One of the most recognizable sights of southern Namibia, the magnificent quiver tree (Aloe dichotoma, or kokerboom in Afrikaans) is not a tree at all, but a giant aloe. It gained its name from the Khoisan, who are said to use the hollowed-out branches as quivers to hold their poison-tipped hunting arrows. Perfectly designed to cope with the hot, arid climate, the quiver tree’s distinctive crown of thick waxy leaves grows high from the ground – some reach 9m in height – in order to escape the worst of the heat and help reduce water evaporation; the pulpy fibrous tissue of its “trunk” allows it to maximize water storage space, while its branches are coated in a thin white powder, to help reflect the sun’s heat; the “scales” on the cracked golden bark are thought to have a cooling effect too when there’s a breeze. A slow developer, the kokerboom does not bloom until 20–30 years of age, but its pretty yellow flowers (June and July) attract numerous nectar-feeders, including eye-catching iridescent sunbirds. The succulent is also a popular host of sociable weavers, which construct their haystack-like communal nest amid the rosettes of spiky blue-green leaves to protect the young from the heat and from predators.

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