Wildflowers of the southern Namib, by Coleen Mannheimer et al.
This guide, Wildflowers of the southern Namib, covers the south-western corner of Namibia, mainly the southern Namib Desert, although a number of common plant species that occur as far east as the Fish River have been included. Authors are Coleen Mannheimer, Gillian Maggs-Kolling, Herta Kolberg and Silke Rügheimer.
The borders may be regarded as roughly the Aus-Luderitz road in the north, the Atlantic Ocean in the west, the Orange River in the south and the Fish River in the east. Although the emphasis is on wildflowers, usually taken to mean annual and perennial herbs and grasses, a few of the most common ferns, shrubs and trees have been described to make the book more useful all-round. Many people will be aware that the larger part of the area covered is often known as the "Sperrgebiet", or "forbidden area", due to it being a highly restricted zone in order to protect diamond mining interests since 1923. Recently the area has been opened up to additional limited and controlled mining, and is soon to be proclaimed as the Sperrgebiet National Park. In the past mining activities have largely been undertaken near the coast, and controlled access to the rest of the area, regarded as a "buffer zone", has fortuitously resulted in it remaining a largely pristine wilderness that harbours a unique plant species composition comprising approximately 25% of the Namibian flora as a whole (over 1000 species), and including numerous endemic and near-endemic species. Succulents comprise a large proportion of the flora in the area, and several plant families are particularly well represented. These include the mesemb family ("vygies"), daisy family (Asteraceae), devil's thorn family (Zygophyllaceae), spurge family (Euphorbiaceae) and a number of geophyte families, such as the Hyacinthaceae and Iridaceae. Adaptations to aridity, such as succulence, seed retention, and rapid growth and reproduction of annuals are common. The composition of the flora is driven by the prevailing climatic conditions, which are extremely arid, with mean annual rainfall as low as 20 mm in the coastal zone, increasing to about 60 mm further inland. Additional, and more reliable, moisture is made available via precipitation from regular fog, particularly along the coast, and this is an important resource for many species. Fog travels inland as far as the escarpment, and influences plant communities, especially those near the tops of mountains, where the fog persists longest. Fog also moves inland up the valley of the Orange River. Another challenge to plants and other living creatures, especially those that occur in areas of mobile sands, is provided by strong and relentless winds that blow almost all year round, mainly from the south. Wind speeds reach up to 80 km per hour in some wind corridors, notably Pomona, which averages the highest wind velocities in southern Africa. At this historic mining village the winds move sand dunes, covering and uncovering entire buildings through the years. Abrasion by windblown sand is yet another factor faced by the biota of the area. Occasional warm berg winds from the interior blow in winter, aggravating the prevailing moisture deficit. Temperatures can be quite extreme, varying from below freezing to about 40°C, particularly in the eastern reaches. However for most of the year temperatures are relatively moderate, and it is mainly in areas such as the Orange River valley that very high temperatures are experienced. The area is geologically and topographically very diverse. The coastal plain includes both rocky and sandy shores and, further inland, plains, inselbergs, mountain complexes, watercourses and the escarpment provide many habitats and niches where unique organisms have evolved mechanisms that enable them to survive in this inhospitable corner of the subregion.
This is an excerpt from the book: Wildflowers of the southern Namib, by Coleen Mannheimer et al.
Title: Wildflowers of the southern Namib
Authors: Coleen Mannheimer, Gillian Maggs-Kolling, Herta Kolberg, Silke Rügheimer
National Botanical Research Institute
Windhoek, Namibia 2008
ISBN 9789991608785 / ISBN 978-99916-0-878-5
Softcover, 15x21 cm, 292 pages, countless colour photos, 2 maps
Mannheimer, Coleen und Maggs-Kolling, Gillian und Kolberg, Herta und Rügheimer, Silke im Namibiana-Buchangebot
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