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 has evolved certain characteristics that allows it to survive (and even thrive!) in challenging circumstances. Some of those properties translate into fantastic benefits for health and wellbeing in products such as skincare and supplements, especially when care is taken to extract those ingredients. Below we share some more information about how the Kalahari Melon has evolved to be able to survive for a whole year, as shown in the picture below. At the end of the article we explain what properties the oil have developed 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.

One notable adaptation of the Kalahari Melon is its deep taproot system (see picture below), allowing 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 adaptation helps the Kalahari Melon sustain itself during extended periods of drought, ensuring its survival in the water-scarce environment of the Kalahari Desert.

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, acting as a protective shield against intense solar radiation and preventing excessive water loss from the fruit. The melon’s ability to store water in its fleshy, moisture-rich pulp allows it to serve as a water reservoir for animals during times of scarcity. When the melon naturally disconnects from its vine, it also somehow isolates the inner part of the fruit and creates 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 adaptations represent a fine-tuned set of features that enable it to persist in the arid conditions of the Kalahari Desert. These adaptations showcase the plant’s resilience and its capacity to thrive in an environment where water availability is a critical factor for survival.

One of the properties that translates very well into formulations for personal care products, is the oil’s naturally high vitamin E level and its oxidative stability. A completely unique feature of the oil is that it’s very stable, despite containing 70% Essential Fatty Acids. If you’d like to learn more, email us for a sample: info@africanorigins.net