As of January 2021, Lord Laidlaw has planted 17,000 spekboom succulents, with another 25,000 to be installed over the South African winter, making his plantation among the largest in the Western Cape.

January 16, 2021

At the beginning of 2020, Lord Laidlaw announced plans to offset his carbon footprint by planting acres of spekboom – a powerful carbon sequestrator, which has never been cultivated around Cape Town in any quantity.

One year on, nearly 20,000 spekboom shrubs have been planted on his plantation in South Africa.

Lord Laidlaw commented on his initiative:

“Spekboom (Portulacaria afra) is a small-leaved succulent plant found mainly in southern Africa. I became interested in it when looking at ways to compensate for my carbon footprint.

It has several very valuable qualities. It is highly efficient carbon sequestrator, storing carbon in its root system. Depending on the density and size of the plants, spekboom can absorb 5 – 13.5 tons of carbon per hectare per year. This compares to a typical deciduous tree which sequesters 22 kilos of carbon per year.

In the Western Cape, the mountains are covered in fynbos. This has a wide variety of native plants which require little water. They grow into very dense thickets, up to 5 metres tall. Many of the plants, such as protea, produce beautiful flowers. The downside of fynbos is that in the dry season it burns very easily. Approximately every 15 years whole mountainsides are decimated in fires, which spread into residential and agricultural areas causing immense damage and loss of life. So, above our property near Cape Town wide firebreaks have been cut. Now we are planting spekboom in these firebreaks because, as a succulent, it is highly fire-resistant.

And two other benefits: the leaves can be eaten in salads or soups, and it is much nicer to look at than an empty firebreak.”