The Outpost Lodge and Pel’s Post rest high on a hill overlooking the Luvuvhu River in the wildest and most remote part of the Kruger National Park. Our 24 000 hectare concession holds as much as 80% of the Kruger National Park’s total biodiversity and boasts diverse terrain and vegetation, including vast tracts of uninterrupted mopane scrub and woodlands. Here we take a close look at the magnificent mopane tree.
THE BEAUTIFUL BUTTERFLY TREE
The mopane tree is often referred to as the 'butterfly tree'. Why? Because it has butterfly-shaped leaves, which are bright green in summer and a more golden brown colour when the seasons change. The tree bears kidney-shaped seed pods, has light to dark grey bark and can reach a height of up to 25m in good conditions. However, it is also common to come across mopane trees in smaller shrub form and this variation is commonly referred to as ‘mopane scrub’.
FLOWERS AND FRUIT
Small, green flowers cover the mopane tree from December to January. These are followed by flat, leathery, kidney-shaped pods, which contain seeds that are covered with a sticky resin from the glands that cover them. They ripen between April and June, changing from a light green to a speckled brown.
FROM FOOD TO FURNITURE
The mopane tree is also perhaps most well known for being the home to the mopane moth and the caterpillar of the moth, the mopane worm. This worm is highly nutritious (and some might say, delicious) and is eaten by people throughout Africa. The wood of the tree is termite resistant and highly durable so it is also often used to make furniture and the like.
Mopane is the Shona word for butterfly, a nod towards the shape of the tree's leaves.
When the leaves are crushed they smell a little like turpentine.
The scientific name for the mopane tree, Colophospermum mopane, is derived from the Greek word Colophospermum, which means oily seed.
The mopane tree offers very little shade, as during the heat of the day, in an effort to save water, the leaves fold together so that they are less exposed to the sun.
Elephants love to snack on the leaves and pods, which are high in protein. This may be a big reason for the stunted growth of many mopane trees.
Join us at The Outpost Lodge or Pel’s Post and experience the magnificent mopane for yourself. Don’t hesitate to get in touch with any questions. We are here to help.