Taisha begins a series on plants and biomes of South Africa today. She writes:
This photograph of Aloe broomii was uploaded to the Botany Photo of the Day Flickr Pool by MarieVijoen@Flickr–a frequent contributor sharing photos of flora from South Africa and New York. Thank-you, Marie! (and here is her weblog for further reading: 66 Square Feet (Plus)
South Africa has eight major terrestrial biomes (PDF): the Nama Karoo, succulent Karoo, fynbos, forest, thicket, savanna, grassland, and desert (see map). These biomes (large-scale biotic communities) each have distinct climatic and environmental conditions. Correspondingly, each biome has a flora and fauna with different adaptations.
The first biome in the series is the Nama Karoo. The Nama Karoo is an area on the central plateau of the western half of South Africa. The Nama Karoo is the second largest biome in the region and is divided into three main subregions: the Upper Karoo, the Great Karoo, and the Lower Karoo. The altitude is between 500 and 2000 m with most of the area between 1000-1400 m. Most of the rain falls in the summer months between December and March, and temperatures may reach over 30°C. In the mid-winter (July), temperatures may be below freezing. Shallow and weakly developed lime-rich soils cover most of the region.
The vegetation type of this area includes many dwarf shrubs and grasses. This area is not particularly species rich, although much of the flora is adapted to the local climatic extremes. One of these plant species is Aloe broomii, of the Xanthorrhoeaceae. This species is also known as the snake aloe in reference to its snake-like racemes. Aloe broomii has unique flowers—the buds are hidden from view by longer bracts, and only the stigma and styles peak out awaiting pollination by visiting bees, sunbirds, and ants. These pollinators are attracted by the nectar. The many light-winged seeds of Aloe broomii are dispersed by wind and may be consumed by small maize or rice weevils (Sitophilus spp.). Some farmers in the Steynsburg district will boil the leaves to extract a brownish fluid. This fluid may be used in a number of ways: to kill ticks, as a disinfectant, as an ear remedy for sheep, or given to horses in small doses to make their blood temporarily bitter, causing any ticks to disengage from the animal.