The Succulent world of Kenya
Kenya is stretching from 5 N to 4 40`S at an altitude from o to 5200 meter. In the north the country is bordering Ethiopia and Sudan, in the west Uganda, in the east Somalia and in the south Tanzania. Almost in the centre the equator passes Kenya, which is very impact to the climate. The total area of the country is roughly 582646 sq.km and is covered by different landscapes with specific climate regions.
Comparing the climate at the coast, which may have subtropical temperatures, the climate in the central highland passed with the Rift Valley, is really cool. The subtropical coast strip is covering an area of approximately 30 km heading westward inside the country where it is merging with the so called dry bush land. The central highlands with the Rift Valley are the most fertile part of the country and are mainly used for intensive agriculture purpose. In the dry forest regions and the arid savannas, covering nearly 75 percent of the country, very high temperatures are ruling the seasons and the rainfall is very low. Here you almost have dry and warm winds. In the northern parts you can find desert climate with nearly 50 during the day.
Since the equator passes Kenya, there are normally two rainy seasons. The short rains are mostly during November, and the long rains from April until June. Because of global climate changes it can happen that the rainy seasons are shifting, and in some parts of the country the rain is missing totally, which causes catastrophic consequences.
|Average temperature °C||20||20||21||21||19||18||17||17||20||19||19||19|
|sun hours per day||9||9||8||6||5||5||4||4||6||7||6||8|
|rainfall in mm||50||37||85||154||125||30||14||19||20||49||132||77|
|Average temperature °C||23||24||24||23||21||20||20||31||31||22||23||23|
|sun hours per day||9||9||8||8||8||8||7||7||7||8||8||9|
|rainfall in mm||86||94||128||172||183||142||94||87||82||96||126||104|
|Rift Valley Kenya|
|Average temperature °C||18||19||18||17||17||16||16||16||16||16||16||7|
|sun hours per day||9||8||7||6||7||8||7||7||7||6||6||8|
|rainfall in mm||34||48||90||160||110||67||95||88||110||59||63||30|
|North – East Kenya|
|Average temperature °C||23||24||25||24||22||22||21||22||24||25||22||22|
|sun hours per day||8||8||8||7||8||7||6||6||7||8||6||7|
|rainfall in mm||80||39||126||282||86||5||10||8||16||140||328||139|
|Average temperature °C||26||26||27||26||25||23||22||22||23||25||25||25|
|sun hours per day||8||7||7||7||7||7||6||5||6||8||7||7|
|rainfall in mm||36||32||76||94||34||8||6||10||18||30||102||130|
|Average temperature °C||27||28||28||27||26||25||24||24||25||26||27||28|
|sun hours per day||8||9||9||7||6||7||7||8||8||9||9||8|
|rainfall in mm||18||10||29||109||150||53||35||48||45||62||64||33|
There are succulents in approximately 40 plant families in Kenya. The succulents occur in mostly all areas of the country. Especially Asclepiadaceae, Burseraceae, Crassulaceae, Vitaceae, Euphorbiaceae and Cucurbitaceae have a large distribution. Well known for the abundance of succulent plants are the dry bush land and the grassland. The Burseraceae dominates the dry bush land. This plant family includes beside the wide distributed Commiphora species the desired incense tree (Boswellia). From the resin of these trees the incense (gum arabicum) is made. The Commiphora bush land is having ideal conditions for bizarre and gnarled forms of growth. Here you can meet the so named Stone Plants (Pyrenacantha malvifolia), many Passifloraceae (for example Adenia globosa) and the fantastic, nearly the whole year flowering Desert Rose (Adenium obesum). During the main flowering time from December to April the plant can be easily seen from far.
But also on the intensive used agricultural regions succulents are found in ecological recesses. For example there are Adenia and Sanseveria species in the sisal plantations of the Teita-Taveta district, Momordica, Dioscorea and Jatropha species in the coastal coconut tree forests. Pyrenacantha vitifolia is growing on maize fields and Aloe, Monadenium and Euphorbia species are growing in the grassland of the Kapiti Plains. Particular the large stock of the impressive Euphorbia candelabrum on the pastureland in the Central Highland and Rift Valley is attracting everybody’s attention.
Many of the succulents occurring in Kenya are having a special use for the inhabitants of the bush lands. For example the seeds of the Baobab tree are used to make sweets and the dry wood of the Commiphoras is used for fencing the cattle and for firewood. A lot of succulents are having a healing effectiveness and is used by the natives. For example the root of Ceropegia lugardiae should help against snakebites and Commiphora africana roots are used when having stomach pain.
The most attracting succulent is the Baobab tree (Adansonia digitata/Mbuyu (Kisuaheli = old man). An African fairytale is telling the story about this tree. Because the tree refused to stay at the place where god planted it. So god punished it and from that day the Baobab has to grow upside down. With its fat and clumsy trunk, it can be seen from very far and is a characteristic plant of large areas in the eastern parts of the country. Very old, imposing trees can be found at the North Coast.
The flora of the country is well explored and a lot of literature is dealing with the succulent world of Kenya.
The Baobab Africa`s Upside-Down Tree – G.E. Wickens – Kew Bulletin Reprint
Flora of Tropical East Africa – Royal Botanic Garden/Kew – Richmond
The Wild Flowers of Kenya – Michael Blundell – Collins/London
Kenya Ceropegia Scrapbook – P.G.Archer – Artemis/Australia
Upland Kenya Wildflowers – A.D.Q.Agnew – E.A.N.H.Society/Nairobi
Kenya Trees Shrubs and Lianas – H. Beentje – National Museum/Nairobi
Medicinal Plants of East Africa – J.O.Kokwaro – East African Literature Bureau
Pinguoen;Kenya Succulents… – Schulz/Powys – Schulz Publishing/Australia