Rwanda’s Nyungwe National Park is the largest block of montane forest in East or Central Africa and one of the most ancient, dating back to before the last Ice Age. A uniquely rich centre of floral diversity, the forest has more than 200 different types of trees and a myriad of flowering plants including the other-worldly giant lobelia and a host of colourful orchids.
Only in Nyungwe
Nyungwe’s great variety of plants and animals, some found nowhere else, makes it one of the most important protected places in all of Africa.
This impatiens is named in honor of President Kagame for his efforts in environmental protection. It is endemic to the Albertine Rift and found in Cyamudongo and parts of Congo. (Impatiens kagamei)
This impatiens is endemic to Nyungwe, found only on Mt. Bigugu—it grows nowhere else in the world! (Impatiens nyungwensis) Don’t let all the green fool you, Nyungwe forest is comprised of over 1,000 different kinds of plants, many of which you’ll only see in the Albertine Rift.
Nyungwe is a safe haven for trees, some of which can grow as high as 55m. Polyscias fulva is one of the fastest-growing trees in Rwanda—it can reach 20 m in 10-15 years. Newtonia buchanani, a popular large tree that commonly grows in the forest, is known for its spectacular buttresses. Monkeys eat the fruit and chimps drum on the buttresses to communicate.
Sericostachys scandens is a common tree vine that is capable of choking trees. This plant was eaten by elephants that once roamed the park. There are ten species of impatiens in Nyungwe. Look for them along the trails.
If you visit at the right time and you look closely, you can see lots of these in the park. How many kinds can you find in Nyungwe? Nyungwe has over 140 species of orchids!
These ancient life forms blanket the forest floor, climb over trees and live in the canopy! Marattia fraxinea is a terrestrial fern widespread in western Nyungwe.
Asplenium mildbraedii is a ground fern widespread in Nyungwe and is endemic to the Albertine Rift. Asplenium dregeanum is an epiphytic fern in mountain rainforests and widespread in Nyungwe
Several species of these strange-looking plants can be found in Nyungwe. Lobelia giberoa (Giant Lobelia) can grow 2 to 3m tall. It is important for sunbirds and bees. Chimps, who self-medicate, eat the leaves for stomach problems. Lobelia minuata is only centimeters high and can sometimes be found within a few feet or meters of the giant lobelia, in the same genus. The leaves are used in traditional medicine against angina and poisoning. Lobelia petiolata is an Albertine rift endemic.
Medicinal plants in Nyungwe National Park
Nyungwe National Park is home to many medicinal plants. The following list includes some of the plants that can be found in the Park. Descriptions of some of these plants can be found in the Handbook of African Medicinal Plants by Maurice M. Iwu. Another book that might be of interest is Medicinal Plants of East Africa by John O. Kokwaro.