Text and photographs Luise Hoffmann
The only official botanical garden in Namibia is the one attached to the National Botanical Research Institute (NBRI) at 8 Orban Street in Windhoek. While it features mainly the original vegetation that grew on the site, it is also gradually becoming more representative of the wider spectrum of Namibia’s vegetation by introducing plants from other parts of the country.
However, Namibia has such a wide variety of vegetation zones – from the western desert areas to the tropical north-east – that the NBRI garden is not a comprehensive representation. Rather, it was designed to give an overall impression by featuring key plant species. To some extent Namibia’s lodges and guest farms are compensating for this by marking and numbering the woody plants around their buildings and along hiking trails, giving their guests the opportunity to learn about the vegetation of particular areas.
The Kupferquelle Resort in Tsumeb is an excellent case in point. The resort consists of the original municipal campsite established in 1984, shaded by lovely tall trees – some of them indigenous, some exotic. Moreover, it borders on an extensive dolomite ridge representing the natural vegetation of the Karstveld, as well as many other species found north of Tsumeb.
Around the campsite you can admire exotic species such as red mahogany (F3), Khaya anthotheca, from northern Mozambique and eastern Zimbabwe; the kapok tree (F5), Ceiba pentranda, which hails from central America and is probably the tallest tree on this site; and the camphor tree (F6), Cinnamomum camphora, native to Taiwan, Japan and Indochina.
Trees specific to the Karstveld are the strangler fig (48), Ficus burkei (previously known as F. thonningii), whose seeds often germinate in the fork of a branch of other tree species, sending down red aerial roots along the trunk that, after many years, entirely envelop and strangle the host, as is illustrated on the photo. The strangler fig can, however, also grow on its own, as it does at the Kupferquelle Resort. The large sourplum (103), Ximenia caffra subsp. caffra, is most conspicuous in January, when it bears bright-red plum-like fruit.
The propeller tree (120), Gyrocarpus americanus, is confined to the Karstveld mountain area and the extreme north of Kaokoland. Its name refers to the way the two-winged capsules rotate when falling to the ground. In autumn the leaves turn a lovely yellow to bright red before falling. The marula tree (360), Sclerocarya birrea, and the tamboti (41), Spirostachys africana, occur as shade trees at several of the lay-bys along the B1 from Otavi northwards. The hairy kudu-bush (532.1), Combretum apiculatum s. leutweinii, with fairly large and densely downy leaves, is found only in the Karstveld.
The spectacular python vine (F4) Fockea multiflora, mostly winding its way over the rocks at this locality, is also found as a strangler or a tree growing from Outjo towards to the north-west. The white trunks of the carrot tree (569), Steganotaenia araliacea, are often conspicuous on hill slopes from the environs of Rehoboth northwards. Their daintily shaped yellow-green leaves are particularly characteristic.
While the mopane tree (198), Coleospermum mopane, with its distinctive butterfly leaves is very characteristic of Kaokoland, it also occurs in eastern Caprivi. At least four of the 30 corkwood species recorded in Namibia that are very typical of Kaokoland can be seen here – (272), (272), (276) and (289).
Most of them have papery, peeling bark. Their berry-shaped fruit splits into two when ripe, revealing the seed, which is usually covered with a specifically shaped fleshy appendage known as a pseudaril. The bird plum (449), Berchemia discolor, is an important fruit-bearing tree in the northern areas, where the purple-pod terminalia (550), Terminalia prunioides, and the silver cluster-leaf (551), Terminalia sericiea, are also very common.
In addition you may find at least six of the 14 raisin bushes (458 onwards), Grewia spp, known in Namibia, and many other woody shrubs, as well as at least 12 of the acacias found in the country. Identification of the shrubby plants in particular is yet to be completed.
AMENITIES AT KUPFERQUELLE
Article originally appeared in the print edition of Travel News Namibia Autumn 2014.