South Africa and Namibia 2008

Rikus van Veldhuisen

In November 2008 Jaap Keijzer and I made a trip on invitation of the Planetary Biodiversity Inventory to South Africa and Namibia. The goal of this trip to find as many euphorbias as possibly in their natural habitat and to take pictures, herbarium material, dna-samples and GPS-coordinates. As there was, and perhaps still is, a lot of confusion about the identity of quite a few of the euphorbias growing naturally in Southern Africa. The data gathered on this trip could serve as a good scientific base for clearing some of them.

Early morning of the 4th of November we were collected at Cape Town International Airport by Alma Möller and Rolf Becker. They already had done a great job for the PBI-project and inventoried already a lot of spurges. As there are growing hundreds of species of euphorbia in Southern Africa a lot were still missing, especially the small ones. Jaap and I had travelled South Africa already for five times and always had a keen eye for euphorbias and have a lot of information where to find them. Never before we were equipped as well as this time (Figure 1).


First job was to travel east to the Little Karoo, having a quick stops to see Euphorbia nesemannii, a new Euphorbia north of Montague, found long time ago by Petr Pavelka, E. pillansii, in order to see the small form of Euphorbia pseudoglobosa var. juglans at Eierpoort (Figure 2).

After seeing Euphorbia multiceps, atrispina, the large form of Euphorbia pseudoglobosa var. juglans, we wanted to show the plant we later described as Euphorbia pseudoglobosa var. oshoekensis (Figure 3).

The last euphorbia of this first day was the hybrid population at Lemoenshoek between Euphorbia susannae and E. pseudoglobosa var. juglans (Figure 4). On my previous visits to this spot I was convinced it was a new species and even wrote an article stating this. This time we were able to find also plants looking like either one of the parents and the population proved not to be as uniform as I thought it was. In an later article I corrected my mistake.

After also seeing Euphorbia susannae at two spots we all went to our accommodation very satisfied.


In the Little Karoo you spent a holiday alone easily and see something new every day, but we wanted to see Euphorbia gamkensis at the type-locality. One of the smallest succulent euphorbias also grow at that spot, which I thought to be Euphorbia aeqoris. But this plant has sessile fruits (Figure 5) whilst true aequoris has exserted fruits, so this little thing with a rather large tuber might be something new.

We continued for Dijsselsdorp, where many Haworthia maughanii are growing, but also the true Euphorbia rhombifolia, E. clandestine and a at that time new euphorbia, which we later described as Euphorbia pseudoglobosa var. dijsselsdorpensis (Figure 6).


We went west again and when passing Botterkloof we found a nice population of Euphorbia hallii (Figure 7). Of course Euphorbia schoenlandii at the coast of the Atlantic Ocean was included in this trip, but we were extremely happy to find a nice population of Euphorbia fasciculata on the Knersvlakte near Vanrhijnsdorp (Figure 8).


One the rarest euphorbias is Euphorbia oxystegia (Figure 9), growing in a few small populations north east of Springbok. We spent several days in The Richtersveld, which is for succulent lovers like heaven on earth, or in the words of Graham Williamson; ‘The Enchanted Wilderness’. We saw many species of euphorbia and just to show one, Euphorbia ramiglans var. confluens, growing in deep red sand east of Port Nolloth.


We crossed the Orange river by ferry at Sendelingsdrift and covered only the most southern edge of Namibia. Though not so many euphorbias are growing here, one of them is a special plant; Euphorbia friedrichiae (Figure 11). We rediscovered it some years before just north of Grünau and cleared its identity, mainly because of the winged fruits, an unique feature in the genus Euphorbia. Since then it was found growing at several spots.


We entered South Africa again and went on our way to Johannesburg where we had booked our flight home. Near Griekwastad we made a stop for Euphorbia wilmanae (Figure 12), a near relative of Euphorbia Euphorbia globosa, but growing very far from Port Elizabeth.

A bit further near Campbell there is a locality where Euphorbia inornata grows. I was there before and I was very surprised we now found another unknown euphorbia growing on the same spot. It is a low sparsely branched shrub with a big tuberous root, most likely closely related to Euphorbia vaalputsiana (Figure 13).


The last part of the trip was unknown territory to me and amongst many others, Euphorbia clivicola (Figure 14) and Euphorbia groenewaldii (Figure 15), both extremely rare in nature, but widely grown and appreciated in cultivation.


In these three weeks we managed to inventory as many as nearly 100 different taxa of euphorbia in Southern Africa, some extremely rare or even new. But most important was we were in the best possible company and were at magical places never to be forgotten.