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Products > Portulacaria afra forma macrophylla
 
Portulacaria afra forma macrophylla - Large Leaf Elephant Food
   

 
Habit and Cultural Information
Category: Succulent
Family: Didiereaceae
Origin: South Africa (Africa)
Evergreen: Yes
Flower Color: Lavender
Bloomtime: Summer
Synonyms: [P. afra 'Mammoth', Hort.]
Height: 8-12 feet
Width: 6-8 feet
Exposure: Sun or Shade
Irrigation (H2O Info): Low Water Needs
Winter Hardiness: 25-30 F
Portulacaria afra forma macrophylla (Large Leaf Elephant Food) - An upright growing plant (8-12 feet tall) with reddish brown stems and 1 inch long emerald green leaves. Similar to the more common Portulacaria afra form but will leaves about twice the size and more widely spaced. As with the other forms, this plant really needs drier conditions than Southern California usually has to reliably produce flowers but after a dry winter, and where plants are not irrigated, it can produce tiny very pale lavender flowers in summer. After 3 years of drought most forms of Portulacaria afra flowered in Santa Barbara in 2015. Plant in sun or shade with little or no supplemental irrigation. As might be expected from the origins of this plant, it is less hardy than the smaller leaf forms, which seem to be able to handle to at least 25 F side by side the small leaf form was untouched in our January 2013 freeze at 27 F but this larger form had all of its tip growth frozen. A great drought tolerant shrub in near frost free locations for screening or just for its interesting red stems and green foliage. This species in native to South Africa where it grows in warm site on rocky slopes with other succulents in the eastern parts of South Africa but this large form comes from the northerly part of the species range from the Limpopo Province and further north into Mozambique and the plant is sometimes referred to as Limpopo form. In Hermann Jacobson's A Handbook of Succulent Plants: Descriptions, Synonyms and Cultural Details for Succulents Other than Cactaceae he describes Portulacaria afra forma macrophylla with larger leaves that are 25 mm (1 inch) long by 17 mm (21/32 inch) wide. Some market this plant using the cultivar name 'Mammoth. The genus name is a combination of Portulaca (a genus name) and 'arius' meaning "pertaining to" in reference to the similarity of the genus to the genus Portulaca which itself come from the Latin word 'portula' meaning a small door in reference to the fruits which open with a small lid. More recent molecular phylogenetic studies have indicated that this genus should rightfully be place in the Didiereaceae, which was otherwise entirely found in Madagascar. The specific epithet is in reference to the plants coming from Africa. Though usually commonly called Elephant Food, another common name is Porkbush. Both names come from the fact that the leaves are edible with a sour flavor and it is widely browsed by wild and domestic animals. It has been used to bind soil to prevent erosion and is noted as a very efficient plant for absorbing atmospheric carbon (CO2) and has been described as a "carbon sponge", using both the more common C-3 pathway for carbon fixation in the photosynthesis process and when the temperatures rise can also use the Crassulacean Acid Metabolism (CAM) pathway that is found in many other succulents. Besides this species we also grow the species Portulacaria afra and the following cultivars; Portulacaria afra 'Low Form' a prostrate form green leaves, Portulacaria afra 'Skyscraper' a narrow upright form, Portulacaria afra 'Cork Bark', a corky bark form great for bonsai use, Portulacaria afra 'Aurea', a prostrate plant with yellow new growth, Portulacaria afra 'Variegata' an upright plant with white variegated leaves and Portulacaria afra 'Medio-picta' a stunning low growing plant with pink stems and leaves that have a wide central cream stripe. All are great drought tolerant plants useful in the landscape or as container specimens. Our original plants of this and many other forms of Portulacaria afra came to us from Stockton succulent plant collector Alice Waidhofer but we also thank Robin Stockwell of Succulent Gardens for supplying us with enough plants to get this plant into production.  This description is based on research and observations of this plant as it grows in our nursery, in our nursery garden and in other gardens that we visit. We also incorporate comments received and appreciate getting feedback of any kind from those who have any additional information about this plant, particularly if they disagree with what we have written or if they have additional cultural tips that would aid others in growing Portulacaria afra 'Macrophylla'.
 
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