The resilience of a Kalahari melon | African Origins

Feb 04, 2024

The resilience of a Kalahari melon

The Kalahari Melon is an incredible plant. Having evolved in the ‘extreme ecosystem’ of the Kalahari Desert, this plant developed strong defences against harsh conditions. This allows it to survive (and even thrive!), despite the challenging circumstances. Some of those properties translate means the plant has evolved resilient compounds with fantastic benefits for health and wellbeing. Kalahari melon oil, found in the seed of the fruit, is prized for its stability and is used in a wide range of products such as skincare and haircare products. Below we share some more information about how the Kalahari Melon has evolved to be able to survive in-tact for a whole year, as shown in the picture below. At the end of the article we explain how the oil has evolved properties that are interesting for formulators of personal care products.

The same Kalahari Melon, one year apart, showing the resilience of the plant and how the mechanisms it has evolved protects it from the elements.

The Kalahari Melon benefits from a deep taproot system (see picture below). This allows the plant to access water stored deep in the soil. The taproot can extend several meters below the surface, reaching water reserves that are inaccessible to shallower-rooted plants. This helps the Kalahari Melon sustain itself during extended periods of drought, and ensures its survival when water is scarce.

In addition to its efficient water acquisition, the Kalahari Melon has evolved traits that minimize water loss through transpiration. The plant often displays small leaves covered in fine hairs, which help reflect sunlight and reduce heat absorption. These adaptations contribute to a reduction in water loss through evaporation, an essential strategy for a plant thriving in an environment where water is a precious resource.

Furthermore, the Kalahari Melon exhibits a unique fruit morphology. Its fruit has a hard and thick rind, which shields against intense solar radiation and prevents water loss. The Kalahari melon’s ability to store water in its fleshy, moisture-rich pulp allows it to serve as a water reservoir for animals (and itself!) during times of scarcity. When the melon naturally disconnects from its vine, it also isolates the inner part of the fruit. It does this by creating a hard, dry ‘scab’ and the point of uncoupling to protect it from the elements.

Two farmers in the Sandveld, South Africa, showing the taproot of a Kalahari Melon, which had grown wild in one of their fields.

Overall, the Kalahari Melon’s unique adaptations allow it to survive in the harshest of environments. These adaptations showcase the plant’s resilience and its capacity to thrive where water availability is a critical factor for survival.

One of the properties that translates very well into skin and haircare is the oils incredible oxidative stability. This is owed to the high vitamin E level and its oxidative stability of Kalahari Melon Oil. This is a completely unique feature of the oil; that it’s very stable, despite containing 70% Essential Fatty Acids. If you’d like to learn more, email us for a sample: