Caesalpiniaceae - Flamboyant family
SA Tree 198
The mopane tree is found mostly on clay soils, being stunted where soils are shallow or poorly drained, In deeper soils and near watercourses it can grow to a substantial height of up to 18 m.
The mopane covers vast areas, as far as the eye can see, with few other shrubs or trees between them. It is a large tree which has a single, straight trunk and is high-branching, with a narrow canopy. Shrubs are multi-stemmed with a V-form, and a round, poorly developed canopy. The butterfly leaf is characteristic, and the bark is dark grey to black and characteristically deeply, vertically fissured, and flaking in narrow strips.
Links with animals - The leaves are not very palatable, but are eaten by elephant. Fallen leaves are eaten by almost all animals during drought periods. Aphids that infect the leaves are eaten by baboon. Holes in the trunk provide nesting sites for birds and small mammals.
Human uses - The wood produces good coals when burned. Extracts of the wood are used to treat venereal diseases. The bark is used for tanning. Mopane worms that feed on the leaves are an important source of protein. Mopane wood is dark reddish-brown to almost black in colour; it is very durable hard and heavy, and although it is difficult to work, some beautiful pieces of furniture have been made from it. It is also extensively used for mine props and as railway sleepers, and makes very good firewood, giving off a sweet smell and an intense heat.
Leaves - Alternate, compound, drooping with two leaflets arising close together and so resembling typical butterfly wings shape, with a smooth margin, The vestigial remains of a third terminal leaflet forms a very small appendage between the pair of leaflets. They have an aromatic smell. Reddish new leaves turn to yellow-gold during autumn. (80 x 35 mm)
Flowers - Inconspicuous small, green flowers are borne at the ends of the branches, in short axillary racemes or sprays, during December and January.
Pods - The flattened, oval, leathery kidney-shaped pods are covered by glands that make them sticky. Pods turn light brown when ripe, from April to June.
(50 x 20 mm)
Best places to see the Mopane in Southern Africa:
The Mopane is found in the Kruger National Park in the Lebombo Mountain Bushveld, Mopane Scrubveld, Alluvial Plains, Tree Mopane Savannah & Mopane / Bushwillow Woodlands ecozones.
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The Plant Kingdom (Plantae)
Wildlife - Fauna & Flora of Southern Africa
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