Plants and Trees of Southern Africa – Blog Post 1
Week 3

South Africa forms about 2% of the global land surface. In this small area of planet earth, we have nearly 20 000 plant species in different habitats. It is the bulb and succulent capital of the world.
If you compare South Africa’s forest biome to the rest of the world you will find it to be very small and you may make the mistake to see it as insignificant.
In this case, it is literally not the size that matters. Over 1400 plant species qualify as trees and in Africa south of the equator the number increases to over 5000.
If you find yourself to have an interest or an appreciation of the environment you will understand that trees are a resource to enrich our lives. Trees deserve our respect and should be protected, for they play a significant role in forming a healthy ecosystem. On a daily basis, we talk about global warming and climate change, and I believe protecting trees can help us solve this problem. Let us have a look at the Spekboom, also known as pork bush or elephant food, as an example of excellent properties to look at some benefits of preserving trees.


  • Fights climatic change and improves the quality of breathable air.
    We all know that excess carbon is a major reason for global warming. The spekboom sucks in up to 10 tonnes of this pollution on about a hectare’s space.
  • A food source.
    From domesticated to wild animals like elephants and other grazers make use of this food source. Humans enjoy spekboom leaves in their salads.
  • Environments.
    Apart from having the ability to raise water to the surface, it fits into any environment. It will survive in deserts and rain forests all the while continuing to clean the environment.
  • Medicinal value.
    It is said that by consuming spekboom it will not only help with dehydration and exhaustion but also in cooling you down.

This is only 1 example of a tree to get the message across that trees are an important part of our lives. In future blogs about trees/plants, we will use other examples as we travel through Southern Africa and elaborate more on each of them so we can develop an urge to care and protect them.

Let me end my blog today with a quote from a Senegalese ecologist known as Baba Dioum.
“In the end, we will conserve only what we love. We love only what we understand. We will understand only what we are taught.”

Author: Reinier Bredenkamp

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