Interesting trees on The Plot

Mopane Tree – Colophospermum mopaneMopane tree leaf

The most common tree on The Plot is the Mopane. These beautiful trees have a distinctive butterfly-shaped leaves which gives it its name as Mopane means butterfly in Shona.

Mopane wormsThe Mopane is best known for the Mopane Worm, which is the caterpillar of the Emperor Moth, Gonimbrasia belina. These caterpillars are rich in protein and are a much sought-after delicacy by people and they are eaten either roasted or dried.

In Botswana we see temporary camps set up along roads where people harvest them. It is a major income for many and I have been approached on many occasions by people seeking Mopane worms after a previous posts on this. So much so that I have removed my post.

It is not only the host tree to the Mopane worm, but to the juvenile stage of a sap-sucking insect (related to leaf-hoppers) known as the mopane psyllid, Arytaina mopani. This sweet-tasting, wax covered insect, known as Mopane manna, is picked off the leaves by humans, monkeys and baboons.

A small, stingless bee, known as ‘mopane flies’, are also linked to the Mopane Tree. They are best known for their attraction to the ones eye and nose moisture. They live in hollows in the trunks of the trees where they do produce some honey.

In autumn the green leaves turn into a kaleidoscope of red, orange and yellow colours making the bush look like it’s on fire.

In the hot summer months the leave folds together during the heat of the day and exposes the smallest possible surface area to the sun to reduce water loss through evaporation.

Game animals, particularly elephants, enjoy the protein-rich leaves and pods; however the tree releases tannins, making it unpalatable, if an animal feeds on it for too long.

The wood of the Mopane tree is one of the hardest in southern Africa. This does make it difficult to work, but makes it termite resistant and hence used as fencing poles and structural poles for structures.

The tree is found as single or multiple stemmed trees; however, it is also found as a bush and is locally referred to here in Botswana as “gumane”.

The seed pods which are kidney in shape do not split open and germination occurs within the pod.


Other uses of the Mopane Tree are:

  • Mopane twigs have been chewed as tooth brushes,
  • Bark to make ropes and for tanning leathers
  • The leaves can be used to stop the bleeding and to accelerate healing of wounds.
  • The hard wood was used to make railway sleepers and as props for mines.
  • Ash from the wood has high phosphate, calcium and lime contents and is used as fertilizer and to make whitewash.


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Interesting Trees on The Plot

Buffalo Thorn – Ziziphus mucronata

This must be one of my favourite trees owing to the spiritual beliefs around it.

In Afrikaans it is called the Blink-blaar-wag-‘n-bietjie , which translated means shiny-leaf-wait-a-bit.

The thorns occur in pairs – one pointing straight forward and below the branch one hooked backwards. So if you get caught in it it will take you awhile to get out.

The Zulus see this as you must look to your future (straight thorn) but never forget your past (hooked thorn). The zigzag nature of the branches indicates that life is never straightforward.

When somebody dies and is buried away from their home a branch from the tree is placed on top of the grave. It is believed that the spirit enters branch. The branch is then transported to the person’s home. The branch gets it’s own seat on a bus or taxi.

In Botswana it is believed that you will be safe from lightning if you stand under the buffalo thorn during a storm.

The seeds, if roasted, can be used as a substitute for coffee. The roots have peptide alkaloids and antifungal properties and hence used as painkillers, for dysentery, respiratory ailments and sepsis on the skin.

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Monthly Weather Update

This May was a bit cooler than previous May’s we have experienced in the past. The day time temperatures averaged at just under 30C and we did have a 34C. To see the latest figures go to:

This last weekend with a comfortable 33C we had our first meal at our new campsite on The Plot. Unfortunately it came a bit overcast.


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At night at Moriti and fun on the Pans

This last weekend a friend of ours, Pierre, celebrated his 50th Birthday at Moriti Wa Selemo which is situated in a forest bordering the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans.

To get to the pans we went through the cute little village of Mosu, which is right on the edge of the pans and massive palms can be seen all over, giving a tropical beach feel to it.


We first had to stop to collect some freshly cooked magwinya, which is very similar to the traditional Afrikaans vetkoek. A bread dough formed into a ball and fried. We were told that the best one’s were made in a little hut, next to a tuck shop. They were very good.

It was then onto the pans, which were drying out, but moist in places. Water could be seen in the distance. We drove out onto the pans, put up a gazebo and that was camp.

Our friends had brought quad bikes which Sue and I borrowed so we could try and find flamingoes, but with no luck. It was however fun just riding the bikes across the pans.

There was also a piece of conveyer belt that was attached to the back of a car and we had fun being towed around on that.

From the pans we headed up to Mmakgama Ruins, which has a stunning view over the salt pans. Plenty of water could be seen.

A nice evening braai at Moriti Wa Selemo rounded off a great day.





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Weather Update

I have updated our weather page – well up until the end of April, for those interested:

Starting to get chilly here – we had a morning better suited to Eskimo’s -a cold 7 C.

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March: What a month

The driest and coldest March ever, Sue breaks ribs and punctures her lung, we escape a flooded Botswana to the sea and another rescued animal.

Climate update:

After the excellent rains we experienced from Christmas last year through to the end of February, we have had basically nothing this month. It is by far the lowest rainfall figures I have recorded for March (since 2014).

Figures also show that it has been the coldest March we have experienced since we have been here with respect to the average maximum and average minimum temperatures.

We did however get good rain last night, 30mm here at our home in Letlhakane. It came with hail as well.

To see our latest figures see Letlhakane Weather and The Plot Rainfall

Sue breaks ribs:

A relaxed Sunday morning turned into a nightmare when Sue slipped on our tiled floor and went crashing into a metal chair.

Such a simple accident caused 3 broken ribs and 1 pierced her lung. Basically what happens when you pierce a lung is that when you breath in, air escapes into your chest cavity. This air has no escape route and puts pressure on your lung from the outside and causes it to collapse – which could lead to loss of life.

After a painful procedure to get a pipe through her side into her chest cavity to get the air out, she had a very worrying and painful 5 days in hospital.

She recovered well and even though she is still in pain, she is doing well.

Holiday to the sea

With a flooded Botswana we decided to go to the sea. Some Island hopping in Mozambique was wonderful and offered Sue more recovery time.

Another rescued animal

The final event happened at the end of the month when I was up at The Plot doing some work. All of a sudden our dogs went crazy and one emerged with a hedgehog in his mouth. Shouting at him encouraged him to drop it.

The hedgehog is also recovering well.

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Botswana Rocks

Last night at 19h40 we were shaking as Botswana was hit by a 6.5 magnitude earthquake. It was seriously scary and the main tremors went on for about 5 minutes.

Sue ran outside – the best place to be. Hearing our plates and glasses shaking, I was holding our kitchen cupboards closed so everything didn’t go crashing to the ground.

We could still feel vibrations up to half an hour after the incident.

The epicenter was 140km from us in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve

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