The Nama Karoo and Succulent Karoo biomes in the Baviaanskloof
The Nama karoo and succulent karoo biomes are characterized by succulent plant species that are able to grow in arid environments. Succulent plants have thick waxy leaves to protect them against dry conditions. Succulent species that grow in Baviaanskloof can be placed into four basic groups i.e. mesembs, crassulas, euphorbias and aloes.
Mesembs are rather difficult to identify, and it is only by looking at the fruit capsules, usually with the aid of a microscope, that one can truly differentiate between species. Approximately 1700 species of Mesembs have been identified globally. Carpobrotus edulis is one mesemb that occurs at Sederkloof Lodge. The fruits of Carpobrotus species are edible, and can be eaten either fresh or in dried form. A very popular preserve is made from the fruits, and it is highly sought after as an ingredient in Eastern cooking. The Ash bush (Psilocaulon junceum) is another mesemb, and is a great source of ash. The ash is rich in alkali, and has traditionally been used to prepare the lye for soap-making.
Crassulas resemble normal green plants more closely. They have stems with waxy leaves, often growing perpendicular to the stem. There is one species called the “sosatie plant” locally, or a "kebab plant" due to the way the leaves are arranged around the stem.
Euphorbias are easily distinguishable. A white milky fluid escapes from the plant when any part of it is broken off. A very common Euphorbia found on Sederkloof is Euphorbia mauretanica, locally known as "melktou", or "milky rope" if translated directly. The milky white fluid is poisonous to animals, which explains why it is not ever eaten by animals.
Aloes form the fourth group of succulents. There are more than four species on Sederkloof. Aloe ferox, the largest and most visible aloe in the area, is used extensively for medicinal purposes. The leaves or roots are used as a laxative and as a treatment for arthritis, eczema and stress. The international and local trade of Aloe ferox leaf sap and products is forms an important part of the local economy. People that gather the juice of Aloe ferox for pharmaceutical purposes are called Aloe tappers. It is a trade that is passed down from one generation to the next in a few families in the Uniondale district. They come to farms in the Baviaanskloof area and live nomadically between farms whilst tapping aloes. The older leaves are cut from the outside of the aloe, and the younger leaves on top is not cut off to allow the plant to stay alive so that it may be harvested again in the future. Leaves are placed in a circle with the cut parts draining into the middle. The fluid is harvested on a piece of canvas and subsequently decanted into a closed container. These are the four main plant groups found on Sederkloof in the Nama karoo and succulent karoo biomes.