Field guide to common trees and shrubs of East Africa, by Najma Dharani
Introduction by Najma Dharani: This Field Guide to Common Trees and Shrubs of East Africa is not a botanical textbook, but a selective field guide to the more common trees and shrubs, indigenous, naturalized and exotic, that you will see in the region. It is designed to help the plant enthusiast identify prominent species that can be observed, studied and enjoyed in gardens and parks, along roadsides and in easily accessible parts of the countryside.
East Africa, a region embracing Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, is one of the richest areas on the African continent in terms of its flora and fauna. This natural wealth is, to a very large extent, the product of the enormous diversity of habitat and climate. Broadly speaking, rainfall is both generous and reliable at the higher altitudes; the air is cool and the vegetation lush. By contrast the lowland areas tend to be hot and dry; the climate is both hot and humid along the coast and in the basins near the big lakes. Climatic and ecological variety creates ideal environments for a great many different species of plants (and, of course, animals and birds). In East Africa, indeed throughout sub-Saharan Africa, trees fulfil important social and economic functions. In rural areas, the forests serve as the principal sources of energy, providing fuel wood and charcoal, and they go a long way toward meeting the needs of farmers and herders. They also yield materials for building and for many other domestic purposes. Trees have profound significance in religious belief and ceremony, and their various components are central to traditional medicine. Indeed the forests are precious, fragile (and irreplaceable) repositories of ingredients basic to the treatment of a surprising number of human ailments. The wider world has only recently (belatedly) begun to appreciate their value, and their potential, in this respect. Indigenous trees and shrubs are part of East Africa’s legacy. Not only are they natural resources and things of beauty to be admired, but also symbols of life. Today much of the forested land has been cleared for agriculture, and to fuel industry. There is an urgent need to cherish what remains, and to try to return at least some of the land to its original, pristine condition.
Example: APOCYNACEAE Oleander family
This dicotyledonous (see Key words, page 7) family includes many spectacular tropical trees, shrubs and lianes (lianas), often poisonous or producing important medicinal drugs. Most species also produce a milky white latex that may contain rubber. The leaves are almost invariably simple and entire, often arranged in opposite pairs; leaves are glossy; the flowers regular; calyx of five free or almost free sepals; the tubular corolla is five-lobed and there are five stamens, their anthers free or slightly touching. Members of this family in East Africa include Acokanthera, Adenium, Carrissa, Nerium, Plumeria, Thevetia, Tabernaemontana.
Cordia africana (C. abyssinica, C. holstii)
Local names: Makobokobo (Swahili); Mukebu (Luganda); Mringaringa (Chagga)
A large, deciduous forest tree with rounded crown and often crooked trunk, growing to 15 m in height; widely distributed in wooded grassland, forest and riverine areas at altitudes of 1200-2100 m. Very common throughout East Africa, and very attractive in flower.
Bark: Pale brown; rough and fissured with age.
Leaves: Large; oval; up to 16 cm in length; apex tapering and base rounded; dull dark green above, paler below; veins prominent below; young shoots, leaf stalks and underside of leaves covered with soft brown hairs.
Flowers: White; showy; funnel-shaped; sweetly scented and attractive to bees; in dense terminal masses.
Fruit: Yellowish; round; about 1 cm in diameter, held in a hairy cup-shaped calyx. The seeds are enclosed in sweet, sticky flesh.
Uses: The heartwood is reddish brown; light; durable; used in the making of furniture and beehives; also as general timber and fuel. The fruit gum serves as a glue; the fruit is edible.
Traditional medicine: Fresh juice from the bark is applied to the affected area to treat broken bones. [..]
This is an extract from the book: Field guide to common trees and shrubs of East Africa, by Najma Dharani.
Title: Field guide to common trees & shrubs of East Africa
Author: Najma Dharani
Random House Struik
2nd edition. Cape Town, South Africa 2011
ISBN 9781770078888 / ISBN 978-1-77007-888-8
Softcover, 15x21 cm, 320 pages, throughout colour photos
Dharani, Najma im Namibiana-Buchangebot
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