Namaqualand’s Annual Miracle
BY AWAKE! WRITER IN SOUTH AFRICA
Flowers of all colors spill onto the open plain as far as the eye can see. Often visitors can barely contain their excitement as Namaqualand’s annual miracle unfolds before their very eyes. “At first glance,” marvels one traveler, “the flowers look like molten lava oozing from crevices, filling every nook and cranny with luminous orange.”
What, though, makes this particular springtime floral transformation so awe-inspiring? Namaqualand is a vast arid region in the northwestern corner of South Africa. Beyond the mountains to the north, the Orange River is the northern border of this region. Namaqualand, an area larger than Switzerland (about 20,000 square miles [50,000 sq km]), stretches south for about 120 miles [200 km], just over half way to Cape Town. For most of the year, temperatures on the barren landscape reach as high as 105 degrees Fahrenheit [40°C] during the day and plunge to an icy 18 degrees Fahrenheit [-8°C] at night. With virtually no surface water and limited brackish underground water, Namaqualand can seem uninviting—until the annual miracle, that is!
Each year, shortly after the rains from early August to the middle of September, the normally arid Namaqualand plains turn into a riotous floral display. Whole fields burst into bloom with orange, yellow, pink, white, crimson, blue, and purple blossoms. Since the display lasts for only a few weeks each year, anticipation builds as visitors from all over the world prepare to feast their eyes on this exuberant floral bouquet.
The secret of a truly spectacular display is the right amount of rain followed by a good dose of sunshine. Then everyone hopes that the sweltering east winds do not come, for they would quickly scorch the life and color out of the delicate petals.
Namaqualand’s wonderland is also the result of prolific seed production. However, many of the flowers do not germinate every year—they unlock their beauty only under specific climatic conditions. While some seeds germinate after just one year, other seeds lie dormant for a number of seasons, awaiting just the right conditions for growth. “Some seeds,” explains one visitor, “are protected by a safety mechanism that prevents premature germination. Rather than sprout in response to one rainfall when it is hot, those seeds germinate only when it is both cool and moist—just right for growth and survival in this harsh environment.”
Depending on the delicate balance of rains and the absence of scorching winds, each year has its own unique display, with some years yielding more spectacular displays than other years. “Because each species has its own specific temperature at which germination takes place,” explains the book Namaqualand—South African Wild Flower Guide, “and the first showers may fall from April to July (months with different temperatures) different species germinate from year to year, depending on when the first rains fall.”
What a variety of blossoms there is—over 4,000 species, each with its own peculiar shape, color, and method of germination! In some areas, from 10 to 20 different species of flowers can be seen in an area of just ten square feet [1 sq m]. The grandeur of the scene makes an artist’s palette seem like a drab monochrome. Even the most grandiose words seem inadequate to describe Namaqualand’s breathtaking splendor.
Nevertheless, artists, poets, and writers are inspired by such awesome floral displays. “It was the earth’s great sowing-day,” mused South African poet D. J. Opperman, “when . . . through a hole in the Lord’s best bag of seed the precious contents leaked.” Wrote one ardent admirer: “It looked as if the rainbow had shuffled across the desert wilderness, shedding patches of colour everywhere.” One visitor reflected: “Such unending beauty makes one appreciate the overwhelming generosity and wisdom of our Creator, Jehovah.”
What is more, the splendor of Namaqualand’s annual miracle reassures us that the Creator can use such biological mechanisms to restore Paradise conditions earth wide—to the eternal pleasure of his faithful and appreciative servants. (Psalm 37:10, 11, 29) Then on a grand scale, “the desert will rejoice, and flowers will bloom in the wastelands.”—Isaiah 35:1, Today’s English Version.
[Picture on page 24, 25]
Whole fields, covering about 20,000 square miles, burst forth with blooms