Flowers of Namaqualand

Every summer, flower beds, pots and window boxes are filled with daisy-like flowers of a warm orange , bright yellow, salmon and blends of all three.  Botanically these are annuals of the Dimorpotheca family.  Their more robust perennial relatives, the Osteospermums, also come in whites and purples.The world takes great pains to distinguish between the annuals and the perennials and has given them names like African Daisy or South African Daisy, Cape Daisy and Blue-eyed Daisy.


But to the people of Southern Africa, they have only one name: Namaqualand daisies.

Little Namaqualand is the arid northern part of the Cape Province of South Africa, centered on the regional capital, Springbok. Remote areas are inhabited by the Nama people (previously known as Hottentots), whose language seems to consist of nothing but clicking sounds, and is unintelligible to all but themselves and their close relatives the Bushmen of the Kalahari. Ninety-five percent of the rest of the inhabitants of Little Namaqualand speak Afrikaans, another language understood by a select few: South Africans, the Flemish and some Dutch.Fishing and mining are the chief activities.  There is little to attract tourists.

Except for a few weeks in the early spring when the first rains of the season turn the dry, uninteresting landscape into a breathtaking vista of flowers as far as the eye can see. There is a huge array of flowers, some 650 including the world’s largest selection of succulents.  But the tourists do not drive up from Cape Town in their thousands to see aloes, crassulas and cacti; they come to see the daisies spread before them like a richly-hued, intricately patterned carpet.

The daisies certainly make a splash, but they were not the reason that UNESCO gave World Heritage status to the Richtersveld area of Namaqualand.  That was because of the little people who speak in clicks and their semi-nomadic, pastoral way of life, which has endured for thousands of years.


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