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I Dream Africa provides a comprehensive directory of activities, hot spots, top locations etc. in Namibia. Combined with the directory, I Dream Africa also provides tour packages allowing clients to experience Namibia at its best.
Trees
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Trees

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Trees - essential for the sustainability of every environment. They are extremely important and provide shade, homes and food for human and the animal kingdoms alike. Fairly scarce in the Namib Desert, whose inhabitants include camelthorn, ringwood, wild ebony and perhaps the most famous of all of Namibia's plant life, the Welwitschia mirabilis.

• African Moringa
• Ana Tree
• Apple-leaf Tree
• Baobab
• Bottle Tree
• Buffalo thorn
Camelthorn tree
• Candle pod tree
• Common cluster fig
• Halfmens tree
Jackalberry
• Karree
• Kiaat or Wild Teak
• Marula Tree
• Mopane Tree
• Omumborombonga | Leadwood
Quiver Tree
• Radio Tree
• Red Bushwillow
• Ringwood Tree
• Shepherds Tree
• Silver Clusterleaf
• Smelly Sheperds Tree
• Sweet Thorn
• Tamboti
• Umbrella Thorn
• Weeping Wattle
• White Seringa
• Wild Date Palm
• Wild Olive
• Wild Pear

Kokerboom Woud / Quiver Tree Forest

The trees in the forest are natural. No trees have been planted by humans. The quiver tree forest was declared as a national monument on 1 June 1955. The big trees in the forest are between 200 and 300 years old.

The quiver tree or "Kokerboom" is one of the most interesting and characteristic plants of the very hot and dry parts of Namibia and the northwestern part of the Cape Province in South Africa. Actually it is no tree, but an aloe plant. The botanical name is ALOE DICHOTOMA. Dichotoma refers to the forked branches of the plant. The plant is called a "Kokerboom" because some Bushmen and Hottentot tribes used the tough, pliable bark and branches to make quivers for their arrows. "Koker" is the Afrikaans word for quiver.
The quiver tree is a stout tree up to 9 metres high with a smooth trunk which can be up to one meter in diameter at ground level. The plants are usually found growing singly but in some areas the plants grow in large groups, giving the effect of a forest. The quiver tree propagates only by seeds. They have their first flowers when they are about 20 to 30 years old. The flowers are branch panicles up to 30 cm tall from the base of the penducle to the apex of the terminal of the racem. The flowers have a bright yellow colour. The flowering-season is in the winter during June and July.

The quiver tree mostly occurs in black rock formations (called "ysterklip") which absorbs a lot of heat during the hot summer. (Average summer temp. is 38°C). The rocks anchor the plants which have a spread-root-system. The quiver tree is proof against frost.

Halfmens

The charismatic, northward-leaning halfmens is perhaps the most intriguing of all stem succulents. It is a tree-like plant, devoid of branches, with a spiny trunk and a mop of leaves on top. Growing to a height of about 2m, halfmens have swollen succulent stems which they use for storing water in this parched desert region of South Africa and Namibia.

The thorns that cover the upper half of the stem are long, brown and downward pointing, while those near the base of the trunk are short. The top part of the trunk (the apex) is usually covered with a rosette of crinkly green leaves which fall off in summer. The tubular flowers (4cm long) appear in the centre of the leaves in spring (August to October). The velvety flowers have 5 short lobes and are light-green with crimson near the tip.

The north-leaning stem apex ensures that the short-lived leaves and developing flowers get as much sunshine as possible during the brief winter growing season (remember, this is the southern hemisphere and the sun is in the north).The Afrikaans name of halfmens, which means human-like, is widely used to describe this succulent. Seen from a distance against the skyline they look like people frozen in motion, their spiny trunks forever inclined northwards, with leaves on top like mops of hair.

This strange plant is one of the few tall plants able to survive through the seasons in this desert climate. Growing extremely slowly, halfmens 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. Under threat from illegal collectors, the halfmens are internationally protected. It is classified as highly endangered under the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna.

Legend of the Halfmens has it that Halfmens is translated as "Half Human" in English. The Khoisan Bushman has a beautiful story that has been told to generations, and it explains how Halfmens plants were created. The Khoisan Bushman were driven away from their birth land (The Kalahari Desert) by invading tribes. It filled them with grief, and some of the Khoisan people looked back and turned into Halfmens plants. As a result the crown of Halfmens plants always turn to the North, longing for the day that they can return to their beloved birth land.

