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Photographer's Note

An image scanned from an old negative of my trip to Kenya some 10 years ago....apologies for quality.

During your climb of Mount Kenya, you have the opportunity to see a wide range of vegetation, some of it quite amazing and unique to the area. This varies with altitude and rainfall, and there is a rich alpine and sub-alpine flora.

Between 1200m and 1850m, the vegetation is mainly dry upland forest comprising of Croton associations. Juniperus procera and Podocarpus spp. are predominant in the drier parts of the lower zone (below 2,500m), with rainfall between 875 and 1400mm (Naro Moru and Sirimon tracks on the western slopes). In wetter areas (over 2200mm/year) in the south-west and north-east, Cassipourea malosana predominates.

Higher altitudes (2,500-3,000m with rainfall over 2000mm/year) are dominated by a dense belt of bamboo Arundinaria alpina on south-eastern slopes, and a mosaic of bamboo and Podocarpus milanjianus with bamboo at intermediate elevations (2,600-2,800m), and Podocarpus at higher and lower elevations (2,800-3,000m) and (2,500-2,600m).

Towards the west and north of the mountain, bamboo becomes progressively smaller and less dominant. There are also areas in zones of maximum rainfall 2,000-3,500m with up to 2,400mm/year, where Hagenia abyssinica with Hagenia revolutum predominate.

Above 3,000m, cold (low temperatures) become a more important factor, tree stature declines, and Podocarpus is replaced by Hypericum spp. A more open canopy here results in a more developed understorey. Many of the trees are festooned with mosses. Grassy glades are common especially on ridges. High altitude heath between 3,000m and 3,500m is characterised by shrubs with small leaves like African sage, Protea and Helicrysum.

The lower alpine or moorland zone (3,400-3,800m) is characterized by high rainfall, a thick humus layer, low topographic diversity, and low species richness. Tussock grasses Festuca pilgeri, and sedges Carex spp. predominate. Between the tussocks there are Alchemilla cyclophylla, Alchemilla johnstonii, and Geranium vagans. Above the 3500m contour is the Afro-alpine zone, a moorland characterised by tussock grasses, senecios and lobelias.

The upper alpinezone (3,800-4,500m) is more topographically diverse, and contains a more varied flora. Many of the species here are bizarre, especially the giant rosette plants Lobelia telekii and Lobelia keniensis, Senecio keniodendron (Giant Tree Groundsel seen here) and Carduus spp. Senecio brassica is found in both the lower and upper alpine zone.

Continuous vegetation stops at about 4,500m although isolated vascular plants have been found at over 5,000m. There are 13 species endemic to Mount Kenya listed in Hedberg,(1951).

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On a more lighter note these amazing Lobelia plants reminded me of a character from The Adamms Family - "Cousin Itt".

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Additional Photos by David White (Davidwh) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 711 W: 69 N: 927] (3662)
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