversity: City of Cape Town
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