Succulent Karoo plant conservation safeguards an arid area biodiversity hotspot unique in the world. Here is a land full of tiny miracles, the smallest succulent plants on earth that have undergone an explosion of evolution. Yet most know it just for its wildflower extravaganza in spring.

Did you know?

The Succulent Karoo receives soft, regular winter rainfall - the key to its explosive biodiversity.

If you're interested in South African plants, or more particularly Succulent Karoo plant conservation, you are bound to come across a picture showing an impossible scene, a tapestry of bright flowers from one horizon to the other.

There might be a cryptic caption: 'Namaqualand, South Africa'. This is one of the world's greatest wonders, part of the Succulent Karoo, an arid wonderland running in a rough broad stripe up the country's west coast.

In a good season, when the rains have come at the right time and in the right quantities, there are drifts and sweeps of colours everywhere you look - waves of glistening white, sunny orange, goose-eye purple, acid yellow, party pink.

That's might be considered reason enough for plant conservation in the Karoo.

But in reality, this is just the surface, the pretty make-up, one might say, on the face of a fascinating person. Conservationists know this land as the world's only desert hotspot of biodiversity with well over 4 000 species, and 40% of them found nowhere else.

Fully one third of the entire world's 10 000 succulent plants are found here, and ecologists are scrambling to conserve this astounding plant diversity in the Karoo.

Many succulents are known best by their evocative Afrikaans or Nama names: donkey ears, little buttons, fat fingers, chicken feet, goose droppings, butter-trees and baby's bums.

Succulent Karoo plant conservation is best appreciated in places like the Namaqualand National Park, the Richtersveld National Park, and the national botanical gardens at Worcester and Nieuwoudtville.