Habitats, Landscape and Plant Life in Serengeti National Park : The Serengeti national park is the located in East Africa, Tanzania and is best known for different unique tourist attractions such as the great wildebeest migrations, larger number of bird species and larger populations if predators. From Tanzania wildlife safaris to Tanzania birding safaris and cultural safaris Serengeti national park has it all and attracts all kind of safari visitors.
The wide savannahs and infinite/endless grasslands are mainly and most known habitats/ ecosystem in the Serengeti National Park. The Serengeti ecosystem, in actuality, is much more diverse. The park’s northern area, particularly around Lobo, is hilly also Woodlands are common in this area. Broken savannah lands interspersed with acacia trees and whistling thorns make up the western section of the park. Also the park is characterized by riverine forests, which are supported by the Grumeti River and mara river.
Savannah vegetation in Serengeti national park
The Serengeti National Park is primarily comprised of savannah. Grasslands, plains, kopjes (or koppies), marshes, and forests are all part of the savannah landscape. Savannah is a broad term for semi-arid territory, which includes everything from woods to open grasslands, as well as all tree and grass combinations in between.
Plains of the Serengeti
The Serengeti Plain’s landscape is diverse, ranging from savannah to steep woods to open meadows. The harsh weather conditions that plague the area, notably the potent combination of heat and wind, are responsible for the region’s geographic diversity. Many environmental experts believe that the region’s different habitats are the result of a series of volcanoes whose eruptions changed the plain’s basic physical features and added mountains and craters to the landscape.
The famous Serengeti plains, which encompass the southern third of the national park, are one of the reasons for the Great Migration’s annual occurrence. Following the rains, the migrating herd comes south to the plains after spending the dry season in the Serengeti’s far wetter north.
The thin soil and two million ungulates transform the plains into a super-productive growing state during the rainy season. Female wildebeests produce and suckle their young when there is enough food available. Predators use the wet season to gain weight as well. Lions, cheetahs, and hyenas live in a food paradise since there are so many young animals around. The seasonal waterholes dry up as the dry season approaches, and the grass turns yellow, then golden. This is when the wildebeest begin their annual migration northward. Grant’s gazelle, warthog, and ostrich remain on the plains to graze on the dry grass. During the dry season, only species that can go without water for long periods of time may survive on the plains.
Three types of grasslands can be found on the Serengeti plains. The first are the short-grass plains that stretch from Ngorongoro to Serengeti National Park. Short-grass plains never burn because the vast herds consume the majority of the grass, leaving relatively little to burn. The second grass variety, intermediate-grass plains, comprises a crescent-shaped area west and north of the short-grass plains. The long-grass plains, located in the Serengeti’s north but also around Seronera, are the third grassland type, Habitats, Landscape and Plant Life in Serengeti National Park .
The shallow hardpan beneath the plains’ surface collects rainwater and keeps it available to grasses, allowing them to flourish densely. Because of the large number of grazing animals in Serengeti National Park, most grasses are consumed many times throughout the rainy season. If grazing animals cut the grass short, it will quickly re-grow and be higher in nutrients and water when it is grown again. The animals generate a high-quality grazing lawn by cutting the grass short and allowing it to regrow. To cope with the high grazing pressure, certain grasses have evolved to grow horizontally along the ground, reducing their vulnerability to herbivores.
Wide swaths of open grassland in the plain’s southern reaches are home to herds of zebras and wildebeest, pictures that have become synonymous with the Serengeti. The savannah, which is home to gazelles and ostriches, lies to the north of the grasslands. This area of the plain is also known for granite outcroppings known as kopjes, which break up the plains and house different ecosystems than the grasses below. A wooded, hilly region to the north of the savannah combines many of the savannah’s grassland qualities with more difficult terrain. Elephant herds frequent this part of the plain, as seen by the numerous broken trees spread throughout the area.
Why there is no tall trees in Serengeti?
