The Karoo Desert National Botanical Garden, launched in 1921, was to serve as a major natural attraction and supplier of succulents to the more famous Kirstenbosch Gardens in Cape Town. It was seen by many as the ultimate rock garden.
But in 1946, after a drought, the diversion of the national road and poor public support during the war, botanists decided to move the garden to Worcester, on the southern rim of the Karoo. Most of the specimens were translocated by train, and staff picked up the giant aloes and the other plants at Worcester Station.
The gardens have become a scenic and concise introduction to the biodiverse wonders of dryland plantlife.
The legend goes that the first curator, a Mr Thudicum, used to ride around on his bicycle watering the relocated Karoo plants using a bucket that was balanced on the handlebars.
Here you’ll find the critically endangered Aloe pillansii from the Richtersveld, the delightful Lithops (also known as flowering stones) from the Northern Cape, the sculptural wild grapes of the Namib, the exuberant Namaqua spring daisies, and the Eastern Cape’s resplendent aloes.
In late spring, the garden shines with vivid vygies so bright they almost hurt the eye.
Look out for the tiny beasts of the Karoo – chameleons, white-throated canaries, large-billed larks and all manner of marching tortoise.
Find our new e-Book, 101 Karoo Towns, HERE.