Gombe Stream National Park

Evergreen Forest - Trees
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The common trees are of just a few kinds. Easiest to recognize is the only palm species in the park, the oil palm. A West African introduction, it has been widely cultivated for its oil-bearing nuts. These are borne in a dense cluster in the spiny crown. Each nut (11) is about 4 cms long and consists of a hard woody seed surrounded by orange oily flesh. This is the part most eaten by primates, but baboons and bushpigs can crack the fallen nuts to get the soft kernel within.

Albizia glaberrima (1) is a very common much-branching tree whose dark lacy foliage contrasts with its pale branches. It quickly colonizes cleared areas and provides a canopy of shade where true forest species can regenerate.

Two common species have tall single trunks with "layered" branches near the top:

Pycnanthus angolensis (2), related to nutmeg, produces small yellow fruits that split to reveal a big black seed with a fleshy red coat or "aril" that many primates eat.

Newtonia buchanani (3) has very fine feathery leaves and well-developed root buttresses when mature.

Pseudospondias microcarpa (4) has dense dark foliage of pinnate leaves, and clusters of green berries that ripen blue-grey.

Ficus vallis-choudae (5) is a fig tree with rounded leaves as big as dinner-plates and large watery figs. You will see it close to the stream.

Myrianthus arboreus (6) is a many-bunked tree with huge palmate leaves up to 1 meter wide, and a strange rounded yellow fruit divided into lobes, somewhat like a small pineapple. It is especially common in Mitumba valley.

Anthocleista schweinfurthii (7) has fairly few branches with whorls of large crinkly leaves at their ends.

Spathodea campanulata, the Nandi Flame Tree, is uncommon but unmistakable with its large orange-red flowers. It is widely grown as an ornamental tree, but here it is wild. You can see one at the mouth of Mitumba stream.

The vines Saba florida (8) and Dichyophleba lucida (9) form dense tangled thickets on forested slopes. The former bears a fruit looking like a greenish warty lemon, and the latter has smooth green or orange fruits the size of large cherries. Both taste sour to us but are highly favored by chimps.

Monanthotaxis poggei (10) is a common woody shrub of the forest undergrowth. Its fruits are small velvety orange berries with a sweet flesh and a large hard seed.

Special thanks to Thomson Safaris and Tanzania National Parks for contributing Tanzanian information.

Published: 28 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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