Beautiful Sunbird on flowering aloe. Tarangire National Park, Tanzania
Carol commented recently that my African animal photos were nice and people photos would be fine too, but what she really wanted to see were photos of flowers from my trip to Tanzania. So here ya go, Carol—a few images of plants and flowers from my trip, from one gardener to another. (I hope you don’t mind a bit of good-spirited teasing, Carol. I admit that I was way off topic.)
The lodge-style rooms at our hotel in Arusha, located on the grounds of an old coffee plantation.
July is one of the colder months of winter when you’re south of the equator. However, Tanzania is only a couple hundred miles south of that line, and it remains temperate year-round—even very warm, as we discovered, on the plains of the Serengeti. In Arusha, temperatures were cool at night and in the early morning, but comfortable for short sleeves in midday. The grounds of our hotel, groomed daily by a staff of gardeners, were a tropical paradise.
The secret to this lush abundance of bougainvillea and hibiscus? Lake Duluti. Water from the lake is no doubt used to irrigate heavily, because outside of the hotel grounds, the surrounding landscape was dry and dusty at this time of year.
Along the dirt road that led from our hotel to the local market, our guide pointed out the rows of coffee plants growing in the shade of tall trees. Pulling off a handful of berries, he squeezed them open to reveal the coffee beans, two per berry.
Bananas—dozens of varieties—seemed to be a big cash crop. Banana trees were growing everywhere there was sufficient water, and the locals know how to use all parts of the banana: leaves for roofing, wrapping, and cooking food in; fiber for baskets; fruit for food and beer. At mealtimes we were often offered tiny, reddish bananas, which tasted like banana mixed with apple—quite good.
At one of our lodges, perched on the rim of the Great Rift Valley, we were given a tour of the hotel’s vegetable garden. Lots of banana trees, as well as a wide assortment of vegetables, grew within a protective screen of “trouble trees” and a man-made fence.
Another view of the large garden. It was irrigated by trenches. A hose was set at the top of a trench line, and the water ran along the trench to all the plants in that area, pooling along the way in wider areas dug out around each plant. Pretty smart, I thought.
One villager’s modest yet cheerful garden in Mto wa Mbu contained vegetables as well as a natural pest-control plant, the marigold.
One of the few blooming wildflowers that we saw on our dry-season safari is one that grows in my own garden: lion’s tail, or Leonotus leonurus. I loved seeing this plant on the roadside as we drove slowly looking for actual lions hidden in the grass or in the trees. When I first spotted it, I said, “Look! Lion’s tail,” and everyone turned to look for the animal that I’d seen. Oops!
A closer look. These plants were growing as tall as 8′, much taller than in my own garden, where they stand about 2′ tall.
The winter, dry-season landscape in Tarangire National Park, Tanzania—not unlike the winter landscape in the Hill Country west of Austin. I was reminded of home, at times, even so far away.