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Spekboom multiplication for combating

Prof. Dr. Willem Van Cotthem
University of Ghent (Belgium)
One of the most interesting plant species used to combat desertification, limiting
soil erosion, producing a dense vegetation cover and a remarkable number of
little leaves (fodder, but also edible for humans), is the Spekboom or Elephant's
Bush (Portulacaria afra).

My good friend Johan VAN DE VEN of Bamboo Sur ( was so

kind to offer me some rooted cuttings. These are growing very well in pots and
PET-bottles in my garden in Belgium.

In order to study different ways of multiplication of this Spekboom (with succulent

branches and leaves), I started taking off small lateral shoots (cuttings) and
planted them in some moistened potting soil in a pastry box. I also planted some
of the succulent leaves (see my photos below). Within the plastic pastry box
humidity is kept high (condensation of droplets on the cover). Therefore, I
opened the cover from time to time to let some fresh air (oxygen) in.

Quite soon both the cuttings and leaves started rooting. The cuttings swiftly
developed some new leaves. A month later I transplanted them into small plastic
bottles, twice perforated 2-3 cm above the bottom (for drainage, keeping a small
quantity of water at the bottom for moistening the bottle's content and the
rootball). Once fully rooted within the plastic bottle, I will cut off the bottom of
the bottle to set the lower part of the rootball free. Then I will plant the young
Spekboom in a plant pit without taking off the plastic bottle, sitting as a plastic
cylinder around the rootball. The plastic cylinder will keep the rootball moistened
(almost no evaporation) and it offers a possibility to water the sapling from time
to time, whenever needed. Irrigation water will run through the plastic cylinder
towards the bottom of the rootball growing freely in the soil (irrigation water
directed towards the roots growing into the soil at the bottom of the plant pit.
Thus a high survival rate is guaranteed.

I am still waiting for the rooted leaves to form a stem bud from which a new
plantlet can grow.

It is clear that multiplication of the Spekboom with rooting cuttings and leaves is
very easy. It is another interesting aspect of this remarkable plant. I can only
recommend a broader use of the Spekboom for reforestation, fodder production
and even production of bonsais for enhancement of the annual income (export to
developed countries).

Here are some photos of this experiment.

2010-04-06 : A Spekboom cutting planted in potting soil in a PET-bottle is
rooting very quickly in my garden in Belgium. (Photo WVC)

2010-04-06 : Massive root development in the bottle, perforated 2-3 cm

above the bottom. (Photo WVC)
2010-04-06 : Lateral shoots with succulent leaves (Photo WVC)
2010-04-06 : Small cuttings (lateral shoots) and some leaves planted in
potting soil in a plastic pastry box. (Photo WVC)

2010-05-23 : Rooted leaves, an easy way to produce a huge number of

plantlets of the Spekboom starting with one single cutting (Photo WVC)
2010-05-23 : Rooted small cutting (lateral shoot), ready to be transplanted (Photo WVC)
2010-05-23 : Rooted cutting transplanted into potting soil in a plastic
icetea-bottle, perforated at 2-3 cm above the bottom (drainage). (Photo