Quiver Tree Safari
If you pinned me up against a wall and forced me to confess my 10 favourite places in South Africa, one of them would be in a quiver tree forest.
These rather charismatic succulents are dotted all about the Northern Cape, but it’s only a few places where they assemble themselves into a ‘forest’.
Bear in mind, though, that a quiver tree forest is very different to any other kind of forest. Here silence rules. It’s arid, and the ground is stony. But each beautiful sculptural specimen has a profound, reverberating presence, a survivor’s endurance that practically shimmers off each one.
If you’re like me, you feel some weird urge to ‘be’ with each plant for a bit, to take pictures that show off its best side, to muse for a while on how long it has been alive, and what has stood in its spiky shade.
I’ve been to 3 of these ‘forests’. One between Loeriesfontein and Nieuwoudtville, one outside Kenhardt, and the other not far from the date oasis town of Pella.
Each one is different. The Kenhardt forest is full of strangely misshapen quiver trees. I found many dead trees. Perhaps here, in this northern area, the climate is changing to something somewhat harsher than decades before.
Yet Pella, which is further north and should be showing the same signs, contains many young quiver trees, far more than Kenhardt. The most gorgeous is the one near Loeriesfontein, furthest south. Hundreds upon hundreds of beauties, classically shaped.
At each forest, grim thoughts of climate change have invaded my peace. These beautiful succulents are emblematic of climate change, dying out in the drier, hotter north, and germinating further and further south. They’re migrating, just as fast as their roots and seeds can take them.