I have a particular interest in succulents and wild flowers due to a friendship with one of the largest (if not THE largest in the Southern hemisphere) succulent nursery owners in South Africa. Buys Wiese has been cultivating and preserving the wonderful succulents from Namakwaland for the last few decades - starting in 1947 when he got married and returned to Vanrhynsdorp - the town in Namakwaland where he was born. Today Buys Wiese still has this wonderful nursery - the Kokerboom Kwekery - in the town of Vanrhynsdorp in Namakwaland, Western Cape, South Africa.
I am fortunate to count the Wiese family - Oom Buys, his lovely wife tannie Grieta and their children - amongst my very good friends and I would like to dedicate the sections about succulents and wild flowers of Namakwaland to them. Their love for these small plants has been an inspiration and enabled me to enjoy the wonderful flowers and plants so much more. The best of all having the opportunity to visit Uncle Buys's farm with him as my guide. A privilege that not many people have. The farm, named Quaggaskop, has been declared a natural succulent nursery and today one can hardly walk there without trampling a small succulent.
The photo above is taken at Quaggaskop, the farm where all those wonderful plants grow...and where no animals except wild ones are kept to protect the plants from being trampled or grazed.
In an Afrikaans poem Buys Wiese describes this wonderful part of our world as follows:
(Sorry it cannot be translated without losing much of the charm and meaning of the poem)
Hier waar jy die berge verlaat en gaan deur die poort
Hier waar die Knersvlakte lê enig in sy soort
Hier waar Maskam uittroon en oor sy skatte waak
Hier waar die son in die see wegraak
Hier waar die woestyn se vlaktes vir jou wag
Hier waar ontelbare sterretjies skitter in die nag
Hier waar die mis voor die son wyk
Hier waar jy stip by jou voete moet kyk
Hier waar miljoene vetplantjies tussen die wit klippies skuil
Hier waar jy soms van vreugde kan huil
Hier waar ek die stryd om te oorleef moes wen
Hier waar ek die wêreld baie goed ken
Hier waar winter blommeprag jou wink
Hier waar die somerson jou brand totdat jy stink
Hier waar die geitjies na sononder klik in ‘n koor
Hier waar die stilte jou ore laat suis as jy niks kan hoor
Hier waar ligene, klipblom, groei op klippe
Hier waar jy die suiwerste lug kan drink deur jou lippe
Hier waar die Kelkiewyn die windpomp ver kan sien
Hier waar hul met vere nat hul kleintjies met water bedien
Hier waar ek die wêreld se bies kon drink
Hier waar jy vry is om aan jou Skepper te dink
Hier waar die groot Gariep eens het gevloei
Hier waar ons steeds met sy diamante stoei
Hier waar die maanlandskap is agter gelaat
Hier waar die Geoloë se Paradys is en so baie by baat
Hier waar die koppie, ‘n rotstuin, deur Iemand gemaak, is so mooi
Hier, ja net hier, my Kinders, moet julle eendag My en Mammie se assies kom strooi.
Copyright: Buys Wiese March 2007
Most of the succulent photos shown in this web page was taken either at the Kokerboom Kwekery of Buys Wiese in Vanrhynsdorp or on his farm Quaggaskop about 20 km from Vanrhynsdorp just about where the Sishen-Saldanha train line crosses the N7 Highway to Namibia. This area is known as the Knersvlakte. It is uncertain where the name comes from but theories are that it comes form the Afrikaans word kners which means "gnashing of the teeth" - since it was hard to travel along this area in the olden days with an ox wagon. Others say the initial name was Knechtsvlakte which changed to Knersvlakte from a man that rented the valley/land from the State and subsequently was a "knecht van de Staat" (a labourer of the Government).
