Types of Trees, Grass & Shrubs in the Savanna

Savanna usually conjures up images of vast planes dotted with watering holes, of zebras and gazelles drinking side by side, and prides of lions resting in the blazing sun. It's an image that might not include much in the way of plant life; a few tall grasses to give a lioness cover as she hunts, perhaps, but not much more. A closer look shows that the plant life in the savanna is quite diverse.

Red Grass

Red grass is one of the most common species of grass found in the wide-open plains of the savanna. Red grass is what's typically thought of in connection with sheltering lions. While it's sometimes found in densely crowded patches, it's more commonly seen taking over a plains area and stretching out like a sown field. Red grass is also susceptible to fire. Dry and brittle, it's sometimes eaten by the grazing animals that roam the savanna, but only when other grasses have been consumed. Unless the grasses are completely consumed, they're highly flammable.

Umbrella Thorn Acacia

The umbrella thorn acacia is the most recognizable of all savanna trees, with a tall, slender truck and wide canopy of leaves. A hardy tree, it can grow in even the sandiest of soils, needs little in the way of nutrients and water, and can easily weather the extreme heat and cold of the savannas. Its roots can reach more than 100 feet deep, allowing the tree access to water that few other plants can reach. The umbrella thorn gets its name in part from its wide canopy of branches as well as from the thorns that are hidden in the tree's white flowers. It's only one of more than 700 species of acacias that are abundant across the savannas.

Candelabra Tree

The Candlabra tree is so named for the toxic, latex-like sap that comes from its fragile and easily broken branches. The latex can burn flesh or even cause blindness if it gets in the eyes. It is so toxic that many people native to the savanna where it grows will plant it as fencing for livestock.

Strangle Fig

The strangle fig is a fig tree that takes root in a very unusual way. In the beginning stages of life, the strangle fig isn't a tree, but a vine-like plant. The vine grows up the truck of what becomes a host tree. At the tree's base, the vine sprouts roots that plant themselves in the surface of the soil, drawing nutrients away from the host tree and eventually killing it. Once the host tree is gone, the strangle fig takes on a more traditional, tree-like appearance, with a smooth upper trunk.

Keywords: plants savanna, african plants, savana vegetation