Gnetales

A very distinct order of gym-nosperms containing the three genera Ephedra (joint firs) with about 40 species, Gnetum with about 30 species, and Welwitschia, containing the one species W. mirabilis. Certain species of Ephedra are important as sources of the alkaloid drug ephedrine. Each genus shows certain advanced characteristics reminiscent of angiosperms.

For example, their tracheids are arranged in columns and have highly perforated end walls similar to angiosperm vessels, while in Gnetum the sieve cells are closely associated with parenchymatous cells, reminiscent of companion cells. The leaves of Gnetum have a broad oval lamina with reticulate venation, very similar to certain angiosperm leaves. Page two) The Gnetales also have compound male and female strobili with superficially sepal- or petal-like structures, while the female gametophytes of Gnetum and Welwitschia lack archegonia.

In some species of Ephedra there is a form of double fertilization, whereby one sperm nucleus fuses with the egg cell and the other with the ventral canal cell. However only the zygote undergoes further development. These angiosperm-like characteristics led some to consider the Gnetales as ancestral to the angiosperms but it is now generally considered that the group simply represents a specialized offshoot of the gymnosperms.

The three genera of the Gnetales are considered so different from each other that in certain classifications they are raised to the status of orders (Ephedrales, Welwitschiales, and Gnetales) within the subdivision Gneticae

Baobab tree

This baobab tree was at the time of being proclaimed a National Monument one of the biggest of its species known in Namibia. Since then even larger baobabs, such as the ones at Tsandi and Ombalantu and the one at Keibib, have been recorded in the northern regions of Namibia. The Afrikaans name for the baobab is Kremetart, a corruption of 'cream of tartar' tree.

Baobab trees frequently live for between 1,000 - 3,000 years. This remarkable feat can be attributed to a number of factors such as:

  • There are no known serious pests or diseases of the baobab.
  • As it is a trunk succulent, it has a high resistance to drought and fire.
  • On favorable sites, baobabs have a high growth rate; 2m in height over 2 years and 12m over 15 years have been measured.
  • The baobab plays host to a number of noxious crop insects that attack other trees.

The baobab is a great shade tree as well as an outstanding landmark. It has many uses including:

  • The leaves are a favorite forage.
  • Herdsmen scale the tree for lopping.
  • Small ruminants eat the fruit pulp.
  • Sprouts and roots of young plants are eaten like asparagus, but are considered more of a famine food.
  • The bark from the lower part of the stem of younger trees can be used as a valuable fiber for cordage, fishing nets, baskets, cloth and mats and is often used for tying up huts and homesteads of local people.
  • The bark can also be used for the treatment of fevers, infections, arrow poison, wound disinfection, and as a mouthwash for toothache.
  • The leaves can be used for treating insect bites and as a prophylactic against fever, asthma and coughs.
  • The fruit is used to cure malaria, smallpox and measles.
  • The seeds are used for dental disorders.
  • The roots can also be used to cure malaria and sores.
  • A red dye can be produced from the roots.
  • The ash of baobab is used as a fertilizer or in making soap.
  • Smoke from burning fruit pulp is an insect repellent.

This great tree is situated approximately 1.5km north-east of the homestead of the Keibib Farm near Grootfontein. It was declared a national monument on 2nd July 1951.

False Ebony Tree

The false ebony tree also grows on the Tsauchab. It is a medium-sized tree with drooping branches and is an important shade tree; stock and game browse the foliage. Male and female flowers are on separate plants and the small pea-like black fruit is edible, although not very tasty by all accounts, but the birds love them, especially when they turn brown. The heartwood is another tree growing on the Tsauchab, it is black and hard, hence the name, thornless and evergreen, and it is recommended for gardens, growing easily from seed and requiring very little water.

Ringwood

The ringwood grows on the riverbank as does a smelly shepherd's tree. On the banks there are several large specimens of leafless cadaba, Cadaba aphylla. This is a twiggy, tangled shrub or small tree, with long leafless branches. The butterfly leaf is another well-browsed plant, favoured by many animals and the plants are well-utilized, even the thinner stems are eaten.

