The Habitat: More Than 1,700 Different Species Of Trees And "Brush"

Updated: Jan 21, 2020

The question is often asked by visitors to South Africa: "What is the reason for the existence of so many (45) species of huntable animals?" - and those many, many species of smaller animals we do not hunt at all like squirrels and the many mongoose and the un-catlike cats, and foxes, and the 10 species of small antelope?

The answer is that the very varied geological systems across the land created a complex variety of soil types, which in turn created an even more complex variety of tree and grass and other plant species. This provided the very varied biomes for the varied habitats for the different grazers and browsers and hunter-gatherers. As an example - the 6 million acres of the Kruger National Park alone which forms only 2.5% of the surface of South Africa, is home to about 700 species of large trees, excluding the shrubs (brush).

In this ongoing thread a few of the more prominent and easily identifiable trees will be presented. Imagine impressing your companions on your hunt with: "Are there many of those Jackalberry trees like that one around here?"

#1: The Baobab (Andansonia digitata)

"Creme of tartar tree" is the direct translation of its name in my home language Afrikaans because its seeds are covered by a thick layer of that natural dry vitamin C substance. In the language of the First Nation (the "Bushmen") it is called "the upside down tree" as its branch system accurately resembles the root system of trees. They often grow to a thickness of 30 yards circumference or more.

Young leaves cook an excellent spinach, the seeds in its large fruits are high in vitamin C and used as a raising agent in bread flour, fibres from its bark are used to make baskets, rope, woven into cloth, and are strong enough to be used as strings in musical instruments.

Elephant break off young branches and eat these whole, and the tree hosts a mini eco system of small animals, insects and birds. Many have been dated at 3,000 years old. When they die they fall down in one single swoop of crashing brances as if exploding from within the insides of the trunk. The larger specimens contain about 30,000 litres of fresh water in its roots and trunk and branches. Cutting off an 18" length of 3" thick root and tilting the top end over will give you a litre of pure, clear water to drink.

Unlike any other tree you can not kill a baobab by ring barking as it immediately starts growing new bark over the wound. Some very old ones are so large and hollowed out by elephant that field pubs have been constructed inside.

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