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Vegetation

Namaqualand is renowned for its annual mass display of wild flowers in spring and a rich diversity of succulent plants, with an estimated 3 500 species, more than a 1000 endemic to the area.

The park has been described as typical Namaqualand broken veld with a great variety of smaller succulents, such as Crassula spp., Adromischus spp., Pelargonium spp., stapeliands and Cotyledon spp., as well as annuals and bulbous plants.

It is also described as part of the succulent Karoo biome, dividing the area into the strandveld succulent Karoo, Upland Succulent Karoo, Lowland Succulent Karoo and North-western Mountain Renosterveld (Fynbos Biome). Also see Quartz Patches.

The Namaqualand broken veld merges east into the mountain renosterveld of the hills and mountains of the Kamiesberg Range, part of the fynbos biome. Four of the highest peaks exceed 1 500 m while Rooiberg (south), the highest land surface in Namaqualand, reaches 1 700 m. The Kamiesberg range consists of at least 22 endemic taxa.

Endemics (especially dwarf succulent shrubs) are clustered in broken, rocky habitats rather than sandy or loamy flats. Remaining endemics are likely to be geophyte members of the Iridaceae, Amarylliadaceae and Geraniaceae, also confined to winter rainfall areas. The hills and mountains of the Kamiesberg Range contains 201 endemic centre with 79 endemic species confined to this small area.


Vegetation

The Namaqualand region of South Africa falls within the Succulent Karoo biome, identified as one of the world’s 34 biodiversity hotspots (one of three hotspots in South Africa), and is the focus of both international and national groups/organisations to conserve this globally unique living landscape i.e. the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the Lesley Hill Succulant Karoo Trust, Global Environment Facility (GEF) and Conservation International (CI) with initiatives such as the SKEP and Arid Eden Project.

Fifteen bioregions are represented within the boundaries of the Namaqua NP, namely: (i) Arid Estuarine Salt Marches, (ii) Kamiesberg Mountain Scrubland, (iii) Namaqualand Arid Grassland, (iv) Namaqualand Blomveld, (v) Namaqualand Coastal Duneveld, (vi) Namaqualand Heuweltjiesveld, (vii) Namaqualand Inland Duneveld, (viii) Namaqualand Klipkoppe Scrubland, (xi) Namaqualand Rivers, (x) Namaqualand Salt Pans, (xi) Namaqualand San Fynbos, (xii) Namaqualand Seashore Vegetation, (xiii) Namaqualand Strandveld, (xiv) Riethuis Wallekraal Quartz Vygieveld, and (xv) Oograbies Plains Sandy Grassland.

The Succulent Karoo has approximately 6,356 plant species, 40% (2,542) are endemic. Namaqualand alone has about 3000 species (1,500 are endemic) made up of 648 genera and 107 families. Seventeen percent are listed as Red Data species (International Union for Conservation of Nature 1994). When compared to regions with similar semi-arid environments the richness of this biome is exceptional. Namaqualand is further distinguished from other desert regions by the presence of the following families: Mesembryanthemaceae (vygies); Iridaceae (irids); Hyacinthaceae (lachenalias) and Crassulaceae (crassulas). There is a strong pattern of dominance by succulents and bulbs.

It is estimated that the Succulent Karoo bioregion has about 16% of the worlds approximately 10,000 succulent plant species. The high level of diversity is a result of a number of factors that include:

  • occasional droughts that increase generation turnover and population fragmentation
  • soil depth, moisture and texture
  • chemical composition of the bedrock
  • animal related disturbance regimes (e.g. heuweltjies)

The Succulent Karoo has its own characteristic fauna with the dominant animals being invertebrates, specifically monkey beetles, scorpions, bee flies, bees and masarid and vespid wasps have concentrations of diversity and endemism in the Succulent Karoo Biome. There is a strong faunal relationship between the Succulent Karoo and the Fynbos and Desert biomes and it is considered a transitional region.

The floral richness of the Succulent Karoo is mirrored in its faunal diversity especially the invertebrates and reptiles although this is not the case with birds and mammals. This high species- richness has been attributed to events such as the folding of the Cape mountains and the subsequent isolation of specific habitats and the high levels of plant diversity. The high barriers between the Succulent and Nama Karoo biomes have limited faunal movements between the two even by the more mobile organisms.