Without trees, life as we know it would cease to exist. They provide us with two of life’s essentials – food and oxygen, as well as other benefits such as shelter and protection, tools and a source of medicine and healing. Today we pay tribute to the trees of Zambia!

The importance of trees is often taken for granted, but thanks to passionate and knowledgeable park rangers like Careen Nyambe, who form part of one of the scout teams in the Simalaha Community Conservancy, we get reminded of how important they are. Whilst on patrol, looking after and monitoring the wild animals in the sanctuary, Careen takes time to share her in-depth knowledge about the most common trees of Zambia found within the area of Kasaya.

  1. Sickle-leafed Albezia (Albizia harveyi)

This small, deciduous tree is commonly referred to as the common false-thorn and is often harvested for wood used for poles and fuel. Parts of the tree are also used to treat ailments like epilepsy, nausea and infertility.

  • Blue sour plum (Ximenia americana)

This fascinating tree or shrub has a blue-green appearance and grows in hot, low-altitude areas. The fruit is edible, and as its name suggests, yes, you guessed it…has an extremely sour taste. Apart from being nature’s most sour sweet, the seed oil is used cosmetic purposes and to soften leather. Its bark is often used in traditional medicine to heal a number of ailments such as stomach ache, fever, eye problems.

The blue sour plum is easily confused with the sour plum (Ximenia caffra), which you can learn more about here.

  • Northern dwaba berry (Friedsodielsia obovata)

The dwaba berry is a shrub or small tree found across Africa. It commonly adopts a climbing or scrambling habit and is harvested for its fruit, often sold within local markets.

  • Ana tree (Faidherbia albida)

The thorny ana tree is found from its northernmost reaches in Israel to its southernmost range in Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa, where it has been declared a protected species. Commonly found on alluvial floodplains, riverbanks, swamps and dry watercourses, the ana tree is one of the fastest-growing indigenous trees in the region.

Due to its nutritious leaves, high protein seeds and starchy pods, this tree is loved by browsers such as elephant, giraffe, kudu, nyala, and impala.

  • Lala palm (Hyphaene coriacea)

This beautiful palm tree native to the eastern Afrotropics, is easily recognisable thanks to its fan-shaped greyish green leaves and tall, lean stature. Adored by elephants and humans alike, the sap is tapped to produce palm wine, and the seed, otherwise known as ‘vegetable ivory’, is often used to carve into small ornaments.

  • Mopane (Colophospermum mopane)

Native to southern Africa, the mopane tree is commonly found in hot, dry areas such as Kasaya in the Simalaha Community Conservancy. The most diagnostic feature of this tree is undoubtedly its butterfly-shaped leaves which are bright green when they emerge but soon change colour with the seasons.

The hard wood is popular for fires as well as building fences and other infrastructure. You can learn more about this tree here.

  • Sickle bush (Dichrostachys cinerea)

Often found growing in landscapes that were once disturbed, the sickle bush forms a critical ecological link by serving as a ‘scab’ over affected areas and allowing the land underneath to heal.

Packed with antibiotic properties, the sickle bush is the A-Z of medicinal plants widely used for treating ailments such as stomach aches, pneumonia, dysentery and worms.

  • Baobab (Adansonia digitata)

Known as the upside-down tree because its branches look like roots, the baobab is a succulent, absorbing and storing water in the dry season in its vast trunk, enabling it to produce a juicy fruit in the dry season when all around is dry and arid.

These trees can reach a height of 30 metres and a spread of 50 metres in circumference, making them the perfect shelter, food and water provider for both animals and humans. You can learn more about the ‘tree of life’ here.

The vast knowledge about the environments that these dedicated scouts and rangers have remains crucial to help keep our parks and wildlife safe. Peace Parks Foundation is extremely proud of these rangers who have pored in hours of hard work and learning to go above and beyond their call of duty.