Namaqualand is a narrow stretch of country along the West Coast of South Africa, extending for almost 400km in a band little more that 80km wide, from the mouth of the Olifants River in the south to the mouth of the Orange River in the north. It is semi-arid to arid and renowned for its brilliant display of spring flowers. Its inique collection of plants is without equal in the world.
In this area of about 50 000km2, there are more than 3000 different wildflower species - a concentration of species that is more than four time greater than any other winter rainfall desert area.
About half of these plant species are endemic to this specific region - meaning that they do not occur outside this region. Succulents make up about one third of all the plants in the region - and account for about one tenth of all the succulents in the world! Namaqualand also has a wonderfully rich bulb flora - with almost 500 different species, it has five to ten times the number of bulbs typically found in other winter rainfall deserts.
The Ecoguide covers more than 200 of those wildflowers species that are most likely to attract the visitor's attention. Each species is illustrated with a photograph and described by its common and scientific names, and with information on its habitat, flowering times and local uses. Distribution maps give the species' approximate location. A travel advisor and map at the back of the book provides information on Natinal Parks, nature reserves and other prime viewing destinations with contact details and recommended routes. Introductory sections of the Ecoguide cover the history and climate, the landscape and vegetation (five eco-regions), insects, reptiles, birds and mammals.
John Manning is a research botanist at the South African National Biodiversity Institute in Cape Town. He has written or co-authored over 100 popular and scientific papers, as well as nine wildflower guides, He has a particular interest in popularising South Africa's wildfowers and has become widely recognized as an illustrator and wildflower photographer.