Phantom Trees and Fairytale Forests

Among Namibia’s tree curiosities is the near endemic Moringa - a succulent

tree of the family Moringaceae, subspecies ovalifolia.

We come across these curious trees on our Damaraland safaris - distribution shows it occurs in north and north-western Namibia.

This ornamental deciduous tree (image above in leaf), sheds its oval shaped leaves (hence the name ovalifolia) in Autumn. The long seed pods persist on the stems long after the leaves have fallen, leaving curiously shaped trees clinging to rocky slopes with pods, like so many dangling pencils, bobbing in the wind.

The squat and swollen stem is often carved into grotesque shapes by antelope, Elephant, giraffe and particularly Aardvark, all of which adore the pulpy stems which are high in vitamins and proteins. The plant produces a phytochemical with unique antioxidant chemical compounds which help the tree ward off insects.

Even though it has a bitter taste, it has been used as an effective water clarifying agent.

Etosha boasts a “Sprookieswould”, Afrikaans for “Fairytale forest” (image below). And it does look like an enchanted forest - unusually growing on a flat plain. Some of this forest. has had to be fenced off to prevent damage by elephant.


Curtis + Mannheimer 2005

Van Wyk et al 2000

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