Portulacaria Afra

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Daniel
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Joined: 15 Oct 2020, 21:06

Portulacaria Afra

Post by Daniel » 30 Aug 2021, 23:48

Is the succulent Portulacaria Afra (Elephant Bush) from South Africa safe to feed?

Kind regards Dan.

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Nina
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Joined: 16 Mar 2017, 11:22

Re: Portulacaria Afra

Post by Nina » 31 Aug 2021, 09:28

Hi Dan, and great to hear from you again.

This is a slightly complicated one, but I think the answer is that it is probably OK in small quantities, especially if the plant is not growing under stressful conditions.

Portulacaria afra (not to be confused with Portulacas, which are in a different plant family), is known to exhibit something called 'alarm photosynthesis', which means that when it is growing under stressful conditions -- for example drought -- it produces calcium oxalate crystals, which are then comverted by an enzyme into repositories of CO2, and that helps with photosynthesis. Some types of calcium oxalate crystals (called raphides) can be irritating to a tortoise's throat and mouth, but it is doubtful that these would be present in large enough quantities in your plant to cause any problems, and I think it is safe to feed it sparingly. Portulacaria afra is eaten by rhinoceros and elephants in Africa, but of course their anatomy is quite different to that of a tortoise.

The only other thing I would say is that, like any other succulent, too much of it can cause diarrhoea in tortoises, so another reason to feed sparingly.

Hope that helps,
Nina

Daniel
Posts: 8
Joined: 15 Oct 2020, 21:06

Re: Portulacaria Afra

Post by Daniel » 01 Sep 2021, 00:08

Thanks for the information Nina. This bush has many uses in South Africa. Bush men use it to keep hydrated in times of drought, just like the animals. Its also used in South African cooking, they also use it for hedging (just like we do with privet).

They also use it to protect their boundaries of their property's from fire, as its reported to be fire resistant and it stores a large amount of water within the plant itself. There is also alot of research going on to carbon storage abilities, as its reported to act like a carbon sponge.

Kind regards Dan.

CritterMama
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Joined: 21 Mar 2021, 13:43

Re: Portulacaria Afra

Post by CritterMama » 06 Sep 2021, 15:43

Thank you Daniel for introducing me to P. afra! I'm in the northeastern US, so it does not grow wild here, but I'll find it somewhere! I like that it's hardier than Crassula ovata - I have a *lot* of those, but they don't stand up to our Bearded Dragon - at all. I also learned about "xeriscaping" which is also very interesting. Attached a couple of pics and provided links below.


Article on Xeriscaping: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xeriscaping
Source for P. afra pic: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Portulacaria_afra
[attachment=0]220px-Xeriscaping_USCapital2.jpg[/attachment]
[attachment=1]Portulacaria_afra_02_ies.jpg[/attachment]
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220px-Xeriscaping_USCapital2.jpg (35.03 KiB) Viewed 2511 times
Portulacaria_afra_02_ies.jpg
Portulacaria_afra_02_ies.jpg (11.5 KiB) Viewed 2511 times
Critter Mama

One Husband, one Bearded Dragon, one Panther Chameleon, one Labrador Retriever, and now a baby Hermann's Tortoise!

Daniel
Posts: 8
Joined: 15 Oct 2020, 21:06

Re: Portulacaria Afra

Post by Daniel » 09 Sep 2021, 00:04

Critter Mama, if you plan growing some P.Afra, make sure you plant it in very well drained soil, this plant loves water, but it doesn't like a wet root system for a long period of time.

Also this plant has a terrible habit of dropping all its leaves if its not happy, but don't confuse this with its dormant season.

As for finding some, it's obtainable in most of the big DIY shops here in the UK, in the indoor plant section. You only get a small branch, but don't worry, is an extremely fast grower. I am sure in the US it will be available in the same type of shop or you would be able to purchase it from a cacti and succulent nursery.

Regards Dan.

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Nina
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Joined: 16 Mar 2017, 11:22

Re: Portulacaria Afra

Post by Nina » 09 Sep 2021, 10:00

For some reason I wasn't notified of the most recent postinsgs on this thread and so have only just seen them. Thanks for the really helpful information, Dan (and for the useful links, Crittermama)!

Nina

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