There are botanical specialists who could identify this fingery little mesemb of Namaqualand. And locals that know where it grows and what the flowers look like may have a name for it.
Visiting the region first opens the eyes and then offers much to learn. Unfortunately, the number of nameless botanical wonders exceed the named plants in almost all the eager visiting parties that come here in spring.
The Aizoaceae family of dicotyledonous flowering plants alone contains about 135 genera and 1800 species worldwide; 53 of those genera represented in Namaqualand and in them numerous species. There are flowering stones, dew leaves, cylinder leaves, angular, flat and globular leaves, as well as smooth and rough ones. There are tufted plants and creeping or erect shrubs and more in the astonishing diversity of the mesembs of Namaqualand.
Now dream for a moment about the ancient ancestor of all the members of the Aizoaceae family: Where did the first mesemb grow, what did it look like and how long ago was that? For there was a day when every large plant or animal family was only a genus and before that one species.
Most visitors admire and photograph only. A small group make notes of observations for study and mastery of a selected subset of the total. And sometimes, the urge to find the name brings about a search and more discoveries, although not always the target of the search. One does remember the good chat with a stranger followed by disappointment at forgetting to exchange names and contact details when the follow-up idea flashes in the mind.
The launching of personal familiarity with and knowledge about plants, birds and animals may breed interest and some sense of connectedness or affiliation.
This affiliation has two faces: commitment and acquisitiveness. Commitment, the prettier face, inculcates protective behaviour towards the plants and nature itself. Acquisitiveness stirs needs of taking the plant from the veld and planting it at home where it may die or deprive the veld of its diversity. In the case of the animal, acquisitiveness manifests itself in shooting or caging of the animal. In our time these are clearly features of an increasingly ugly face of humanity, given the survival threats hanging over nature.
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