plants, trees and flowers, Namibia
The makalani palm breaks up an otherwise treeless landscape in the northern part of Namibia. I have searched for some information on these trees, and have found very little. However, thanks to the internet I have gleaned a bit of background.
The makalani grows quite tall, up to 20 metres high. Aside from looking beautiful with a blue sky behind and when the sun hits their leaves, the makalani is used by locals. Their leaves are cut into threads and used to weave baskets that can be found for sale around Namibia. They are also the source of two alcohols. Palm wine is made from the terminal bud, but, as this kills the tree it is against the law. This law is apparently flouted however. Less devastating to the plant is the distillation of a local brandz, ombike, which is made from fermenting the fruit of the makalani. The seeds are often carved and sold as decorations and are also used as fuel for fires in this country where wood is at a premium.
Driving around the farm at Huab with Jan we were thrilled to find this bottle tree in bloom. These striking trees are distinguished by their thick bottle-shaped trunk, which is almost branchless until the top. The branches are few and covered with thorns up to a foot long. The flowers appear in the spring, when the tree is leafless, which is why they look so dramatic. Jan told us it was quite unusual to find a tree with as many blooms as this so early in the spring (i.e. mid July).
The Bottle tree is an endemic species of Namibia, growing in semi-desert areas and dry bush, especially Damaraland. Jan described how local people have traditionally used the latex as arrow poison for hunting. In contact with the eyes this latex can produce blindness.
The Welwitschia Mirabilis is as its name suggests one of the most amazing plants you will see. You can spot it in several areas in the Namib Naukluft Park, or as we did, in the Petrified Forest. An adult welwitschia consists of two leaves, a stem base and roots. That is all! Its two permanent leaves are unique in the plant kingdom. They are the original leaves from when the plant was a seedling, and they just continue to grow and are never shed. They are leathery, broad, and lie on the ground becoming torn to ribbons and tattered with age. And boy do these plants age! Their estimated lifespan is 400 to 1500 years so many that you’ll see are at least 500-600 years old, while some of the larger specimens are thought to be 2000 years old. So these aren't the prettiest plants you'll see, but they are interesting and worth capturing on camera.
I know, I know… that photo does not look like a pile of anything very interesting, but hold off your judgement till you hear a bit more.
It is a plant called the Welwischia and survives in one of the world’s harshest environments, drawing moisture from costal fogs and from deep down in the ground. It may not be pretty, but it is a true miracle of nature. Unlikely as it may seem, it is named after an Austrian theatre critic who fled the country at some point to Angola!
Although this plant has only been known to the outside world for less than 150 years, the oldest living specimens are estimated to be between 1500 and 2000 years old. Its characteristics make for some startling reading: the roots can grow to 30m deep. The leaves grow at a rate of 13.8 square metres per year annually. A large plant can grow to 1.5 metres from soil to top of stem, and can extend to a circumference of 8.7 metres… and all of this surviving in temperatures of over 65 Celsius.
This plant enjoys national protection and the area where it flourishes has been incorporated into the Namib Naukluft park.It is illegal to harm these plants, or to take any part of them out of the country. Few specimens have been successfully cultivated abroad.
A circuit has been developed across the Namib desert which enables visitors to see these plants up close and personal. I didn't follow the circuit, but the link below will give you as much info as you can handle on the Welwischia Mirabilis and the other rare species of plant that survive desert conditions.
Ever since I read “The Little Prince” as a child I’d wanted to see a baobab tree. I hadn’t realised they grew in Namibia, but was delighted to discover when I asked the question, that indeed they did, and they do still. I admit that I was amazed that they could. The little I knew of the tree was that it could grow to enormous proportions, and from what I’d seen of the Namibian terrain, it seemed impossible to imagine it could support anything as large as a baobab.
As you can see from the photo, the trunk was enormous ( I can assure you that my friend Guy is no midget!). I learned also that the tree serves many useful puroses: apart from the shade it provides, the white pulp inside the pods is sustains life around, and is also used by humans in the form of “cream of tartar” (a raising agent in cooking and an essential ingredient in a good scone and also in sherbet, puff candy etc). In some countries the bark is used to make rope also.
We found this baobab in the north, on the road that leads to the Ongongo waterfall.
Some say that the baobab is Namibia’s oldest inhabitant! For more information see the website below.
the quivertree or "kokerboom" is one of the most interesting and characteristic plants of the very hot and dry parts of namibia.
In fact,not really a tree,but an aloe plant;botanical name is "aloe dichotoma".
dichotoma refers to the forked branches of the plant.
Plant,also called "kokerboom" because bushmen and hottentot tribes used the tough,pliable bark and branches to make quivers for their arrows,"koker" being the afrikaans word for quiver".
big quivertrees are between 200 and 300 years old.all are natural,not at all planted by humans.
quivertrees occurs in black rock formations,which absorb heat during hot summer.
rocks anchor plants which have a spread root system.
flowering season:in winter,june and july.
fees (30N$) to be payed in quivertree forest rest camp (see hotels tips).
quivertrees forest near camping...from keetmanshoop, C17,18km NW
The Welwitschia Mirabillis are a unique kind of plant, one of the oldest in earth (around 2.000 years some of them). They get the water thet need from the morning mist, through the leaf, as it hardly rains in this desert. They are so sensitive that if you step near them, you may hurt the roots. There are some stone enclosures around them, but anyway, people step into them to make the photo near the plant ;-(((