Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Knersvlakte and Quivertree Forest

Knersvlakte and Quivertree Forest          !High Succulent Alert!

Knersvlakte means the ‘gnashing plain’, and it is an extensive dry region, consisting of gently rolling hills covered with white quartz pebbles. This region is located just north west of the Bokkeveld Mountains near Nieuwouldville, and the vegetation is succulent karoo and dominated by small leaf succulents.

Many plants (especialy Aizoaceae) are growing only here due to the white quartz gravel, which reflects the sunlight, and is less hot during the extremely arid summers. The dwarf and compact plants, also have an ideal form to absorb thermal heat for the short cool winter growing season when rain occurs.


Oophytum sp., nanum ?

Oophytum flowering

Argyroderma delaetii

Mesems are hygrochastical, meaning their fruiting capsules only open with moisture. The velocity of raindrops on the wet capsule roofs disperses the seed by water pressure, almost like a water pistol. When the capsule dries out the lids close, protecting the seed. The seed are thus only released during the rainy season.


The 48,500hectare area is extremely diverse, with 1,324 recorded species, 266 of them endemic, and 133 (!) globally threatened. I know, these are just numbers, and I am absolutely repetitive in my use of the word diverse – but we are talking about ultimate true hotspots here! And land-use pressures are increasing; mining, overgrazing, and illegal collecting have reduced the area of undisturbed flora greatly.

Dactylopsis digitata

Nevertheless - I had a magic afternoon crawling around close to the ground, and felt like the kid in the toy store...the setting sun was a willing cooperator providing the stage lights for these beauties!


The Knarsvlekte is also the southern most distribution of the quiver tree, Aloe dichotoma. On a different day, after work at the Hantam Garden, I drove north to find the quiver tree forest. They are very slow growing and had just finished flowering. The San tribes (Bushman) used the tree stems as quivers, hence the name. The place is unreal and the Aloes something else - I have never seen anything even closely like this!

You might find the pictures borderline kitsch – but that’s life sometimes…