Rwenzori Vegetation- Rwenzori Mountains
The vegetation in the Rwenzori is unique to Equatorial alpine Africa, at different altitudes we find a different kind of vegetation. The Rwenzori mountains are move recognized with a diversity of beautiful flora than fauna , countless species of trees are located in the forest zone and some of these plants also used as herbal medicine by the Bakonzo who are the natives living around the mountain.
Trekker in the Rwenzoris go through different latitudinal zones all comprised with unique and stunning vegetation with a lot of rare and endemic species. The vegetation zones include montane forest zone goes up to 2800m above level, here the vegetation cover is thick and temperatures are relatively a little warm many animals and birds are found in this zone. Next is the bamboo zone is about 3300m above sea level you can hear sounds of chimps and primates like the colombus monkeys can also be seen in this area. After this zone we go to the heather zone that is endowed with the giant lobelias, the groundsels the zone goes up to 3800m above sea level temperatures here are so cold and also it’s windy.
The Alpine zone follows the heather zone at this altitude plants are less and more scattered. This part is completely comprised of the mountainous steeply large rocks with moss surrounding the groundsels with the unique and exciting trees that a called old man’s beard which can also be found in the bamboo zone
The rocks are covered with moss at this altitude and they can get really slippery in the winter or the wet rainy seasons. Snow is also one of the things you may not miss at this part of the altitude the height goes up to 4500m above sea level. The highest and last vegetation zone on the mountain is the nival zone its 5000m above sea level therefore Margherita is higher than this altitude since its 5109m above sea level .
Vegetation Zones and Covers
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.