You will never see larger and tall trees in the Serengeti national park, only you can see small and short shrubs. So why there are no tall trees and shrubs in the Serengeti? Around 3 million years ago, volcanic ash blown from the Ngorongoro highlands covered what are now the plains, resulting in the formation of a calcareous hardpan less than a meter below the soil surface. Because the hardpan is impervious to roots and the shallow soil dries out quickly, trees cannot grow.
Woodlands vegetation in Serengeti national park
Woodlands do not have the same density as forests. Because there is a lot of grass growing between the trees, forests are vulnerable to seasonal bushfires. In the woodland, there are enormous grassland meadows known as’ mbuga’ in Swahili language, which are frequently dotted with grazing animals.
In wooded areas, we frequently see resident species such as buffalo, elephant, topi, giraffe, warthog, and impala. In the Serengeti, there are three types of wood. The Velvet Bushwillow/Terminalia mollis forests can be found in the Serengeti National Park’s northwestern portion, which receives the highest rainfall. The trees are large and old in this area.
Vachellia (acacia) forests can be found in Serengeti National Park’s middle and western regions. In the Serengeti’s forests, there are 38 species of Vachellia. Ten species account for more than half of the forests. Vachellia Robusta, the most common species, grows on slopes and hilltops and is recognizable by its dark, rough bark and feathery leaves. Commiphora woodlands, which are a combination of Vachellia and Commiphora species, may be found in the east of Serengeti National Park, where there is the least rainfall. Commiphora species are less resistant to fire than their Vachellia siblings, Habitats, Landscape and Plant Life in Serengeti National Park .
Riverine forest in Serengeti national park
Serengeti National Park’s riverine woods are a rare environment. During the wet season, large rivers flow and flood, despite being dry for the majority of the year. The water table along the rivers remains higher even during the dry season. A dense forest of broad-leaved evergreen trees can flourish in these locations because they hold more water. The ecosystem beneath the riverine trees is altered, making it a great habitat for other plants, insects, birds, and animals.
The dense shadow of the forest beneath the limbs of the riverine trees keeps the soil and air fresh. Shade-loving plants blanket the forest floor, while epiphytic plants, such as orchids and masses of crawling vines, cover the trees themselves. These woodlands are impenetrable to fires.
TREES OF SERENGETI NATIONAL PARK
Despite the fact that the Serengeti national park does not have as many tall trees as other parks such as the Ngorongoro conservational area and Tarangire national park, the Serengeti national park does have a small number of tree plant species that can be found in various parts/regions of the park. The trees that can be found in the Serengeti national park are as follows:
Kigelia Africana (Sausage Tree)
Only a few of these enormous trees may be seen in the Serengeti, generally near the dry river banks. It produces long, luscious, but toxic fruits that fall from the tree and release seeds as the pulp rots: The stalks of the fruit can be seen for months after the fruit has dropped, and they are frequently mistaken for a leopard’s tail.
Figs Tree (Ficus sp.)
Fig trees are found in abundance in the Serengeti National Park. They are easily identified by their unique gray-smooth bark, huge buttressing entwined roots, and saucer-sized dark green leaves. Fig trees can be seen growing along the banks of rivers or in the rocky clefts of kopjes.
Wild Date Palm (Phoenix reclinata)
Palms, like lilies, bananas, grasses, and orchids, are monocotyledons, which means their leaves’ veins are unbranched and parallel. The Serengeti’s most prevalent palm tree is the wild date palm, which may be found near rivers and in marshes. The fruits of the wild date palm are edible, but they have an unpleasant flavor. Palm wine can be created from the sweet sap. The tree provides plenty of shade for resting lions, Habitats, Landscape and Plant Life in Serengeti National Park .
Commiphora (Commiphora Africana)
The peeling, papery blue-yellowish bark and small roundish leaves distinguish Commiphora from Vachellia. These trees can be found throughout the Serengeti, but they are most common in the park’s eastern part. The roots, bark, and berries are used in traditional medicine to cure a variety of ailments, including rashes, liver difficulties, and stomach disturbances. Commiphora Africana (or African myrrh) is the most prevalent of the Commiphora species.
