After a rain shower: The desert at Lüderitzbucht is alive - News - Gondwana Collection


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After a rain shower: The desert at Lüderitzbucht is alive

Avatar of inke inke - 22. August 2018 - Environment

A painted lady on the flower of a hairy button (Foveolina dichotoma).

Dirk Heinrich

It is three months now since a heavy shower of over 50 mm came down in and around Lüderitz on May 17th. It revived many flowers that had not bloomed for years, or even worn leaves. Seeds which had slumbered in the parched soil for ages, awakened to life. The greenery and the colours are not short-lived, however: delicate pink blossoms are still to be admired, lush green stands out against the greys and browns of the desert floor, large patches turn yellow and insects are out and about everywhere. Birds such as the Tractrac Chat seize the opportunity to raise chicks, waterbirds appear seemingly out of nowhere at the many pools in the previously barren landscape and Oryx antelope and springbok move back into areas where they haven’t been seen for many years.

Tourists who visit the harbour town of Lüderitz should take a little time on the way to Diaz Point and the coves to stop at the roadside and look for flowers and little creatures on the hillocks. The Bushman's Candle, a succulent shrub about 30 cm high with spiny yellowish twigs, usually looks rather dry but is now covered with green leaves and countless pink flowers. Wild geraniums sport delicate white and pink flowers in a variety of patterns. The predominant colour among the flowers of the plants in the Namib Desert is yellow, however. Butterflies, almost exclusively of the painted lady (Cynthia cardui) species flutter from flower to flower, beetles and caterpillars are having a feast, while stone grasshoppers (Trachypetrella anderssonii) and Bachmann´s armoured ground cricket (Hemihetrodes Bach Manni), which occurs only in the desert, sit extremely well-camouflaged next to plants on the ground. Tiny Thysanoptera, also called thrips, which measure just two to three mm, can be seen in the midst of flowers next to blister beetles (Mimesthes maculicollis), almost one cm long, enjoying juicy petals.

The flower of a satinflower (Grielum sinuatum) is visited by a blister beetle and tiny banded thrips which tuck into the pollen and petals.

Many plants, such as lithops or ‘flowering stones’, as well as window plants (also called baby toes) have already flowered and are again difficult to spot, although their leaves or stems are now bulging with water. The rain which flowed over the dry desert floor has blurred countless tracks and left interesting patterns in the sand. The water gathered in depressions and lured waterbirds to the sparsely vegetated landscape. One night saw as much rainfall as is normally the average for three to four years. An extraordinary downpour like that brings the desert to life. But after a relatively short time of abundance it will probably be several years before fauna and flora experience such generous rainfall again. 

The Namib Desert near Lüderitz with a shimmer of yellow and green. After 56 mm of rain in May many plants are still sport flowers and lush green leaves.

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