As South Africans celebrate Arbor Week in the first week of September 2019, Wild’s spotlight falls on the Kruger Park’s magnificent trees. Val Thomas of TheTreeApp SA tells us what makes these branched beauties special and where to find them.
For Arbor Week, we asked Val Thomas, tree guru and co-creator of TheTreeApp SA, to share her knowledge about the trees that characterise South Africa’s flagship park.
Kruger lovers will know how the sight of a Mopane pulls on the heartstrings. And who remembers seeing the quirky fruit of the sausage tree for the first time?!
Val is currently hard at work on a new app that will help visitors to the Kruger National Park identify the trees they come across. The TreeApp Kruger will have tick lists for rest camps, main gates and official get-out points. Scroll down to find out how you can contribute to this resource.
Can you identify these five iconic Kruger tree species?
The Mopane tree, Colophospermum mopane
Also knows as: Balsamtree, Butterflytree, Rhodesian-ironwood, Turpentine-tree
This tree’s butterfly-shaped leaves make it instantly recognisable. In fact, the name comes from the Shona word for butterfly. The tree is host to the mopane worm, a much sought-after delicacy that forms part of the diet of the local people and is the basis of a small but important seasonal business.
The well-known Mopane tree occurs from the south of Satara in dense stands northwards, becoming the most dominant tree of the area. Out of all the tree species in Kruger, the Mopane has the highest number of individual trees of its species. (As anyone who has driven through Kruger’s mopane veld can attest.) When growing on relatively poor soils of the often arid western and northern parts of Kruger, it is a smallish tree. In patches in the northeast between Pafuri and Punda Maria, where rainfall is far higher, it becomes a striking, tall tree in forests that are home to unusual bird species like Arnot’s chat.
Where to spot the Mopane tree?
Mopani Rest Camp, Letaba Rest Camp, Olifants Rest Camp, Punda Maria Rest Camp
The Leadwood Bushwillow tree, Combretum imberbe
Also knows as: Damara-mother tree, Elephant’s Trunk, Ironwood, Ivory tree
The easiest way to identify the Leadwood Bushwillow is by looking at its size. This tree is large with a dramatic and statuesque form and has a grey snakeskin like bark. The Leadwood tree can live for hundreds of years and has one of the hardest woods in the world, hence the name. The wood is extremely resistant to termites and borer beetles, so years after dying the skeleton of the tree remains intact – the dead trees in Sable Dam are among the eye-catching ones.
Where to spot the Leadwood Bushwillow?
Berg-en-dal Rest Camp, Crocodile Bridge Rest Camp, Letaba Rest Camp, Lower Sabie Rest Camp, Mopani Rest Camp, Olifants Rest Camp, Orpen Rest Camp, Pretoriuskop Rest Camp, Punda Maria Rest Camp, Satara Rest Camp, Skukuza Rest Camp, Shingwedzi Rest Camp
The Lowveld Milkberry tree, Manilkara mochisia
The striking Lowveld Milkberry tree is distributed from the inlands of Richards Bay in KwaZulu-Natal to South Africa’s northern boundary and is located all over Kruger National Park.
You can easily identify this tree by looking at the leaves and the size of the unusually old and large tree. The Lowveld Milkberry has rosettes of dark green, shiny leaves with yellow midveins and arthritic-type intricate branches and twigs – a firm and delicious favourite of Kruger ellies.
Where to spot the Lowveld Milkberry?
Mopani Rest Camp, Olifants Rest Camp, Skukuza Rest Camp
The Knobbly Fig tree, Ficus sansibarica
Also known as: Angola Fig, Large-fruited Fig, Zanzibar Fig
The Knobbly Fig tree was planted in camps by tree-legend and author of The Vegetation of southern Africa, Dr Piet van Wyk, in the late 1970s. You shouldn’t expect to see this huge tree all across the park – it grows only in the higher rainfall areas and areas with deep sand in the far east of Kruger.
Where to spot the Knobbly Fig?
Olifants Rest Camp and Punda Maria Rest Camp
The Sausage-tree, Kigelia Africana
It’s obvious where the Sausage-tree gets its name. Each of the tree’s unusual looking fruit can weigh up to 12kg and takes up to a year to ripen.
Sausage-trees are large in size and are unusually low-branching, off a huge, thick, short trunk. This tree’s branches are phenomenally spread and when in bloom, you can’t mistake this beauty for any other.
Each individual blossom is a large cup shape consisting of four spreading, deep red, crumpled-looking petals. The opening of the cup is broad enough for bats and vervet monkeys to suck at nectar and cover their faces in bright yellow pollen – pollinating as they do so!
Where to find the Sausage-tree in Kruger?
Berg-en-dal Rest Camp, Crocodile Bridge Rest Camp, Letaba Rest Camp, Lower Sabie Rest Camp, Mopani Rest Camp, Olifants Rest camp, Orpen Rest Camp, Pretoriuskop Rest Camp, Punda Maria Rest Camp, Satara Rest Camp, Skukuza Rest Camp, Shingwedzi Rest Camp
What is your favourite tree?
Val Thomas needs your help to identify Kruger’s noteworthy trees. Who hasn’t made a pilgrimage to Kruger’s southernmost baobab? Val wants to pinpoint the other trees that are worth a visit, whether a sprawling fig at a picnic site or a lush jackalberry that marks a cellphone reception hot spot.
Send the name of your favourite tree specimen with the reason why you see that tree as significant, the GPS coordinates and a clear photo to firstname.lastname@example.org. You will help improve the app and aid users to identify different trees in the Kruger National Park.
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A special edition of TheTreeApp SA, TheTreeApp Kruger is launching in November 2019. This app will enhance tree discovery in the lush greenery of the park. Expect plenty of extra features to help nature lovers discover the park’s tree riches for themselves and identify even more of Kruger’s native trees.
Download TheTreeApp SA
TheTreeApp SA is available on Apple’s App Store or Google Play at R399. You need WiFi solely for downloading the app, thereafter you do not need an internet connection to explore.