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Quiver Tree Forest

Keetmanshoop | Namibia

The Quiver Tree Forest monument was recorded in the Official Gazette as being 'a spectacular collection of quiver trees near Keetmanshoop and were described as 'consisting of approximately 250-300 large Aloe dichotoma trees, spread over an area of approximately 500 by 500 yards (457.2 by 457.2m). The quiver tree gets its name from the habit of the indigenous San Bushmen who made quivers from the branches of the plant as containers for their (poisonous) arrows.

It deserves to be celebrated as one of Namibia's national monuments as it is one of the most interesting and characteristic plants that grows in a hot, dry southern region of the country. It is found in Namibia from Keetmanshoop as far north as Usakos.

Botanists have been unable to determine the age of the trees in this forest, and carbon dating in South Africa shows that the quiver tree does not live exceptionally long and claims that they can attain an age of thousands of years are pure speculation and unfounded. But it is believed that large trees up to 5m in height could be some 200 years old.

A number of settlers, explorers and travellers have 'discovered' the quiver tree species. The South African settler, Simon van der Stel found them on an expedition in Namaqualand in 1685 and were sketched by the party's artist, Hendrik Claudius. Other specimens were collected and drawn over the 17th and 18th centuries since Stel, including Thomas Baines who saw the tree in 1866 near Roodeberg, 105km east-south-east of Walvis Bay. The strange landscape of ridges of rough red rock studded with pebbles and flashing crystals, proved to be too good an opportunity for him to miss, and he made a sketch on the spot. It is believed to be the first reproduction of any kind of the quiver tree as a whole in its natural setting.

The trunk of the quiver tree can grow to a height of 10m and up to 1.2m in diameter near the base. Its branches are naked and dichotomous (dividing into pairs). At the end of the branches the leaves are crowded, fleshy, free of spots with spiny margins. The leaves can grow up to 30cm long.

Flowers of the quiver tree are tubular-oblong and yellow in colour and the multi-trunked quiver trees of this forest flower in the winter and early spring months. Higher periods of precipitation are associated with higher growth patterns. It is not unusual for a quiver tree to having from between one trunk with a single rosette of leaves, to growing many branches with many leaf-rosettes. This is a feature of these strange but wonderful looking plants in this forest. While hiking in Namibia (esp the southern areas) quiver trees are often the only tree species that can be found, unfortunately they are not particularly good at providing shade!

The Quiver Tree Forest is situated on the Farm Gariganus, only 25km east of the town of Keetmanshoop in the Karas Region. It was proclaimed a national monument on 1st June 1955.

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Travel Namibia