Namibia is an amazing country that I encourage whoever wants to experience Africa to visit. The people are friendly and welcoming, English is the national language, and a majority of the country is barely inhabited. Windhoek, the capital city, is centrally located and easy to navigate. There are a number of wonderful B&B's and finding a truck to rent is very easy. Self-driving in Namibia is extremely easy with dirt roads that would put some tarred US roads to shame. Most of my Ledebouria research has been focused in Namibia. Thus far, I have covered over 15,000 kilometers across the country with more areas still to explore! In collaboration with staff at the National Botanical Research Institute (NBRI) in Windhoek, I have made roughly 130 collections of Ledebouria to be used towards my Ph.D. research. I will complete a systematic revision of this group for Namibia, describe new species, and add these taxa to the most comprehensive phylogeny of this group to date.
Below are some of the highlights from my numerous trips to this amazing country.
My first trip to Namibia was spent with friends from southern California. I used this trip to scout for populations of Ledebouria. I marked locations with my GPS so that I could later return to those locations and make legal collections once my permit was approved. We focused our attention on the Kaokoveld, which is located in the northwestern portion of the country in the Kunene region. It a wonderful place that allows you to get away from everyone since not many people live in this area. It is very possible to go a day or two without seeing another human being. The plants are also amazing and many more continue to be discovered, Ledebouria included.
Not long after my first taste of Namibia, I was granted the opportunity to return there during the spring to make collections of Ledebouria. However, no one can predict the weather and drought seemed to have it's grip on the country. We were lucky in the Kaokoveld after a couple days of worrisome driving and found a population of Ledebouria. We then began a 4,000 kilometer trek to locate green spots in the north where rain had fallen. Overall, the trip was a success with 30 collections from different populations. This trip was later featured in Frontiers Magazine published by the Huntington Library (PDF).
This trip was the most successful that I had yet. Over 100 collections were made and we covered roughly 5,000 kilometers of ground during a three-week time period. I traveled with NBRI staff again but also spent more time with my wonderful friend Inge, who lives in Windhoek and knows the flora of the country like the back of her hand. The rains were plentiful this summer, which helped the plants thrive but it also presented itself with some interesting road conditions that led to more surprises than I would have liked. In the first five days of travel I managed to spin the truck 180 degrees on a dirt road, sink the passenger side of the truck to the frame in a mud pit, rip the passenger mirror off thanks to a stray farm fence wire and arrive late to most locations due to slow driving conditions. Honestly though, I wouldn't have it any other way. Another article was written for Huntington Frontiers Magazine since the trip was a such a success (PDF).