These plants have ensured their survival by developing a wide range of adaptations related to gaining, retaining and storing moisture, as well as various means of protection against extreme climatic conditions. Plants, which have adapted to survive successfully under arid conditions, are called Xerophytes.
Desert plants may be divided into three categories, according to their strategies for survival. Firstly there are drought endurers or tolerators – these are succulents that store water in fleshy roots, stems or leaves. They are slow growing perennials. Secondly drought evaders can be found on the reserve – these plants fold or shed their leaves, or even die back to ground level. Such plants are often leafless, or if leaves are present, they are minute or leathery, waxy or hairy (reducing the rate of evaporation).
The third category is made up of drought escapers. These are opportunistic plants, short- lived annuals. They complete their life cycle within a matter of months, using water provided by erratic rain showers. Some of the most interesting plant species you will encounter on NamibRand Nature Reserve are the ghost tree Moringa ovalifolia, elephant’s foot Adenia pechnelii and camelthorn tree Acacia erioloba.