Spekboom multiplication for combating desertification

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Spekboom (Portulacaria afra) is recommended to be used at large scale for combating desertification. Multiplication is very easy: the succulent leaves and small lateral shoots (cuttings) are rooting rather quickly.

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Spekboom multiplication for combating desertification

  1. 1. Spekboom multiplication for combating desertification<br />Prof. Dr. Willem Van Cotthem<br />University of Ghent (Belgium)<br />http://desertification.wordpress.com<br />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).<br />My good friend Johan VAN DE VEN of Bamboo Sur ( HYPERLINK " http://www.bamboo-plant.nl" " _self" www.bamboo-plant.nl) was so kind to offer me some rooted cuttings.  These are growing very well in pots and PET-bottles in my garden in Belgium.<br />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.<br />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.<br />I am still waiting for the rooted leaves to form a stem bud from which a new plantlet can grow.<br />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).<br />Here are some photos of this experiment.<br />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)<br />2010-04-06 : Massive root development in the bottle, perforated 2-3 cm above the bottom. (Photo WVC)<br />2010-04-06 : Lateral shoots with succulent leaves (Photo WVC)<br />2010-04-06 : Small cuttings (lateral shoots) and some leaves planted in potting soil in a plastic pastry box. (Photo WVC)<br />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)<br />2010-05-23 : Rooted small cutting (lateral shoot), ready to be transplanted (Photo WVC)<br />2010-05-23 : Rooted cutting transplanted into potting soil in a plastic icetea-bottle, perforated at 2-3 cm above the bottom (drainage). (Photo WVC)<br />

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