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A trip down memory lane, a visit to Umdaus

Fig. 1 View from one of the hills at Umdaus. Standing guard is one of the many Pachypodium namaquanum plants occurring here.

During August 2018 the author had the opportunity to pay a visit to one of the special spots in the Richtersveld in South Africa. The Richtersveld is a unique region in the Gariep Centre which forms part of the Succulent Karoo Region. Apart from many other attributes, such as the unique topography, it is one of the richest areas in the hosting of succulent plants. It is really a treasure trove for anyone interested in these plants.

The special spot under discussion, is a place called Umdaus, north of the town Steinkopf, nobody really knows where the name originated, but the name was probably coined by the original Koi inhabitants. On trips to the Richtersveld it was special to us because of many reasons, among them the many Pachypodium namaquanum plants on the hills around Umdaus, and then what led us (under the guidance of probably the most knowledgeable student of the genus, Steven Hammer) to the place in the first place, the abundance of Conophytum species in the area. According to Steven, no less than 30 taxa of Conophytum occurs in the Umdaus area.

After the publication of Steven’s book, The Genus Conophytum, published by the Succulent Society of South Africa, a publishing house was established, it was decided that the company would be called Umdaus Press. Numerous books have been published, amongst others the authoritive book on the Richtersveld by Graham Williamson as well as the superb book on the Regions of Floristic Endemism by Abraham van Wyk and Gideon Smith.

In August 2018 the author and others had the unique opportunity to visit this unique place again. We were fortunate to be guided by one of the younger generation of people very knowledgeable of the area, Karel du Toit. This was very special, not only to visit the spot where our camp was put up on the sands of the Wyepoort River, but more importantly, to revisit a few of the special plants of the area. A gallery of some of these is given here.

Photos by Kotie Retief and Liezl Retief

Fig. 2 This Pachypodium has obviously been seriously damaged at some stage. The species is also known as Halfmens (Half Man). Always bending over to the north, from far away they seemed like people fleeing to the north to early travellers.

Fig. 3 Pachypodium namaquanum in flower.

Fig. 4 The joy of youth, the Pachypodium is probably much older than Gehan du Toit

Fig. 5 The distinctive rock next the Wyepoort river, marking where Umdaus lies. It is the camping spot for many a trip, the rock giving some protection from the fierce winds coming from the coast at night. It is hard to believe, but we have seen the river in flood.

Fig. 6 A very nice specimen of Aloe ramosissima on the hill close to the river.

Fig. 7 Tylecodon paniculatus at Umdaus. In Afrikaans it is called Botterboom (Butter Tree), referring to the soft, juicy stems.

Fig. 8 Avonia papyracea var. namaquensis

Fig. 9 Conophytum flavum

Fig. 10 Conophytum flavum

Fig. 11 Conophytum longum

Fig. 12 Conophytum maughanii subsp. latum

Fig. 13 Quaqua sp. in the same vicinity

Fig. 14 Tromotriche umdausensis covered with seed pods

Fig. 15 Monsonia herrei, previously known as Sarcocaulon herrei.

Fig. 16 Cotyledon orbiculata growing with a euphorbia.

Fig. 17 Hoodia alstonii at Umdaus.

Fig. 18 Larryleachii sp.

Fig. 19 Conophytum ectypum "limbatum"

Fig. 20 Conophytum ectypum "limbatum"

Fig. 21 Lithops marmorata, the plants occurring here were at some stage described as Lithops umdausensis

Fig. 22 Conophytum maughanii subsp. latum

Fig. 23 Avonia alstonii

Fig. 24 Haworthiopsis tesselata

Fig. 25 Crassula alstonii

Fig. 26 Crassula deceptor


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