Kilimanjaro’s Secret Treasures: Prehistoric Plants, A Captivating Fusion Of Cactus And Pineapple

Resembling something out of Jurassic Park, the strange-looking Dendrosenecio kilimanjari can only be found atop Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.

Image credit: Peter Zahar

Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa, is pretty fascinating in itself. The further you ascend this free-standing mountain, its climate zones progressively become less like the ground-level landscape, incubating isolated, mutated, or rare species found almost nowhere else.

One of the most striking of these species is the Kilimanjaro giant groundsel (Dendrosenecio kilimanjari), a prehistoric plant that evolved about a million years ago and looks like a twist between a burned-up cactus and a pineapple.

Image credit: Thomson Safaris

Dendrosenecio kilimanjari grows only on Mount Kilimanjaro, at altitudes of 14,000-16,000 feet (4300-5000 meters), where it has learned to harness the ability to survive sub-zero temperatures.

These plants are slow-growing but can reach a height of 30 feet (9 meters). Related, but similarly isolated sub-varieties of giant groundsel (Dendrosenecio) can be found on a handful of other East African mountains, but nowhere else.

Dendrosenecio kilimanjari and the mighty Kilimanjaro. Image credit: Andrea Schieber

Giant Groundsels are a member of the dandelion family and scientists think they all evolved from a common groundsel around a million years ago.

They climbed higher and higher up the mountains through the slow process of windborne seed distribution (which would move the plants no more than a few meters at a time), eventually turning into a new species.

Image credit: Brendon

In order to survive in such a forbidding environment where temperatures regularly dip below freezing overnight, giant groundsels evolved water storage in the pith of their stem, with the leaves closing when it gets too cold.

Besides this natural ‘anti-freeze,’ these plants also secure self-insulation through withered and dead foliage (which is part of the reason why they look so otherwordly).

Image credit: Stig Nygaard

Strange and fascinating, one could imagine dinosaurs snacking on these big old plants.

Related Posts

Infusing Public Spaces with Joy and Inspiration through Creative Installations

In today’s fast-paced world, where stress and uncertainty seem to be the norm, it is essential to find moments of joy and inspiration. One way to achieve…

Nature’s Golden Symphony: Mesmerizing Radiance Of Yellow Fruit Trees In Harmony

In a realm where the sun kisses the earth each morning, a world of golden wonders unfolds. This breathtaking tapestry, woven with hues of amber, saffron, and…

Nature’s Rare Gem: Exquisite Rhinestones Crafted from Unique Tree Trunks, Celebrating Nature’s Dazzling Creations

Rhodochrosite is a manganese carbonate mineral composed of MnCO3. While it typically exhibits a rare pure form in a rose-red color, impurities in specimens may result in…

Unveiling Mysteries: Exploring Towering Rock Formations Resembling Human Features

Nature possesses a remarkable ability to captivate our imagination through its stunning creations, and among them, we find the awe-inspiring giant rock formations that strikingly resemble human…

Legend Of The Caspian Sea: The Eerie Tale Of A Rusting Airplane On The Shore

Developed during the 1980’s in Soviet Russia, the futuristic looking MD-160 Lun-class ekranoplan had been sitting unused at a Russian naval base since the late 1990’s, but…

Bull Rock Island: Mythic Portal To The Enigmatic Underworld Of Legend

The Bull Rock is a rocky island in the open sea off County Cork. It is on the tip-end of the Beara Peninsula and just a few…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *