Vegetation of Kilimanjaro

Mount Kilimanjaro Zones

There is 5 types of vegetation zone on the mountain. Each zone rises approximately 1000 meters (3,280 ft) higher then the previous one. Each zone is also colder and drier then the one below.

From 800 to 1800

The lower slopes from 800 to 1800 m (2.625 to 5.905 ft) recieve quite a lot of water from rainfall. Enough rainfall plus rich volcanic soils make this area interesting for cultivation. It is heavily cultivated and extensively cleared for livestock. Original vegetation is possible to see on northern and eastern slopes without a lot of cultivation, because the area is drier and poorer compare to other slopes. Here you can find schrub, bushland, lowland forest, wildflowers, but not many wild animals.

Montane forest

The forest begins at 1800 m (5.905 ft) and it is the most fertile of all mountain zones. Almost all the water (96% of it) on the mountain originates in this montane forest. For that reason the region is extremely humid. Nights can be clear and quite cold and temperature during the day is usually 15˚C (59˚F). The difference with other mountain forests there is no bamboo forest on Kilimanjaro. It appears only in very rare places and it’s quite small. It is quite usual to see blue monkey and black-and-white colobus monkey, a lot of squirrels, some duikers, even leopard is living here, but it seldom to see it. The birds of this zone are usually around large fig trees feasting on the sweet fruits.

Low alpine zone

From 2800 m (9.187 ft) is the beginning of so called low alpine zone. There are 2 types of vegetation in this zone. First there is a heath area. From around 3,200m a wide expanse of moorland extends beyond the heath and the cloud line, so that here the skies are generally clear, making the sunshine intense during the days and the nights cool and clear. The climbing incline remains gentle, but thinning oxygen provides less fuel to energise the muscles and can dramatically slow the pace of walking. Hardy endemic species towering up to 4m high thrive in this moorland zone and give the landscape a strangely primeval atmosphere. The alpine zone is cool, the air usually crystal clear. Above 3000 m (9.843 ft) frost is common, yet sun is quite intensive.

Alpine Zone

Even higher, beyond 4,000m (13.124 ft), this sensation intensifies as the landscape develops into a more bizarre alpine desert, with sandy loose earth and intense weather conditions and temperature fluctuations so dramatic that barely any plant species survive other than everlasting flowers, mosses and lichens. Only the odd lichen survives beyond 5000m, after Kibo Huts where the landscape is predominantly rock and ice fields. Here, climbers experience the final steep push to the summit. In this zone it is summer every day and winter every night. Vegetation needs to be hardy and there is only 55 species in this area. Sometimes it is possible to see birds of prey and ravens, but don’t live here.

Saddle to Summit

The easterly routes, Marangu, Mweka, Loitokitok and Rongai all converge west of the saddle near Gillmans Point, between the peaks of Mawenzi and Kibo. Kibos crater is roughly circular with an inner cone extending to 5,800m, (100m lower than the summit at Uhuru Peak). At the centre an inner crater with walls between 12 and 20 m high contains another concentric minor cone, the centre of which falls away into the 360m span of the ash pit. This is the 120 metre deep central core of the volcano, and casts sulphurous boiling smoke from its depths despite the frozen, snowy outskirts.




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