Mopani trees, also spelt mopane, grow extensively in Kruger National Park, especially in the central to northern region.
There are so many trees in this region, that one of the main rest camps, Mopani Rest Camp, is named after them!
It really is an area of mopani woodland, so much the more because the trees like to grow together, almost or totally excluding other flora. You could describe this type of area as mopani veld.
In this region, the mopani scrub often grows close to the road and there aren’t a lot of open grassy plains. This does make animal spotting harder as you’re more limited to looking in the fore and middle grounds rather than being able to scan the distance as well for wildlife.
Elephants like to eat the leaves of the mopani, so keep an eye out for them when you’re in mopani woodland.
If you see one of these trees up close, you’ll recognise it by its distinctive butterfly-shaped wings. The likeness is even greater when the leaves blow gently in the breeze and it almost seems as if the leaves really are flying.
While you’re looking closely, also check for mopani worms. The leaves of the mopani bush are their favourites to feed on!
Mopani worms (which are actually caterpillars) begin to hatch in summer and will eat the leaves up until wintertime when they’re ready to turn into moths.
Did you know that mopani wood is very strong and used for furniture, building and fencing? It also makes for great firewood and its reddish colour is a good tannin.
When you’re in Kruger National Park, be sure to keep an eye out for the enchanting butterfly trees!