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NB 37 Quiver Tree Dawn

There are few iconic images that beat the quiver tree or kokerboom, Aloe dichotoma, its stylised shape giving it a prehistoric appearance, especially when etched against the deep colours of a Namibian sunset. Situated on the farm Gariganus, 23 kilometres north-east of Keetmanshoop, the Quiver Tree Forest is a worthwhile detour, especially for keen photographers. Here several hundred of these curious trees can be seen growing as a dense stand amongst the rocky outcrops that are so characteristic of the southern parts of Namibia. The stand was declared a national monument and fenced for tourist viewing some fifty years ago. Reaching heights of up to seven metres, the quiver tree is one of four Namibian aloes that are classified as trees. One of these, the bastard quiver tree, Aloe pillansii, is sometimes confused with the kokerboom, the difference being that A. pillansii has a taller trunk with fewer, more erect branches and a sparse crown, and has a much more limited distribution, being confined to the areas just north and south of the Orange River. The quiver tree, on the other hand, grows fairly commonly along Namibia’s western escarpment from the Orange River northwards into Kaokoland. In June and July quiver trees are covered in bright yellow flowers, attracting large numbers of birds and insects to their copious nectar. Baboons tear the flowers apart to get at the sweet substance, often stripping a tree of its blossoms soon after they have appeared. One of the quiver tree’s most attractive features is its bark, which is smooth, often with a pearly grey or golden sheen, sometimes flaking and cracked into diamond shapes, frequently folding like melting wax. The Governor of the Cape of Good Hope, Simon van der Stel, recorded this fascinating and distinctive tree in 1685 where it grew in the northern Cape. He noticed that Bushmen fashioned quivers for their arrows from the soft branches, and it was this custom that gave rise to the tree’s common name. — in Namibia.

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