Thorn Apple

The common thorn apple, Datura stramonium, originally from north America, is a large-leafed plant growing in the river bed. The flowers are large, up to 10cm long, with white, mauve or pinkish petals. The seedpods are an ovoid capsule with many spines.

Sycamore Fig

An unusual plant in the area is a large sycamore fig, one of the larges fig trees in southern Africa (5-25m). It has characteristic large sandpapery leaves, the figs are about 2.5cm in diameter and are eaten by birds and mammals. The leaves, bark and latex are used to treat a number of ailments. In days gone by, the bark was used for tanning and dying skins.

Salsola Plants

The Tsauchab River rises in the Naukluft and Tsaris Mountains and flows through the Sesriem Canyon and beyond. It is an ephemeral river that crosses the Namib Desert, but does not reach the ocean because it is blocked by the northern movement of dunes, called Sossusvlei. The name Tsauchab is derived from the Nama language and refers to the 'river where there are many Salsola bushes'. Salsola plants are commonly known as ganna, and are found all along the river and at Sossusvlei.

The low-lying Tsauchab penetrates deep into the sand dune sea, supporting a wider variety of plants and animals than the surrounding dunes and gravel plains can on their own. The bitter plant grows in the river, it has green leaves and although it is a bit of a drab looking plant, it binds and stabilities the sand. It can also be found on road verges and the bitter bush can be an indicator of heavy grazing. Meat and milk of animals who have fed on the bitter bush develop an unpleasant bitter taste – hence the name! Crush a leaf and you will smell a strong, herb-like aroma. Lappet-faced vultures use the thin, strong, lightweight stems to build nests. The small, pretty flowers are a reddish-purple and the dried flower heads resemble fluffy bristles.

Springbok and gemsbok feed on large tufts of river Bushman grass that grow in the Tsauchab's river bed. This drought-resistant climax grass, can reach up to 2m high and like the bitter bush it stabilizes the silt, sand and organic material.

!Nara Plant

Another wonder of the Namib Desert is the interesting !Nara (in the Nama & Damara languages) plant, also known as butter-nut or botterpitte (Afrikaans), omungaraha (Herero) and !Nara melons. Found in and among the small dunes of Sossusvlei, these bright green, thorny plants, grow continuously as it keeps them above the blowing sand collecting up against it. The dunes become higher and higher and the roots and the stem of the !Nara stabilize the sand. If you see dead !Nara plants, and there are several in the area, remember the National Park's Environmental Code, and leave them where they lie. It is endemic to the desert along the west coast and grows only on sand dunes where subterranean water exists. It is common in many of the rivers leading into the Atlantic Ocean in Namibia and southern Angola.

The !Nara has sharp, straight thorns and this protects it from browsers to a certain extent. Photosynthesis takes place through the thorns and stems as it has no leaves to perform this function. There are both male and female flowers borne of different plants, the male plant flowers throughout most of the year and the wax-like flowers are pale yellow or greenish. The female flowers appear similar to those of the male plants but have a small bulge, the ovary, below the petals.

Once a year the !Nara produces a crop of round spiky fruits, the size of a large orange. These fruits are highly nutritious and quite remarkably have sustained indigenous people of the Namib for centuries. They are also eaten by gemsbok, jackals, hyenas, mice, porcupines and birds.

The Topnaars, still harvest the fruits annually. They are the longer-term residents of the Namib, who live in a small number of villages scattered along the lower Kuiseb. The livelihoods of the Topnaars are traditionally focused on small-stock farming as well as the collection, harvesting and processing of the !Nara. The seeds are allowed to dry and then bagged for sale in town or used for their own use. They are considered to be a bit of a delicacy, and can be nibbled on, as they are or even roasted and salted.

Wild Pear

Fairly widespread in central and northern Namibian woodland, and often found growing on rocky mountain slopes, is the wild pear. It is a small, but attractive, (3-10m) deciduous tree with showy flowers, a slender trunk and a sparse, spreading crown.

The bark of the wild pear is rough, deeply grooved and dark, grey-brown in colour. The leaves are large, thick and rough, dark green in colour and roundish, with 5-7 veins from the base. Around spring time (July-September) masses of white pale pink flowers appear, up to 20mm in diameter, covering the tree. The fruit is a hairy nutlet contained within the dry, brown petals of the flower.

