Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Halfmens of the Richtersveld

The mysterious and magical Halfmens (Pachypodium namaquanum) occurs only in the dry, rocky, semi desert areas of the extreme north-western Cape or Richtersveld. The common name, Halfmens, refers to their strange tall forms which can quite conceivably be mistaken for humans when viewed against the skyline or at twilight.

These extremely slow growing succulent trees (0.5 – 1.5 cm per year) can reach a height of 5 metres and can become in excess of 100 years old. The succulent stem is thick at the base, tapering towards the apex and topped off by a rosette of grey-green leaves.

An interesting feature of these trees is that the top of the stem always inclines towards the north, giving rise to the mystery and legend that surrounds the Halfmens.

The beautiful legend related by the Khoisan people of Namaqualand, explains their belief that these trees are half human, half plant, and how the Halfmens was created.

The legend tells of how the Khoisan were driven south, away from the Kalahari Desert, their homeland, by invading tribes. They soon found themselves in the fierce and unforgiving landscape of the Richtersveld. Overcome by sorrow, some members of the tribe turned to take one last look northwards towards their homeland. The gods, seeing their distress took pity on them and turned some of them into Halfmens so that they could look northwards toward their beloved homeland for eternity.

The Halfmens, a true icon of the Richtersveld, is an endangered species and is rigorously protected by law.


No comments:

Post a Comment