Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Suzanne. Suzanne Wonders, “How can spekboom help the environment?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Suzanne!
Have you ever planted a tree? How about a vegetable patch or fairy garden? Caring for plants can be fun and rewarding. If you have a green thumb, then today’s Wonder of the Day might pique your interest. We’re learning about a special plant called the spekboom.
What is spekboom? It’s a succulent that grows as a shrub or small tree. The plant is native to South Africa, where it grows well in semi-desert areas. Its green leaves grow on a red stem, and the plant produces pink flowers.
The spekboom isn’t only beautiful, though. Its leaves are also edible for both humans and many animals. In fact, spekboom is an Afrikaans word that translates to “bacon tree” in English. This is why people sometimes call it “pork bush.” Juicy spekboom leaves are popular in salads and stews or as a snack on their own.
People also use spekboom as medicine. It can help treat dehydration, sore throat, and some infections. Many people also use its leaves to relieve skin problems, like rashes and sunburn.
Two more of the plant’s nicknames are “elephant bush” and “elephant’s food.” Can you guess why? If you think it has something to do with elephants eating its leaves, you’re right! Spekboom is a favorite food for South African elephants.
However, spekboom is making an even bigger name for itself as a “miracle plant.” Why? It has to do with the plant’s ability to absorb carbon dioxide (CO₂). Just how much of the gas can spekboom remove from the atmosphere? Experts say that one hectare of the plant may offset the average individual’s annual carbon footprint. This means spekboom may help fight climate change.
Will spekboom save the world? Its ability to trap carbon is promising. However, climate scientists warn not to hang all of our hopes on one plant. It’s important to make other changes that keep the planet healthy. Planting spekboom everywhere doesn’t cover the issues caused by fossil fuels, deforestation, and irresponsible farming practices.
Instead of simply planting spekboom to offset carbon, experts recommend addressing the causes of climate change. Additionally, it’s always important to care for plants native to your area. This can be better than introducing new species. If you live in a place where spekboom grows naturally, that may mean caring for your own miracle plant! If not, planting a new native tree may be the better option.
Have you ever seen spekboom growing in nature? Maybe you were lucky enough to watch an elephant snack on its favorite treat or have even tried its leaves yourself. These CO₂-absorbing plants can be a beauty to behold.
Standards: NGSS.LS1.A, NGSS.LS2.A, NGSS.ESS2.E, CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.R.4, CCRA.R.10, CCRA.L.1, CCRA.L.2, CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.6, CCRA.W.2, CCRA.W.4, CCRA.W.7, CCRA.W.9,