The Yellow Fever Tree (Vachellia xanthophloea)
The yellow fever tree can be found in Serengeti national park growing alongside rivers, amid marshes, and in floodplains. It stands out as a tall, beautiful tree with huge white thorns, wide extending branches, and yellow bark. Early settlers discovered that malaria was more common near standing water, but they attributed their fevers to the nearby yellow trees, rather than insects, thus the moniker “Yellow Fever Tree.”
The Umbrella Tree (Vachellia tortilis)
This tree symbolizes Africa, with its distinctive shape breaking up the plains’ flat scenery. With distinctive white thorns, dark bark, and a distinct flat-top, Vachellia tortilis arches dramatically over the savannah throughout Serengeti National Park. Giraffes and elephants prefer the seedlings of this tree. Because umbrella tree seedlings do not survive bushfires, umbrella trees have only been able to sprout en masse twice in the last 125 years. The majority of the Serengeti’s umbrella trees are between 125 and 45 years old, Habitats, Landscape and Plant Life in Serengeti National Park .
Whistling Thorn (Vachellia drepanolobium)
A strange-looking tree with hard, hollow spheres filled with biting ants at the base of its thorns. In exchange for protection, the tree provides shelter and nourishment in the form of “extra floral nectaries” (special flower-like structures). The whistling sounds created by the ant’s entrance holes into the hollow galls gave rise to the name “whistling thorn.” When the soil becomes seasonally water soaked, these small trees flourish.
GRASSES IN THE SERENGETI NATIONAL PARK.
Sporobolus and Kyllinga species dominate the short grasslands in the eastern Serengeti national park, while Pennisetum, Andropogon, and Themeda species dominate the tall grasslands in the western Serengeti. Between the short and tall grassland sections are Cynodon and Sporobolus intermediate grasslands. The distribution and growth of grass species on the Serengeti plains is influenced by a variety of factors such as soil depth and texture, salt content, wind erodibility, rainfall, and grazing pressure. The following are the other grasses species that are fond in the Serengeti national park;
Red Oat Grass (Themeda triandra)
Red out grass (also known as kangaroo grass in Australia or rooigras in Afrikaans) is a major grass species in Serengeti National Park’s forests and long-grass plains, turning a bright pinkish-red hue as it dries. Red clover can grow so thick on the plains that it resembles a wheat field, with its flat fan-like seeds flapping in the breeze. Red oat grass is devoured by wildebeest after more palatable grasses have been exhausted, Habitats, Landscape and Plant Life in Serengeti National Park .
Digitaria macroblephora (Finger Grass)
It is the most common grass in the Serengeti. Many grazers love it because of its nutritious leaves, and it’s difficult to find someone who hasn’t eaten a taste of it. The seed heads resemble delicate fingers reaching up to the sky, as the name suggests, Habitats, Landscape and Plant Life in Serengeti National Park .
Pan Dropseed (Sporobolus ioclados)
On the short-grass plains of serengeti, this Sporobolus species, together with finger grass, is one of the two dominant species. Both species can also grow in a dwarf form, making it difficult to tell them apart. Pan drop seed’s seed head resembles a Christmas tree, with the seeds dangling below the fronds like little ornaments, distinguishing it from other grasses, Habitats, Landscape and Plant Life in Serengeti National Park .
INVASIVE PLANT SPECIES IN THE SERENGETI NATIONAL PARK
Invasive plants are those plants species that are not native in the Serengeti and they cause a problem by pushing out and displacing the area’s native vegetation. The Mexican Marigold was introduced to the area with a shipment of wheat seeds; it is a fast-growing weed that has rendered some areas unusable for farming and is competing with crops and native flora.
Prickly Pear (Opuntia sp.) and Custard Oil (Rhoicissus sp.) are two other invasive plants that represent a major hazard in Serengeti national park. The threat of non-endemic species altering Serengeti National Park’s vegetation, and thus wildlife behavior, appears genuine and imminent. Inside the park, Mexican marigold, prickly pear, and custard oil can be found, particularly along the roadsides, where seeds spread by automobile fires quickly take root.