RICHTERSVELD NATIONAL PARK - VEGETATION: HALFMENS  
     
 
The halfmens Pachypodium namaquanum is the undisputed icon of the Richtersveld.
The charismatic, northward-leaning halfmens is perhaps the most intriguing of all stem succulents.It is a tree-like plant, devoid of branches, with a spiny trunk and a mop of leaves on top. Growing to a height of about 2m, halfmens have swollen succulent stems which they use for storing water in this parched desert region of South Africa and Namibia.

The thorns that cover the upper half of the stem are long, brown and downward pointing, while those near the base of the trunk are short. The top part of the trunk (the apex) is usually covered with a rosette of crinkly green leaves which fall off in summer. The tubular flowers (4cm long) appear in the centre of the leaves in spring (August to October). The velvety flowers have 5 short lobes and are light-green with crimson near the tip.

The north-leaning stem apex ensures that the short-lived leaves and developing flowers get as much sunshine as possible during the brief winter growing season (remember, this is the southern hemisphere and the sun is in the north).The Afrikaans name of halfmens, which means human-like, is widely used to describe this succulent.

Seen from a distance against the skyline they look like people frozen in motion, their spiny trunks forever inclined northwards, with leaves on top like mops of hair. 
This strange plant is one of the few tall plants able to survive through the seasons in this desert climate. Growing extremely slowly, halfmens are rather rare and not easily seen. For this reason many people confuse them with the much more common varieties of Kokerboom, or Quiver Tree.Under threat from illegal collectors, the halfmens are internationally protected. It is classified as highly endangered under the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna.
 
     
     
 
LENGEND OF THE HALFMENS:
Halfmens is translated as "Half Human" in English. The Khoisan Bushman has a beautiful story that has been told to generations, and it explains how Halfmens plants were created.

The Khoisan Bushman were driven away from their birth land (The Kalahari Desert) by invading tribes. It filled them with grief, and some of the Khoisan people looked back and turned into Halfmens plants. As a result the crown of Halfmens plants always turn to the North, longing for the day that they can return to their beloved birth land.
 
     
 
The halfmens Pachypodium namaquanum is the undisputed icon of the Richtersveld.