Is Elephant Bush (Portulacaria Afra) Poisonous? (ANSWERED)

The good news is if you have just discovered one of your pets or children have taken a bite of Elephant Bush – they are safe. Elephant bush is not toxic to pets or children.

Is Elephant Bush Toxic to Cats and Dogs Image


  • Elephant bush (portulacaria afra) is non-toxic and safe to keep around pets and children.
  • Steps should still be taken to prevent pets and children from eating Elephant bush.
  • Learn how to identify Elephant bush compared with other succulents.

What is Elephant Bush?

Elephant bush is a South African beauty that belongs to the succulent family with beautiful round glossy leaves approximately half an inch in diameter. Leaves form along fleshy stems that grow from several central branches.

The leaves look like little green coins – which is why some people also refer to it as the money tree.

The actual botanical name is Portulacaria Afra. But it is affectionately referred to as the Elephant bush because it actually forms part of the diet of the large mammals. Other common names include pork bush, purslane tree, and spekboom.

The plant forms a small bush growing 8-15 feet (2.4 – 4.5 meters) tall.

Is the Elephant Bush Toxic or Poisonous?

Thankfully, Elephant Bush falls into the non-toxic category of house and garden plants for household inhabitants like pets and children.

That said, we believe it is essential to discourage the consumption of houseplants in general. You cannot be sure what may be on the surface of the plants or if your little ones will have an adverse reaction.

Let’s now take a specific look at Elephant Bush and how you can prevent cats, dogs, and children from eating the plant.

Portulacaria Afra not toxic

Elephant Bush & Children – Is it Toxic and How to Stop Them Eating It

Did you know the leaves on Elephant Bushes are edible?

They are common in African dishes, such as soups and salads.

Here is a Youtube video by Debra Lee Baldwin showing how she uses Elephant Bush in her dishes:

As such, they are non-toxic for children, should they accidentally (or intentionally) consume them.

We do, however, not encourage the regular practice of children eating houseplants. Not all indoor plants are non-toxic, and they can have nasty effects on children if they mistakenly assume that all plants are edible.

The best approach is to teach your children how to identify edible plants versus non-edible plants.

Education is the best form of prevention to avoid any future accidents.

If your children are too young to teach, placing your houseplants out of reach is the next best approach.

Elephant Bush & Dogs – Is it Toxic and How to Stop Them Eating It

Elephant Bush not toxic

As we just established, Elephant Bush is not toxic, which is good news for those dogs that cannot help themselves.

However, that doesn’t mean you should let your dogs treat it as a snack machine.

Taking a proactive approach to training your dogs to stay away from houseplants is always the best form of prevention.

Not only will it save you from a lot of plant parent heartache (from knocked-over planters) and soil rubbed into your carpet and rugs. But it also means you can confidently leave your dogs at home with your plants without worrying if they are putting something they shouldn’t in their mouths.

How to Prevent Dogs from Eating Elephant Bush

The most obvious way to prevent your dogs from eating Elephant Bush is to position the plants in places that a dog will not be able to reach.

This could be high on a shelf or in rooms they cannot enter.

The saying ‘out of sight, out of mind‘ seems pertinent here.

We also recommend some formal positive reinforcement training to establish good canine behavior. By conditioning your dogs to leave your houseplants alone, you can set a good baseline to train them to avoid other dangerous objects in the house.

Elephant Bush & Cats – Is it Toxic and How to Stop Them Eating It.

Nibbled leaves and discarded branches strewn at the bottom of pot plants are a common sight for many cat owners.

Unfortunately, our four-legged feline friends are naturally curious to play with anything green (and anything that they shouldn’t be playing with)!

Fortunately, Elephant Bush is not toxic to cats, so don’t panic if you have a half-eaten Portulacaria Afra in your home.

Elephant Bush is NOT TOXIC to cats.

Even though it is not considered toxic, finding half-eaten plants can be frustrating and annoying. Plus, it encourages your cat to develop a bad habit of tasting your indoor plants. And, unlike the Elephant Bust, not all plants are pet-friendly, like snake plants.

How to Prevent Cats from Eating Elephant Bush

Cats are particularly challenging to keep away from your houseplants.

You can place your plants on high shelves and places out of reach with dogs and children.

However, cats can access high places. In fact, they will make it their mission to access- hard-to-reach areas – especially if you lay down the challenge!

credit: tenor

Don’t despair. You don’t have to choose between your plant and four-legged babies (yet). Some strategies help deter cats from playing with your plants.

  • Spray your Elephant Bush – cats have a strong sense of smell. And we can use this to help deter them from using your Elephant Bush as a chew toy. Citrus tones, like lemon and orange essential oil, are strong smells that generally repel cats. Some community members have also said sprinkling used coffee grinds on the soil also works.
  • Out of Bounds – Yes – we know. Cats are curious and love to explore every inch of the house. However, try keeping your houseplants in rooms that can be locked while you are out of the house. Better yet – create a dedicated plant room! #plantgoals