Namibia’s Strange And Wonderful Plants

Oct 9, 2023 0 comments

Namibia's rich biodiversity boasts of an astonishing array of plant life that spans from the arid expanses of the Namib Desert to the lush oases of its riverbeds and the rugged landscapes of its mountain ranges. A staggering number of these botanical wonders are endemic to the country, having evolved to the country's challenging climatic conditions. Amongst this botanical treasure trove, one can discover some of the most extraordinary and peculiar-looking plants found only within Namibia's borders.

Quiver Tree

Photo credit: hibbijibbies/Flickr

The Quiver Tree is one of the best known flora of Namibia. The indigenous people used to hollow out the tubular branches of the tree and make quivers for their arrows. This is how the tree got its name.

The Quiver tree is a succulent plant that has strange looking leaves that resemble roots, giving the appearance that the tree is upside down. According to local tradition, the tree brings good luck to anybody that worships and nurtures it. It is even said that if one digs up a tree, they will find diamonds where it grows. Thankfully, since these trees are blessed, nobody wants to dig them up.

The Quiver tree grows aplenty in southern Namibia. There is a whole grove of them near Keetmanshoop called the Quiver Tree Forest, which is a tourist attraction. The forest has grown spontaneously, and the tallest quiver trees are two to three centuries old. The forest was declared a national monument of Namibia in 1995.

Photo credit: Sonse/Flickr

Photo credit: Judith/Flickr

Photo credit: Martin Heigan/Flickr

Photo credit: Curtis Simmons/Flickr

Photo credit: Bobby Bradley/Flickr

Elephants trunk

Pachypodium namaquanum, also known as halfmens or elephants trunk, is another succulent plant native to Southern Africa. The plant consist of a single stem growing up to 10 feet tall and one feet in a diameter (resembling an elephant’s foot), crowned by a rosette of leaves at the apex. The entire body is densely covered in sharp spines.

Photo credit: Derek Keats/Flickr

Photo credit: Martin Heigan/Flickr

Photo credit: Ragnhild&Neil Crawford/Flickr

Welwitschia mirabilis

The Welwitschia mirabilis grows only in the arid deserts of Namibia and Angola. The plant is unusual because of its large, strap like leaves that grow continuously along the ground. Throughout its lifetime, the plant produce only two leaves which often split into many tattered segments as a result of the leaves being whipped by the wind. Carbon-14 dating of the largest plants have shown that some individuals are over 1500 years old.

Welwitschia mirablilis grows extremely slowly and can reach a height of 1.5 meters above the ground, although the majority of specimens are less than a meter tall. The leaves grow an average 8 to 15 centimeter per year. A thousand-year-old plant can therefore produce up to 150 meters of leaf tissue, although leaves longer than 4-6 meters are seldom seen in living plants as the tips continue to die and wither. Some of the largest specimens can be 4 meters across.

Photo credit: Petr Kosina/Flickr

The leaves of the Welwitschia mirablilis are very thick, about 1.4 cm, that helps keep the soil under the plant cool and moist, which is essential for the plant’s survival in the desert. Since rainfall in this area is erratic, the plant absorbs moisture from fog that regularly develops at night over the desert when the cold north-flowing currents meets the hot air coming off the Namib Desert. This function is performed by the leaves by keeping their stomata open at night and closing it when the fog lifts. Because of the dependence on fog, the plant is seldom found more than 100 km from the coast.

Photo credit: Geir K. Edland/Flickr

Photo credit: Geir K. Edland/Flickr

Photo credit: Petr Kosina/Flickr

Damara milk-bush

The Damara milk-bush (Euphorbia damarana) has slender, grey succulent stems and grows in a bunch. It can grow to 2.5m in height, and produce a toxic, milky latex. At the tips of its branches are yellow-brown capsules which appear during the fruiting season.

The plant is one of the most toxic plants in Namibia. It has been reported that the toxic milky latex of the plant is capable of killing animals and humans except rhino and oryx who feed upon it. The plant is said to be so toxic that if you have an open wound and it comes into contact with the plant, the poison could kill you.

Photo credit: Ragnhild&Neil Crawford/Flickr

Photo credit: Ragnhild&Neil Crawford/Flickr

Photo credit: Leon Brocard/Flickr


More on Amusing Planet


{{posts[0].date}} {{posts[0].commentsNum}} {{messages_comments}}


{{posts[1].date}} {{posts[1].commentsNum}} {{messages_comments}}


{{posts[2].date}} {{posts[2].commentsNum}} {{messages_comments}}


{{posts[3].date}} {{posts[3].commentsNum}} {{messages_comments}}