Vegetation of Namibia

Vegetation of Namibia

Namibia has some of the most extraordinary vegetation, all adapted to harsh desert environments. Due to areas of differing rainfalls and soils, there is a variety of plants from the desert and semi-desert vegetation to the subtropical species, but most of the country is covered with savannah and dotted with acacia.

The Kunene region in the north of Namibia has beautiful and endless landscapes of different colors of soils – red and black volcanic sands blending finely on the western coast with salty sands and here on the northern Angolan border one finds the Kunene River with its riverine vegetation sitting against massive bare sand dunes – it’s such an incredible and beautiful contrast.

To the east in the Zambezi region, one finds Makalani palms, baobab trees, and wild figs and in areas some lush riverine vegetation. Interestingly, desert elephants who miraculously live in such difficult and arid conditions, survive by eating the vegetation but never actually harming them or pulling their branches down. They seem to instinctively know that the few available trees need to survive too.

The rocky mountains of Etendeka and Grootberg are home to thick-stemmed trees and scrubs. These include the Euphorbia’s – Damara, Versa, and Mauritania and the unusual looking Bottle trees with their bulbous lower trunks tapering up to small branches that spout out of the top like a bad hair cut!

Shepherd trees, Ringwood, mopane with their butterfly leaves, and purple pod Terminalia are all present.  The rocks and hillsides are covered in zeolites, crystals, granite, and silica with occasional clumps of knotgrasses, making for a memorable scene. In some years only 110m of rain falls in this region.

Etosha, one of the most visited parks in the country is dominated by its 4731 km2 of the salt pan which is surrounded by open grass plains, home to oryx, rhino, elephants, kudu, and giraffe. Camelthorn and mopane trees provide much-appreciated shade and food too.

Further south there is the desert thistle, Pocaleteum bushes, and wild sage in the springs that are visited by crowned lapwings, larks, and sand grouse.  On the iron-rich red sand dunes of Sossusvlei and the Namib Rand, barking geckos and scrab beetles dash around lime green ostrich spiky grasses that wave in the breeze whilst clinging to the dunes. Short Bushman grass, tall Bushman grass, and Kalahari sour grasses live in valleys and over the plains.  On foggy mornings the wildlife collects condensed droplets of water from the grasses – fundamental for their survival.

In Fish River Canyon, the second largest canyon in the world, one finds the remarkable Quiver or Kokerboom tree as well as other desert succulents. The Kokerboom is endemic to Keetmanshoop, Namaqualand and can be seen in the Tiras Mountains. One of the loveliest succulents is the lithops – tiny and gorgeous pebble looking plants that come in different shapes and colors. The translation of the local Afrikaans name is cattle or sheep’s hoof as they resemble little hooves. Some species are so rare that they will literally occur on one side of a hill and nowhere else – at all.

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