Tuesday, April 6, 2010


Angola has a rich flora which includes many species of trees. This is not surprising with its varied terrain, ranging from coastal plains to mountain escarpments and high plateaux.  With this is wide-ranging climate producing deserts in the south, equatorial tropical jungle in the north and a great area of grassland in the center of the country.  Here, I want to show two of Angola's most interesting trees.

The African baobob, known in Angola as the imbondeiro, is native to much of Africa and is regarded as the largest succulent plant in the world.  The enormous rather squat trunk can reach 28 meters (92 feet +) in girth while the tree seldom reached more than 25 meters (82 feet) in height.  These dimensions spawned the African belief that God planted the tree upside down. It is the archetypical large solidary tree of the savannah, although in Angola it also grows in woodlands and in coastal regions.

The tree has large velvet-skinned fruits called mukua which contain an off-white powdery material that can be made into a refreshing drink rich in vitamin C and has twice as much calcium as milk. The leaves can be cooked fresh as a vegetable and the fibrous bark is good for making mats.

The mopane tree gains its presence and importance in the Angola fauna as an important food for the mapane 'worm'.  The tree is slim and grey-trunked and often growing up to 30 meters (100 feet) in height.  It has a crown of rigid, irregular branches and grows in a riparian habitat along the Cunene River among the dry forests of southern Angola.

The leaves are often described as beautiful or elegant, or like butterflies, and they close up in the heat of the sun to preserve moisture. The mopane
worm, which solely eat the leaves are the caterpillars of the magnificent mopane emperor moth. The caterpillars can reach 10 cm (2.5 inches) in length are an important part of the diet of many local people who consider them a great delicacy.  They are rich in protein, usually roasted.  Some 34 species of birds feed on these nutritious insects, so this tree plays and important part in the eco system of life in these areas of Angola.
(Extracted from Sonangol Universo Magazine, March 2010)

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