The leaves are sometimes browsed by game and the flowers attract bees and butterflies. The inner bark is used for twine and along with the bark, the root is used for traditional medicine. The wood is heavy, brown, finely textured and is excellent for ornamental woodwork, producing a smooth finish.

White Flowered Rogeria

White-flowered rogeria (Rogeria longiflora) is one of those
strange looking plants you can see along road sides. They grow up to 2m, producing large, smelly leaves and white, unusual looking, tubular flowers. Groups of 1-3 flowers grow close to the stem. Fertilized (Rogeria longiflora), produce a large, wooden pod which remains with the plant for long periods. Dead plants remain where they fall until they eventually disintegrate.

This plant is often used in traditional medicines by local people as a treatment for wounds and burns. It is common in disturbed areas, such as drainage lines and roadsides, but is also common on stony plains and rocky slopes. There are 4 species of Rogeria recorded in Namibia, identified by differing flower colour and pod appearance.

Weeping Wattle

The weeping wattle gets its name from to the large quantities of liquid exuded by cuckoo-spit insects (Ptyelus grossus) that drips from the tree while they are actively feeding on sap from the twigs. It is common in woodland and woodland grassland areas and can be found in the north of Namibia, particularly in the Oshakati region.

It is a small to medium-sized (4-8m, can reach up to 15m) deciduous tree, often multi-stemmed, branching low down, with a dense, spreading crown. The bark is rough and grey-brown and reddish-brown hairs cover the young branchlets, leaf and flower stalks, sepals and pods. The leaves are compound with small leaflets and have a feathery appearance. The flowers have crinkled petals and are held in beautiful erect, yellow sprays or inflorescences. The pods are flat, velvety at first, becoming smooth and woody.

The leaves of the weeping wattle are browsed by livestock and game and the bark is stripped by black rhino. The pods are eaten by cattle, and the butterflies breed on the trees. The flowers attract insects, which in turn attract birds. The bark and roots are used in traditional medicine and the timber is used for manufacturing furniture, pounding blocks, ornaments, carving and firewood.

Poison Bottle Tree

The poison bottle-tree is so called by the shape of its stem and because the milky sap of the plant has been used as arrow poison by Bushmen in the past. It is nonetheless a striking plant and interesting looking plant on Namibia's rocky slopes. A thick, upright stem can measure up to 50cm across at the base and it bears beautiful, large flowers. It can grow up to 2m in height, to add to its striking appearance. The flowers are pink to white and dark red towards the centre. It has shiny, leathery leaves which can measure up to 20cm in length.

Adenium bochmianum occurs in north-western and central Namib Desert and southern Angola. It grows in a variety of habitats, mainly in such places as slopes of mountains and along the escarpment. Only 2 species of Adenium occur in Namibia.

While much of the Namibian landscape is characterised by deserts and mountains, the country extends far enough north to have a varied range of plant life. Namibia can be split into four distinct vegetation zones which together support more than 4,000 seed bearing vascular plants, 120 different species of tree, over 200 endemic plant species and 100 varieties of lichen. Savannah cover 64% of Namibia, dry woodlands and forests 20%, while desert vegetation is distributed over 16%. The zones are defined as follows:

  • The tropical forests and wetlands along the banks of the perennial rivers in the Kavango and Caprivi regions.
  • The savannah plains with occasional trees in the Kalahari.
  • Mountainous escarpment regions such as Kaokoland and Damaraland
  • Low altitude coast lands and Namib Desert.

Plants play a large part in Namibian folklore such as The Omumborombonga or ancestral tree that grows north of Windhoek. It can be found in both highland savannah and sandveld woodlands and is called the leadwood in English as its wood is the heaviest in the world. According to Herero storytellers it was out of the first Omumborombonga tree that the first human beings (a man and a woman) came forth. The wild animals of the veld, as well as the cattle and the sheep, came out of this tree, but the Bergdama (black slaves) came out of a rock as did goats and baboons. In time, all Omumborombonga trees came to be venerated and wayfarers would address them as 'father' and entreat them to grant a prosperous journey.

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