This is no fairytale story. Actually, it’s a serious cry for help. Because I, the majestic desert giant, commonly known as Quiver Tree, Kokerboom or //ganas, cannot speak for myself.
My Namibian habitat, once ranging from the Brandberg area in Damaraland all the way down to the realm of the Orange River, is getting smaller and smaller every day.
I hear them say that due to global warming, caused by humans exploiting this planet and its resources, the temperature in Namibia rises steadily each year. And boy oh boy, if you have ever camped in our beautiful deserts and watched a magical sunset descending between my beautiful branches, you know how hot my fibrous shallow roots can get!
You see, I love to be the only tree in a very arid ecosystem. I like to show the world that I can survive in hot and stony grounds and even do better balancing on rocky ridges. I actually like to stand in the limelight and especially like to be photographed in the prisma colours that accompany the setting sun. I also welcome communities of sociable weavers on my wide branches. After 20 years of steady growth, and I start producing my bright, yellow blooms during April and June in Southern Namibia, the birds must share my delicious nectar with insects and baboons, providing a wonderful cornucopia in the desert. In return, they facilitate pollination.
I even took care and supported the hunter-gatherers of Namibia for years in their quest for catching their source of protein, by allowing them to use my perfectly crafted straight and narrow branches to be turned into quiver bags for their arrows. Many a hunted springbok has been roasted in my shade, whilst they also made good use of my fallen brothers and sisters by partially hollowing out their trunks. If they would pour water over the fibrous spongy shell, evaporation due to a breeze would keep their food cool. Today I believe you call this the workings of a refrigerator?
I am a real piece of natural art, you know.
My name might be a tree but really, my genus name “Aloidendron” stems from Greek, Arabic and Hebrew descriptions of the word “bitter”. This would make me a plant then, but a very cool plant at least.
It takes me a good five years to grow from a planted seed to being large enough for survival, and I take my even sweeter time to divide my branches into two, giving me the Greek name “dichotomum”. But then again, true perfection takes its time, right?
Speaking of which, have you noticed the heat reflective powder on my stocky stem? This doesn’t just act as my own personal air conditioner, it also deters little desert critters from gnawing at me, increasing my chances of reaching up to nine meters high in my lifetime.
The Nama people living in my surroundings close to the Fish River Canyon referred to me as //ganas, which literally means “scratched”. My older colleagues around me in our little forest close to Canyon Lodge, (as well as our colleagues north of Keetmanshoop) will show you why: our bark cracks into beautiful fissures due to changes in temperature and eventually peels off in larger patches.
Do you want to photograph my glorious self from the best angle? Then get down into the sand and look up from the bark to the leaves and snap away! You will not be disappointed.
Really, I don’t ask for much in return. Researchers have determined the oldest Quiver Tree to have reached 300 years in age. I wish my little forest and I would live to tell this tale. But if it wasn’t for the assistance of the Gondwana Canyon Park rangers, who for over 20 years have been collecting my seeds and carefully nurtured the seedlings in a nursery at Holoog Nursery my lineage would have been extinct by now.
The rangers started this Adopt a Quiver Tree Project, where all tourists and tree lovers in the world can do something to combat the effects of global warming that I experience every day. By adopting a young Quiver Tree, and having it replanted in the Gondwana Canyon Park, you can follow its growth and development through its GPS coordinates. You can even name your tree Goliath if you’d like!
As soon as you are allowed to travel the world again, you can come see me and all the youngsters, to experience my aura and energy. After everything that has happened in the world lately, do come here and let your soul wander and re-energize in our desert forest. But be warned, there is no vaccine for global warming. Support us now and ensure that your children and my children can one day take a picture together.
The thought of it truly makes me quiver…..
Written by: Sonia Noirfalise