The Knersvlakte lies between the towns of Vanrhynsdorp and Bitterfontein and from east to west from the Koue Bokkeveldberge and Niewoudtville to the coastal plain of Namakwaland. The annual rainfall is between 100 -200 mm. The plants grow close to the ground with heights of 10 - 50cm.The landscape has typical hills and plains and is covered in white quartz pebbles amongst red soil. The interesting little plants grow between these quartz pebbles. Each spot of quartz pebbles has a unique composition and even the size of the pebbles determine which plants will grow there. The white pebbles assist in reflecting the hot rays of the sun away from them to keep them cool.
Some succulents that do not have a tight waxy leaf surface has thin cells on the leaf surface which is filled with moisture. When enough moisture is available these cells are thick and swollen. When it becomes dry the cells wilt and fall flat to close the leaf openings and avoid loss of moisture. Others redirect moisture from older leaves to the fresh young leaves and then the older leaves dry out to surround the young leaves appearing like a papery white skin which is normally visible in the hot summer months. Other plants simply shrink back into the soil and hardly even grows higher than the soil surface.
I am by no means knowledgeable about all these wonderful plants and merely share photos that i have of them. I will therefore appreciate any corrections or information that you may want to add to these pages. All advice is more than welcome. I tried my best to add common names for the plants and Botanical names for some.
For obvious reasons I decided to use an image of the white quartz stones as a small border for most of the Knersvlakte plants.
Namakwaland is actually better known for its annual flowers that cover the hills after a good rain year in the spring. The annual flowers pf Namakwaland can be seen in the section on wild flowers).
This photo shows the small succulents amongst the millions of quarts pebbles on the Knersvlakte.
I was fascinated by these little plants that are about the size of pea. On Buys's farm there are so many of them on this hill that the small red plants and pink blooms add a red haze to the hill.
In the next couple of photos you can see close-up images of these pretty little plants
However apart from the Krapogies (Crab's Eyes there are many more fascinating succulents.
These are just a small selection of the many plants. One can find as many as 100 or more different plants per square metre in certain areas on this farm.
Soutslaai - Mesembryanthemum guerichianum
This plant has a rosette form and grows to a height of about 20 cm depending on the amount of moisture in the soil. The curly leaves can sometimes be reddish in dry periods. The blooms are white or light pink and opens from midday till early evening. It grows in sandy areas throughout Namakwaland, the Northern and Western Cape and Namibia
Aezoaceae About five species of this plant is found in Namakwaland. The dry seeds has four lids that opens to release the seeds when it is wet and closes again when it becomes dry.
"Vinger en duimpie" Directly translated as "Finger and thumb" also known as the Hitchhiker plant. On the second photo you can see the dewdrops providing the moisture that this little plant needs.
Botanical name: Phyllobolus digitatus subsp. digitatus
The bababoudjies (Argyroderma) are prominent dwarf compact plants resembling pebbles. Their silver-green or graey leaves reflect the sunlight. Argyroderma (argyros = silver and derma = skin) have attractive purple or yellow flowers during the autumn and winter. Their fruiting capsules like all other members of the Mesembryanthemaceae are hygrochastical, only opening 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.
On the image on the right you can see some dry seed pods.
Albastertjies /Dobbelsteentjies (Marbles or dice) Conopytum calculus - is a perennial succulent that grows to a height of 2-3 cm. The leaves are round and whitish green with a slit in the middle. The leaves dry out altogether to a white papery sheath to protect the plants during the summer months. They bear golden orange blooms that opens up during the night. The dry sedd pod usually has five lids that open up to release the seeds when it is wet. They grow together in clusters of up to forty little plants at Quaggaskop.
Conophytum two spp. is a pinkish variety of the Albastertjies as seen above.
This section contains a selection of succulents that are found elsewhere
The Spiral aloe shown above is only found in the high mountains of Lesotho. This plant has become almost extinct and I captured this one at a nursery of the Katse Dam village where the plants are protected and cultivated.
The photos for the following plants were all captured in local gardens in Pretoria and include both aloes (cacti) and succulents.
Adenium is a genus of flowering plants in the family Apocynaceae, containing a single species, Adenium obesum, also known as Sabi Star, Kudu or Desert-rose or Impala lily. It is native to tropical and subtropical eastern and southern Africa and Arabia.