Augrabies is the largest conservation area (51 430 ha) within the Orange River Broken Veld vegetation type.
The most characteristic plant in the park is the giant aloe called quiver tree (kokerboom), Aloe dichotoma. The quiver tree is perfectly adapted to the dry desert and semi-desert areas on the rocky hills, the extreme temperatures and the infertile soil. It grows three to five metres high. The tree gets its name from the fact that the San used the soft branches to make quivers for their arrows. The eye-catching silhouette of the quiver tree is typical of the Northern Cape landscape. The trees flower a canary-yellow in the winter. Swarms of birds and locusts are attracted to their copious nectar, and baboons tear the flowers apart to get the sweet liquor. Herbivores including giraffe, eland and kudu also do damage to leaves and branches. Young plants often get pushed over and consequently die.
Nearly 70 different species of grass, shrubs, herbs and trees can be found in Augrabies Falls NP.
The majestic Camel thorn (Acacia erioloba) is a dominant tree species in the region, growing to a height of up to 15m with many animals relying on this tree for both food and shade. When eaten, the grey seed pods exude a strange smell and result in a rank taste in the meat of animals that feed on them. The Camel thorn has a wide variety of medicinal uses: its bark is grinded into a powder and used to ease headaches, the gum is taken with warm water and used against flu and even its roots are used against coughing. Traditionally, the Khoi-San people used to burn the wood to use the ashes as facial decoration for the women; in Tswana culture a string is made from the seedpods and wrapped around the feet for a traditional dance; and finally the seeds can be used as a substitute for coffee.
The Sweet thorn tree (Acacia karroo) is the most widely distributed of all thorn trees in South Africa, and occurs mainly along rivers and drainage lines. The growth form is highly variable from region to region, so that different geographical growth forms can be distinguished; fortunately the yellow round flowers (inflorescences) and the pods stay the same. Pairs of large white thorns are usually present. Medicinally its gum, being edible, has been used against sores in the mouth and to stop bleeding; its leaves and bark is used to treat diarrhoea . As with the Camel thorn, the seeds can be used as a substitute for coffee; the gum of tree is also used as a floor polish.
Another tree that does very well in the arid region is the Shepherd’s tree (Boscia albitrunca), known colloquially as ‘Witgat”, this is an evergreen tree which grows to a height of 7m and has a rounded shape. This tree is widespread, except along rivers and pans, and is an important source of food for browsers. It also has many uses: its leaves are used to treat infection and the green fruits to treat epilepsy; traditionally it has also been used to make coffee (roots), porridge (roots) and its fruits are edible and can be either cooked, pickled or eaten raw.
Clearly visible along the Orange river gorge is the Namaqua fig (Ficus cordata). The Northern Cape variety of this conspicuous “rock-splitter” is characterized by many striking, large individual trees along the rocky areas of the park. Its shiny, leathery leaves and greyish-white bark are visible from afar. Leaves of this tree contain a milky latex, making them unsuitable as a food source for wildlife. The bark is used for tanning and dyeing of hides, apparently giving leather a favoured red colour.
The Jacket-plum tree (Pappea capensis) with its rounded bright red plum covered in a shiny, furry green capsule is normally associated with the drainage lines in the park. The bright red, jelly-like seeds are edible, with a delicious sweet-sourish taste, and are collected to make jam, jelly or vinegar. The lower branches are browsed extensively by game. Traditionally, the seed and bark of this tree were used for tanning purposes. The mixture of bark and water is then applied on the meat side of the hide. The seed oil of this tree has been used as gun oil and for making soap.
Other plants which can be easily spotted in the vicinity of the restcamp are Kraalaalwyn (Aloe claviflora), Desert broom (Sisyndite spartea), Namaqua porkbush (Ceraria namaquensis), Rae Bushman grass (Stipagrostis hochstetteriana) and Driedoring (Rhigozum trichototum).
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Did You Know?
- that the first European to "discover" the falls was a Swedish-born soldier in the service of the Dutch East India Company named Hendrik Wikar? Having deserted his post at the Cape, he came across the site and drew the first maps of the river
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