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THE QUIVER TREE FOREST ON GANNABOS

The quiver tree or “Kokerboom” is one of the most interesting and characteristic plants on Gannabos. Actually it is no tree, but an aloe plant.  The botanical name is ALOE DICHOTOMA.  Dichotoma refers to the forked branches of the plant.
The plant is called a “Kokerboom” because some Bushmen and Hottentot tribes used the tough, pliable bark and branches to make quivers for their arrows.  The trees in the forest are natural.  No trees have been planted by humans.  The big trees in the forest are between 200 and 300 years old.
The species Aloe dichotoma has been known to scientists since 1685, when it was discovered during Governor Simon van der Stel's expedition to Namaqualand in search of copper.
The quiver tree is a stout tree up to 9 metres high with a smooth trunk which can be up to one metre in diameter at ground level.  The plants are usually found growing singly but in some areas the plants grow in larger groups, and giving the effect of a forest, like on the farm Gannabos.  The biggest quiver tree forest in the southern hemisphere is been found here.
The leaves are greyish-green and the flowers are bright yellow. Because the kokerboom is an aloe, it has fibrous wood. Like all succulents it has developed specialised ways of living in areas of erratic and little rainfall. The kokerboom soaks up water and stores it in its succulent leaves.
It is often encountered growing at the most precarious positions, such as on the edges of canyons, possibly relishing the cool updrafts of wind.  The rocks anchor the plants which have a spread-root-system. They have their first flowers when they are about 15 to 25 years old. The flowering-season is in the winter during May, June and July. Swarms of birds and locusts are drawn by the sweet nectar of the kokerboom flowers, and baboons have been known to strip off the blossoms in search of the liquid. People cut the trunks into squares and used them to construct walls. Water was then fed into the fibrous wood from a tank placed at the top.