Northern Kruger National Park
Mopane tree (Colophospermum mopane)
On the right is a rather characteristic overview of the area north of Mopani that you are treated to when a dirt road takes you up a hill to a vantage point. Amidst the rocky environment you will see mopane bush, interspersed with a few other trees, such as the three conspicuous baobab trees (north of Klopperfontein).
The mopane tree has butterfly-shaped leaves, which are bright green at first but turn into a beautiful spectrum of autumn colours later in the season. The above photo was taken early in November.
The mopane tree is found in northern South Africa, Namibia, Angola and Botswana. In arid regions it grows to the size of bushes, but when water is somewhat more abundant it can grow into a tree of up to 25 metre.
The mopane tree or scrub is extremely important for a large number of animal species. This is because of the high protein content (12½%); also the leaves and fruit retain their nutritional value after they have fallen to the ground. The elephant can eat all parts: leaves, bark and wood. On that account too dense an elephant population is a menace to the mopane shrubs, as the area may be taken over by grass that is as tall as the mopane shrub.
The mopane tree is also host to the 'mopane worm' (Imbrasia belina), the larva of the mopane moth (Gonimbrasia belina) which feeds on the leaves. It is collected in large numbers during the season and consumed or traded as a delicatesse.
The above is just a very brief summary. Therefore, by all means do read more extensive information on the mopane tree; visit, for example, the following websites:
Northern Flagship Institute
World Wildlife Fund and once more World Wildlife Fund
Science in Africa
South African National Biodiversity Institute