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Unique Plants of Namaqualand

Aug 17, 2007
Namaqualand in the very north west of South Africa is part of the Northern Cape Province. Its northern boundary, the Orange River, is also the border to the neighbouring country Namibia.

The National Road N7 leads through the province, connecting Cape Town with the Namibian capital of Windhoek. The border posts at the Orange River are near Vioolsdrif on the South African side and in Noordoever on the Namibian side.

Namaqualand due to the low rainfalls of less than 300 millimetres per annum therefore classified as semi desert. At the coast it rains even less because of the cold Benguela current that frequently brings dense sea fogs to this coastal desert region as well as to the Namibian coast. Namaqualand is no ordinary desert. It may appear that way, as you hurtle down the national route in late summer everywhere, the low shrubbery is exhausted by six rainless months. If you stop, however, get out of your car, and walk towards the nearby granite kop pie, you will see that this desert is exceptional, even in the dry season.

In comparison with other deserts of the world, Namaqualand has many unique botanical features. Firstly, the diversity of species is unparalleled. Namaqualand has a flora of about 3000 species distributed among 648 genera and 107 families. This is a very large number of species, at least four times richer than for similar-sized areas of winter-rainfall deserts in the Americas, North Africa and the Middle East. The region also has an extraordinarily high level of endemism, with about half of its plant species found nowhere else.

Sadly, the unique plants of Namaqualand have been little appreciated by those who have plundered this amazing desert for its riches. Over the centuries, but especially during the past 50 years, there has been a multi pronged assault on its natural bounty. When the earliest diamond miners, with pick and shovel, exposed the gem studded gravels along its shore, they gave no thought to the value of the plants or living topsoil that was carelessly cast aside.

Those who look for the quiet, wide landscapes and the intense colours of the desert should not miss a trip through Namaqualand. Particularly enthralling is springtime after the short rainy season, when suddenly the arid land is covered in a lush carpet of wildflowers.

Explore Namaqualand with its sleepy fishing villages on the Atlantic coast, the Richtersveld National Park in the remote desert and its capital Springbok.
About the Author
Douglas Scott works for The Rental Car Hire Specialist. and is a free lance writer for The Namaqualand Rental Site
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