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What is a quiver tree or kokerboom?
The Kokerboom or Quiver Tree Aloe dichotoma is a tree aloe. It is also a succulent plant because it has the ability to store water in its stems and leaves. It is one of the most characteristic plants of the Northern Cape, and is known as 'garas' by the Namas (from the word meaning "to scratch lines") and 'choje' by the Bushmen.

Confined to the Northern Cape and Namibia, this tree aloe is found growing mainly on the rocky habitat of the hills along the Orange River. In places it occurs in dense "forests", and good examples of these occur just south of Kenhardt and between Pofadder and Pella. The Doringberg hiking trails near Prieska pass by these gentle aloe giants, and close to 4 000 trees can be seen in the Kokerboom forest on the Kokerboom hiking trail near Kenhardt.

It has a thick, peculiar corky trunk and a crown of branches topped with large rosettes of fleshy, grey-green leaves. The margins of the leaves have small triangular "teeth" for protection. Bright canary-yellow flowers appear during winter, which produce a copious supply of nectar that attracts a host of nectar lovers. Many birds including Mousebirds, Dusky Sunbirds and Pied Barbets enjoy a feast of nectar if they get to the flowers before the baboons do.

In the past local people hollowed out the soft branches and used them as quivers for their arrows, hence the English vernacular name. Small animals make their homes between the leaves and in the corky trunk. The Pied Barbet is fond of enlarging holes in the trunk to construct its cosy nest, while Sociable Weavers build huge communal nests of grass in the crown, sometimes covering the whole tree. These Sociable Weavers' nests are shared by up to 400 birds, and often other species such as Pygmy Falcons and Redheaded Finches.

A remarkable quality of this tree is its ability to accumulate water in its leaves and corky tissue. It has developed these adaptations because of the harsh climatic conditions in which it survives. Low air humidity, low soil moisture and intense sunshine levels have made it necessary to absorb even small amounts of moisture whenever the opportunity arrives. It has a superficial root system enabling it to absorb moisture quickly.

For more information on Quiver Trees, see:

PlantzAfrica.com Bushmanland.co.za Kokerboom.net

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