Cat playing with an elephant bush plant

Is Elephant Bush Toxic?

These days we are lucky enough to have access to all kinds of beautiful exotic plants.

However, this sometimes means we must research to ensure that whatever we bring into our home is safe for everyone, including our pets.

If you have an elephant bush, you can rest assured that it’s perfectly safe and non-toxic. This beautiful green-leaf shrub, indigenous to South Africa, is an easy, no-fuss plant that can flourish inside and outside your house.

What Is The Elephant Bush?

The elephant bush is a perennial succulent shrub that starts as a small bush but can quickly grow into what can best be described as a tree – under the right conditions, spekboom can grow to 8 -15 ft (2.5-5 meters) tall.

closeup of an elephant bush plant in a clay pot
portulacaria afra or elephant bush as a tree

You can recognize it by its red-brown, somewhat purple-colored trunk. The leaves are approximately the size of your thumb and smooth with a circular shape, and their color ranges from pale grey to bright green.

When the Portucalaria afra blooms, you’ll see small, three-winged soft pink flowers at the end of the branches. After flowering, small fruits appear in their places.

While spekboom is grown commercially all over the world, it’s originally from South Africa. As a result, you’ll find elephant bush predominantly in South Africa’s Eastern Cape province and all the way northwards to Mozambique. The landscape of these areas ranges from rocky, semi-desert land to bushveld.

The elephant bush goes by a variety of names. The name elephant bush is because elephants love to nibble on it. The plant’s scientific name is Portulacaria afra, and it’s part of the Portulacaceae family. The word afra indicates that the plant is from Africa.

People might also call it pork bush, miniature jade, African purslane-tree, purslane tree, miniature jade plant, or dwarf jade plant.

The elephant bush plant is often mistaken for the jade plant. But there are a few differences with the jade plant that can help you to tell them apart.

It’s an appealing indoor plant thanks to its low maintenance needs, versatility, and air-purifying qualities. It can be turned into a beautiful and hardy bonsai, but it looks equally stunning in a hanging pot.

When the plant is young, it looks like a little tree, but as it grows, you may need to add some sort of support if you want it to remain upright. As it gets bigger, it grows in a droopy fashion.

It’s almost effortless to propagate as cuttings strike root quickly. You can plant a cutting directly into the ground where you want them to grow. It’s a very hardy plant that is incredibly adaptable to its environment.

This is a perfect houseplant if you live in an area with water restrictions, as the elephant bush is drought-tolerant.

It’s not only a beautiful plant, but local communities in South Africa use it for its many healing properties. The elephant bush is also edible. It can be added to salads and stews, thanks to its tangy flavor.

The elephant bush can stay succulent despite varying environmental circumstances. In addition, it offers a valuable source of moisture and nutrients during drought and scorching heat.

Is Elephant Bush Toxic To Cats

If you have cats, you are probably already used to researching whether a plant is toxic before you buy it. Any cat owner knows that at some point, a cat will try to play with a few leaves, attack, lick, or eat them.

Cat playing with an elephant bush plant in a red pot

Fortunately, the Elephant Bush isn’t toxic to cats! So, you can leave your cats unsupervised around your new spekboom plant.

Is Elephant Bush Toxic To Dogs

Similar to cats, the elephant bush isn’t toxic to dogs either.

Is Elephant Bush Toxic To Humans (Including Children)

The Elephant Bush is not toxic to humans, including children – it’s actually edible. You can add it to dishes such as salad or stews or add it to your drink or plate as a garnish.

In fact, a study done in kindergartens and child care centers identified the elephant bush as a harmless and ornamental specie.

However, the spekboom, or elephant bush, carries one particular risk. Many people often mistake the jade plant for an elephant bush. Unfortunately, this can have severe consequences as the jade plant is mildly poisonous to humans if eaten and even more toxic to pets. So before taking a similar-looking plant, make sure you are taking the right one!


The elephant bush is a succulent plant that is originally from South Africa. It is a hardy plant that is incredibly adaptable to its environment and can be propagated easily.

One of the best properties of the elephant bush is that is not toxic to adults, children, or pets like cats and dogs. This plant is in fact edible and can be added to salads and stews.

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