Quiver tree – Namibia’s iconic upside down tree

My husband Per in Quiver Tree Forest, Namibia
My husband Per in Quiver Tree Forest, Namibia

The quiver tree is not really a tree. It is a succulent in the aloe family (aloe dichotoma) and looks like a tree upside down. At a distance, it may look like a trunk turned on the head with all the roots sprouting into the sky. Coming closer, you will see that all the forky branches end in a rosette of greenish leaves. The plant can grow up to 9 m high and the stem can be one meter in diameter. No wonder most people believe it’s a tree.

The branches on the quiver tree all end in a rosett with leaves
The branches on the quiver tree all end in a rosett with leaves

Dear child has many names. Quiver tree is also called kokerboom, from Afrikaans. It blooms with big yellow flowers in June and July and attracts a varied range of insects. The flower buds can be eaten and it is said that they taste a bit like asparagus. The quiver tree, that is not a tree, can become over 80 years old.

The quiver tree only grows in Namibia and in South Africa and due to climate change it is considered threatened. The plant grows in desert-like areas and preferably where there are mountains. Nevertheless, the plant does not like it to get too hot and it’s just what happens in Namibia’s desert areas, the temperature rises for each year.

Quiver Tree Forest in Namibia
Quiver Tree Forest in Namibia

In Namibia the San people use the tree as a “refrigerator”. The reason for this is that the corky bark is filled with a white fiber that is able to store large amounts of liquid and thus keep the cold. So when the San people cave out dead trees for storage, the hollow trunk keeps the heat out. The bark is also covered with a white powder that reflects the sun and therefore protects the plant from becoming too hot and burned.

The quiver tree is actually named after the San people’s utilization of the plant. It’s not just the trunk they cave out, but the smaller branches are perfect for storing arrows, hence the name quiver.

Near Keetmanshoop in Namibia’s south you can visit one of the finest collections of quiver trees. The trees are on private grounds and one has to pay to get in. Quiver Tree Forest is fun to visit, but there are many quiver trees outside the area as well. As you travel further south towards the Fish River Canyon, you will see them everywhere without having to pay.

Quiver tree on the rim of Fish River Canyon
Quiver tree on the rim of Fish River Canyon

The pleasure of traveling is to discover and learn about phenomena and relationships that are completely different from those we are used to at home. This gives you more knowledge and most people would like to agree that knowledge is fun. The recent years of travel to many desert areas have given me great pleasure and a desire to learn even more about our wonderful world. The quiver tree is just one example of how knowledge sometimes turns things upside down.

Read more about our experiences in Namibia here: Destinations – Africa – Namibia

More quiver trees
More quiver trees
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