Friday, 14 November 2014

Some Ethiopian plants

The fabulous Acanthus sennii, a prickly brute of a suckering shrub with satin flowers, common in scrubby roadside places at 2500-3000 m.
I have been in Ethiopia for a couple of weeks, principally to take part in a workshop for Ethiopian botanical gardens (of which more anon), but with the chance to do some travelling around as well. It was my third time in this beautiful and fascinating country, with its extraordinary diversity of scenery, long proud history, charming people (with a delicious cuisine), and a very rich flora. Sadly most of the natural vegetation in the highlands has been destroyed by agriculture and settlement, but here a few interesting plants, and more will follow.


Rosa abyssinica is the only rose native to sub-Saharan Africa, common in dry montane forest, often with Juniperus procera. It's a scratchy dog-rose, with a faint scent.

The exquisite grass Andropogon abyssinicus (so I was told, but that's supposedly annual and this looked perennial), catching the sun at Gullele Botanic Garden on the outskirts of Addis Ababa. It is a favoured pasture grass.

Probably Crotalaria rosenii, a shrub of about a metre, in disturbed places at Gullele.

The epiphytic fern Drynaria volkensii on a tree in the Wondo Genet Arboretum. It has fronds of two forms: short sterile versions held close to the tree trunk and pointing upwards, and larger fertile fronds borne only for a season and currently turning brown prior to falling off. The persistent sterile leaves catch debris and moisture.

A very vicious nettle, Girardinia diversifolia - an old enemy from Tanzanian days.

A first glimpse of Ethiopian 'botanical big game' - a hedge of the extraordinary Echinops ellenbeckii. The shrubby plants are up to 4-5 m tall, and the capitula are 15-25 cm in diameter. When mature the flowers are red.

And finally - a Black-and-White Colobus (C. guereza) in the Wondo Genet Arboretum, feeding on  Bombax leaves. The presence of folivorous monkeys is not something we have to worry about here!

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