Travelling to Namaqualand: visit to succulent nursery and excursion to the Aloe forest
2 September 2012
The South African flower trip continues to the north into Namaqualand, where the quantity of flowers increases hour after hour. I catch the opportunity for an excursion to a nursery specialized in reproduction of succulents, before visiting the forest of Aloe dichotoma (Quiver Tree) that populates only a small and very dry hill near Niewoudtville.
A stop in Vanrynsdorp, along one of the main roads linking Namaqualand to the rest of the country, is planned in order to visit a nursery specialized in the conservation and reproduction of succulent plants from South Africa. Many succulent plants collected here are rare and highly endangered in their original habitat. In this nursery, the succulent plants are reproduced successfully from seeds obtained from other succulents grown in captivity.
I visit the area dedicated to the family of Aizoaceae
(called also Mesembryanthemaceae
), where I found many different species of Conophytum
, some Fenestraria aurantiaca
and an Ophthalmophyllum
(just move the mouse over the pictures to identify the plants through their tag).
pictures. Large clumps of Lithops
, consisting of many "heads", which indicate a rather advanced age. In the top-left picture, a Lithops salicola
. In the top-right picture, a Lithops dorotheae
. In the bottom-left picture, a close-up over an "head" of Lithops
, showing the translucent windows on the top of the bodies, where the light penetrates for photosynthesis.Lithops
are sometimes popularly known as "living stones".
pictures. In the nursery there are several species of succulent Crassulas. These plants are often characterized by bizarre shapes and very succulent leaves, highly specialized for water conservation.
A rare Euphorbia gorgonis
. This Euphorbia possesses a thick root (tuber) modified for the accumulation and retention of water underground. Out of the ground, you can see only the bodies involved in photosynthesis, thus minimizing the consumption of water by transpiration.
In the picture above, a Trichocaulon piliferum
. In the right picture, a Trichocaulon cactiforme
. These succulent plants, belonging to the family of Asclepiadaceae
, are very rare and almost extinct From their natural habitat.
pictures. The Haworthias have succulent, highly modified and specialized leaves. Like in Lithops and Conophytum, these succulents have leafs with translucent tips in order to promote the penetration of the light towards the hidden parts of the plant. This technique of survival, allows to expand as much as possible the surface responsible for the photosynthesis, without increasing the surface exposed to transpiration.
The Dioscorea elephantipes
is a bizarre caudiciform plant. The caudiciform plants have the base of the stem growing to an abnormal size, in order to constitute water reserves. The large wood mass visible in this photo, it is the caudex of the plant. From here, only thin filaments (branches) with the leaves comes out.
Pictures of other oddly shaped caudiciform plants.
The trip in Namaqualand continues driving north.
At the edge of the road there are vast meadows hosting millions of Pentzia pilulifera
, the yellow flower visible in these photos.
Enlarging this photo, the sides of the mountains appear as "painted" by a huge green fluorescent marker. In reality, of course, this is due to billions of Pentzia pilulifera
Continuing north, new species of flowers appear. In the left picture, a Felicia australis
. In the right picture, an Oxalis
Traveling to Niewoudtville, in the heart of Namaqualand, the road climbs to a plateau giving views over the vast plains of South Africa.
Namaqualand is not only flowers and succulents, but also nice landscape.
I watch the first Tylecodon wallichii
, a succulent having a big stem where the leaves are directly attached.
Some big Euphorbia
make a backdrop to large clumps of Drosanthemum hispidum
Near Niewoudtville, in the hearth of Namaqualand, there is an hill populated by thousands of Aloe dichotoma
popularly known as Quiver Tree. Although the density of the plants is not comparable to that of a real forest, this area is defined Quiver Tree Forest
Other pictures of Quiver Tree (Aloe dichotoma
). Many of these trees are secular Aloe and it is estimated that the elderly can have up to 500 years.
Beyond this small hill, incredibly, there are no other Aloes. The reasons why these plants can be found only on this hill, are unknown to science and is easy to imagine the catastrophic consequences that could have, for example a fire, hitting this small area.