VEGETATION OF THE RWENZORI
The Rwenzori (mountains of the moon) with a range of 120 kilometers comprise of various mountains like Mount Baker (4843 meters), Mount Speke (4890 meters), Mount Stanley (5109 meters), Mount Luigi di Savoia (4627 meters), Mount Gessi (4715 meters), and Mount Emin ( 4798 meters) which are separated by deep gorges. Mount Stanley which is the tallest mountain has several summits where by the highest point is Margherita peak. As you hike to these mountains, the vegetation keeps changing in relation to the altitude.
The montane forest
This vegetation lies between 1800 – 2500 meters above sea level. The tree size is moderate and the forest canopy seems to be broken. The common trees in this area include; the yellow wood tree, read stink wood, podocarpus milanjianus, symphonia globulifera which has waxy red flowers, vernonia adolfi-friderici. The wild banana, tree ferns, begonia, and balasms among others.
This lies between 2500 -3000 meters on gentle slopes with good soil. The ground is always covered by thick litter of bamboo leaves. On steep and rocky slopes the bamboo is replaced by tangled undergrowth consisting of an Acanthus-type shrub, Mimulopsis ellioti. A giant lobelia, lobelia gibberoa, grows in wet and swampy places. Giant heathers, philippia johnstonii and Erica kingaensis grow on narrow ridges. Helichrysum everlastings begin to appear in this zone. The bamboo flowers at intervals of about thirty years. Some of the trees in montane zone as well grow among the bamboo and undergrowth some of which include; hagenia abyssinica (a spreading tree with yellow flowers), podocarpus milanjianus, Dombeya sp, Afrocrania volkensii, Maesa lanceolata, and Dracaena aframontana. Shrubs and herbaceous plants are so many some of which include the Rwenzori black berry, tree fans, and crimson flowers among others.
The heather zone lies between 3,000 – 4,000 metres and the heather forest only grows where the soil is poor, on ridge tops, rocky and moderately boggy places. The tree stems and the ground are covered in thick Sphagnum moss: branches are draped in Usnea beard lichens. Some of the plants in this zone include; the coral pink ground orchid, Disa stairsii, and a red and mauve balsam, impatiens runsorrensis. There are many philippia trimera and Erica kingaensis tree heathers, which occasionally produces pink flowers. The valleys are covered with huge bogs which are almost fully occupied by carex runsorrensis which grows in tussocks. Between the tussocks, the ground is covered with Sphagnum moss and the fine lobelia can be seen. On well drained slopes, there is mixed woodland consisting of small shrubby trees with rhododendron like leaves among others. Groundsel trees and lobelias are found in this zone. The under growth consists of everlasting flowers and moss.
The alpine lies between 4000- 4500 meters and has swampy vegetation which consists of giant grondsels that grows in great abundance on all deep and well-watered soils; the torch lobelia, lobelia wollastonii; and a thick tangled growth of the everlasting Helichrysum stuhlumani. The bogs and lake verges are occupied by Carex tussocks and some rushes. The tree heathers also grow in the lower areas of this zone but in few numbers. Short grasses and moss grows on the rocky parts of this zone. Above 4,300 metres only moss, blackish coloured lichen and a few everlasting small plants, covered with white woolly hairs, growing to a height of twelve inches or less.
Rock and glacier
This lies between 4500- 5000 meters, there’s bare rock and glacier more especially on mount Stanley. During the dry season the peaks are rocky and in the rainy seasons, the peaks are most times covered by ice.