Wisdom in the trees - Selous Game Reserve

November 14, 2016

"All wisdom is stored in the trees" - Santosh Kalwar

 

I am a nature guide here at Selous Impala Camp.  Selous itself is so special, from the wild animals to its scenery.  Plentiful animal sightings mean that we sometimes forget to appreciate other elements of biodiversity – like the trees. 

 

Selous is rich in plant diversity. Exploring Selous by walking, boat or driving safaris allows you to see the many floral species including the palm trees that thrive here.  Generally you can find four types of palm trees in Selous Game Reserve, one of these being the African Fan Palm.  This palm can live to around 25 years old with its trunk growing to around 12-15 m above the ground!

 

 The tall and slow growing African Fan palm (Borassus aethiopum)
photo by Kharidi Mtili

 

Flowering and fruiting takes place all year round.  The fruits are eaten by elephants  and in turn the elephants provide a vital seed dispersal and germination role, as they help break down the durable seed husk, spread the seed far distances from the parent tree and create a good growing environment for seeds in their moist and fertile droppings. Elephant droppings only dry out after 6 days or so and so facilitate germination for these water dependant palms.  

 

The fruits have a large, fibrous pulp and the flesh covering the nut is full of thick, sweet orange juice. The fruits are mostly eaten by elephants as they are the only animals that have the strength to push the palm hard enough so that it will drop its fruits.  Although other animals like the omnivorous monkeys, baboons and bush pigs will also eat the fruits left by elephants.

 Humans too eat the fruits of the Borassus palm, the flesh can be cooked with rice.  The immature seeds can be eaten, and contain a sweet jelly that has a refreshing taste and the sap is made into a drink. The young leaf fronds can be made into durable mats and baskets.

 Mat woven from palm fronds - photo by Kharidi Mtili

Hyphaene compressa - a Doum palm species in Selous - photo by Kharidi Mtili

 

There are three other species of palm growing in the Selous. The Doum palm is represented by two species: Hyphaene compressa, which is branched, and grows to about 12 metres. Hyphaene coriacea are identified by their lower height, about 5 metres, and they are more clustered and bulky Their fruits are distinctly indented to pear shaped. There may be some hybridisation between these species. Both of these palms are loved by the elephants for their tasty fruits.

Finally, the African date palm, Phoenix reclinata is found in Selous.

 

Doum palms in Selous - both photos by Kharidi Mtili

 

 Many elephants frequent the Lake Nzelekela area known as ‘Makui ya Giza’ as there are many palms - the more elephants – the more palms.

 

Interestingly, the Doum palm is very fire resistant.  At germination a single thin leaf is produced, it then becomes fan shaped two to three years after germination.  After this stage the growth becomes exponential, with a new leaf produced every seven days. The palm becomes mature and bears fruits after 6-8 years and fruits only ripen after 8 months.

The female palm produces woody fruits that stay on the trees for a long time and the fruit is also enjoyed by elephants, but may be eaten by baboons and monkeys, as the fruits are more accessible as the trunks grow at angles.  The leave fronds are used for brooms, ropes and string, in addition to baskets, mats, and the larger leaves are also used for roof covering, known in these parts as Makuti Paa.

 

 Eco-friendly buildings with their Makuti Paa and solar panels in Mloka, the closest village from us
photo by Kharidi Mtili

 

The great Baobab tree (Adansonia digitata) is one of the most iconic elements of the African landscape, and there are many stories about these trees in African folklore. 

 

 Baobab tree in Selous - photo by Kharidi Mtili

 

Some Baobabs are believed to be 3 000 years old. The distance around the trunk may be up to 28m and you can estimate the age of the tree by allowing 100 years growth for every 1m gained in diameter.  The growth however depends upon the availability of rainfall and nutrients in the ground.  The root system grows sideways, to collect water from the top soil and never grows below 2meters.

The 2000 year old Baobab in Selous, (From left) Mukande, Simone, Maiwe and Beatrice give you an idea of its size

 

All the parts of the baobab are used by humans, the leaves are eaten as a form of spinach, juice is made from the fruit. The white pulp in the fruit is very rich in vitamin C and B2 and is used to make a refreshing drink!  A large tree can contain over 9000 litres of water, and during the dry season many animals chew on the bark to extract the water stored there.

 Fruits on a Baobab tree - photo by Kharidi Mtili

 

Baobabs are perennial and have storage organs that supply them with energy for flowering and creating healthy seed pods despite a lack of leaves.

 

We would like to welcome everybody to Impala Camp to enjoy the beautiful landscape.  

 

GUEST COMMENTS October 2016

 

Oct 1st Becca & Jon Davies (UK)

“Thank you to everyone at Impala Camp, we had a truly wonderful time (and start to our honeymoon). You have all been fantastic, so friendly & welcoming and we have been so lucky to see some of the most incredible animals on the planet (Leopard, Lion, Buffalo & Elephant). Food has been outstanding! Asante x x x”

 

Oct 2nd Rodahl Family and Friends, a group of 18 people (Norway)

“What a wonderful stay at this lovely camp! Both the adults and the kids have really enjoyed every part of the stay – the hospitality of the staff, the knowledge of the guides, the safari drives and the servings and atmosphere at the camp – PERFECT!”

 

Oct 9th Mike & Joan Cowley (Canada)

“Wonderful time at Impala Camp- such friendly staff and amazing facilities”

 

Oct 12th Mike & Rachel Wootton (Kenya)

“Thanks to all the wonderful staff for such a brilliant couple of days and a great birthday for Mike.”

 

Oct 18th Pierre Faber, Owner of Classic Africa (USA)

“What great staff, what a lovely Camp.”

 

Oct 21st Gemma D’Souza, The Africa Specialists (UK)

“Such a fantastic stay…staff, guiding and location top class.”

 

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