Spekboom is a sprawling shrub found in South Africa, especially in the Eastern Cape where it pretty much dominates everything else. In Addo Elephant Park, Spekboom covers 80% of the landscape, so the elephants are literally up to their necks in it all the time, which works well because they love the stuff.
‘Spekboom’ translates to ‘pork bush’, but it’s rather a reference to the fat leaves on the plant. It’s very gooey and aloeish and if done properly, you can make the little rounded leaves pop, which is extremely satisfying.
And it’s delicious! Double win! One of its quirks is that it tastes much more acidic in the morning than it does in the evening. I have tested this. The leaves taste a lot like acidic peas. Nobody likes acidic peas, but when you’re out in the bush, the leaves are like chocolate. Chocolate that grows on trees. This is so wonderful that my mind can’t process it. I once sat at the Addo hide with two plain pieces of bread, which I proceeded to fill with Spekboom leaves that I had plucked from the bush beside me, as onlookers gasped in horror. I can assure you that it’s quite good in sandwiches… and as a result, I had the hide during prime viewing hours, all to myself!
Spekboom also works well as natural fencing. It effectively blocks views, but doesn’t dampen the sound of your elderly campsite neighbours playing swing music and generally being rowdy. And the walls don’t stop monkeys from stealing kitchen utensils, like Sporks.
It’s wonderfully adapted to living in Addo and it has to be. Addo has a lot of elephants. And I mean A LOT. They eat a lot of Spekboom. Fortunately, Spekboom has the ability to grow without having to plant seeds anywhere. A branch gets snapped off by an elephant, falls on the ground and a new Spekboom bush starts growing. Beautiful. This feature makes it very beneficial to the environment, because it can grow from nothing in horribly unfavourable conditions. Useful when you have a patch of arid land you need to regenerate. Love.