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I Dream Africa

I Dream Africa

Lily Pan


The 'Big-South' is one of the drier parts of Namibia. Some areas hardly receive any rain for years, and weather out here is a strange thing. There are years when it rains so much that people are isolated for days, and when it rains like this, there are lilies.

"What's the story about the Lilies down at Maltahohe?" I'm asked. OK. Here goes. About 35km north of the town, there is a farm, and on this farm there is a large shallow pan that covers an area of about 800 hectares. (For those who use imperial measuring units, that equals the size of about 800 football fields. Once the yearly rains start in January or February, the pan, or vlei, as it's called down here, floods to a depth of about 40cm. Within a few short days the Lilies, that could have lain dormant for many years push their way quickly through the shallow water and bloom. It will take about five to seven days for the flowers to grow and bloom. Unfortunately the lilies only blooms for a day or 3, but where they bloom in mass – it changes the arid landscape overnight into endless fields of white and pink flowers.

The Crinum Paludosum belongs to the family Amaryllidaceae, but why the Paludosum only grows in this area is still a mystery. This is a very beautiful lily with funnel-shaped flowers that are white to pale pink, enhanced by reddish stigmas. Crinum paludosum is a slender, erect, herbaceous plant that grows in marshy places, making it a perfect plant for the pond or a swamp. In a good rain year, like we had in 2006, the lilies can cover up to seven hundred hectares.

It's a wondrous sight that has to be seen quickly, because within a week, they have all withered away, or been munched by a multitude of elephant nosed beetles who devour on these delicacies, but when the flowers fade, so do the beetles. Where these guys come from, I'll have to investigate, for as beetles go, they're quite a handsome sight.
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