Flowers of Namaqualand
There are many words one can use to describe the Namaqualand flowers in
Spring. Beautiful, gorgeous, outstanding, bewildering, impressive,
.... the list goes on and on. My favourite is
"wonderful" - In the sense of filling one with a sense of wonder
at how so much beauty can be created, all in one place and at the same
these are not flowers developed in some artificial greenhouse, continually
selecting for the best... In terms of natural selection these
flowers have been selected for their ability to survive and indeed
multiply in a somewhat hostile environment. Dry and hot and
dusty for much of the year, they all bring out their delightful flowers in
spring, to make the most of the short period before the drought once again
settles in, to be pollinated and produce seed, which may lie inactive in
the soil for many years. It is difficult to believe that they bring
forth their glory simply to attract bees and butterflies and other
There are enormous stores of seed in the soil of the Richtersveld and
Namaqualand. These plants have adapted to remain inactive in
the soil for many years, and only germinate when the conditions are right
... rain during mid-winter, and hopefully lasting through to
springtime. Many of these species have some sort of built in
randomiser, so that in any one year only a small percentage of the seeds
germinate. If the initial winter rains do not follow through to the
spring, then all is not lost ... there are many more seeds in reserve for
the following years. And when a good year comes, enormous quantities
of seed are produced, renewing the reserves in the soil for future years.
Different seeds germinate under different conditions of temperature and
moisture, so the predominant flowers in each area will be different from
year to year, depending on when the first rains fall.
There are also numerous geophytes which store moisture and food in
bulbs, corms or tubers.
plants also take advantage of what little rain there may be, and survive
through years of semi-drought. These plants may reproduce by
division of the bulb or root, but this does not allow them to spread
far. So many of them also produce seed, which can be distributed far
and wide by the winds.
Wind is an important distributer of seed. The winds of this
region can drive at high speeds during the summer, carrying both seed and
sand long distances. Satellite photographs show wind carrying large
quantities of sand many hundreds of kilometres out to sea.
The Richtersveld is famous for the Halfmens,
namaquanam. This strange plant is one of the few tall plants able to
survive through the seasons. Growing extremely slowly, they lean over to
face the sun and so minimise the heat of the sun's rays on the large thick
These plants are rather rare and not easily seen. For this reason
many people confuse them with the much more common varieties of Kokerboom,
or Quiver Tree. This picture clearly shows the difference between the two,
with Aloe Pillansii on the left and Pachypodium namaquanum on
the right, and was taken in the Goegab Nature Reserve, just outside Springbok. The
tendency to lean towards the sun is clearly seen.
this picture you can see the spines left by old leaves on the trunk, as well
as the spiral pattern left behind.
These plants were in flower while we were there, and one of these is
Flowers en masse
In the following section I have tried to keep a balance between the amount
of detail and the download speed. If you want to see more detail on
any of these pictures you can click on the picture to bring up a larger 1200
x 800 image. This will come up in a separate window, to allow you to
continue viewing this page while the larger downloads proceed in the
The following views were taken in the Goegab nature reserve, just outside
The following pictures were taken along some of the backroads between
Springbok and Kamieskroon
The flowers are particularly good in fields which have been cultivated in
farming operations. The following pictures show some fields where the
flowers are effectively winter weeds, coming up while the land lies fallow.