A Botanical Garden in Tsumeb?

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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.


Windhoek famed for its aloes – National Botanical Garden in Windhoek

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.

botanical tree trees garden

Weeping boer-bean at the Kupferquelle Resort.
Photo ©Luise Hoffmann

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.

botanical tree trees garden

Marula Tree. Photo ©Luise Hoffmann

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.

botanical tree trees garden

Python vine. Photo ©Luise Hoffmann

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.

botanical tree trees garden

Satin-bark corkwood fruit and leaf, Commiphora tenuipetiolata. Photo ©Luise Hoffmann

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.

botanical tree trees garden

Python vine. Photo ©Luise Hoffmann

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).

botanical tree trees garden

Propeller tree. Photo ©Luise Hoffmann

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.

botanical tree trees garden

Carrot tree. Photo ©Luise Hoffmann

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.


tsumeb kupferquelle

  • 40 new air-conditioned chalets equipped with DStv, telephones and soon-to-be-installed wireless Internet, all beautifully positioned among the indigenous vegetation on the dolomite ridge
  • 27 spacious shady, lawn-covered campsites under really tall trees
  • Internet café
  • Laundry
  • Small shop
  • Restaurant
  • Olympic-sized pool
  • Playground
botanical tree trees garden

Playground. Photo ©Luise Hoffmann

Contact details:

Article originally appeared in the print edition of Travel News Namibia Autumn 2014.


Travel News Namibia
Travel News Namibia
Travel News Namibia is a high-quality glossy Namibia travel and lifestyle magazine tasked with promoting Namibia to the world. With riveting stories, first-hand encounters and magnificent photographs showcasing tourism, travel, nature, adventure and conservation, TNN is the ultimate and most comprehensive guide to exploring Namibia. Travel News Namibia is published in five different editions per year. These include four English- language editions and one German. Travel News Namibia is for sale in Namibia and South Africa.

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