Tag Archives: tree ferns

In the ferns

“the elegant script of ferns. . .”*

Last February, we took our visiting oldest daughter to Nyungwe National Park and hiked the first half of the trail that includes a tree canopy walkway.  Last week, with second daughter and friend in tow, we completed the entire circuit.

Nyungwe National Park/enclos*ure

The hike started with us tucking our pants legs into our socks (against ants) and receiving walking sticks.

Although the paths are well-maintained, the sticks are necessary for the steeper, sometimes slippery sections.

The steps shown above are the first of many, many, many on a long descent to the canopy walkway. (The welcome center is at one of the highest points in the park.)

It was a hazy day, so I can’t show you the great mountain views that are otherwise visible along the way, but you can click here to see my photos from last February.

Photo by L. Koran

Photo by Laura Koran

Above: Our guide led the way.  He spotted a number of blue monkeys and turaco birds for us.**

(The earth walls that were cut when the trail was created — to the right of the guide above — bring the smaller plants of the forest floor to almost eye level. I’ve put pictures and names of some of them in a photo gallery, which you can scroll through by clicking on ‘Continue reading’ at the end of this post.)

Photo by L. Koran

Photo by L. Koran

Above: We arrive at the beginning of the canopy walkway.

Photo by L. Koran

Photo by L. Koran

Above: The middle and highest section is 187′ (57 m.) above the ground.

During last year’s visit, with only the three of us and the guide, the walkway swung less, and I stopped a few times to look down and take pictures. (You can see them here.)

This time, in a group of about fifteen — with eight people crossing the walkway at a time — the shaking made me keep my eyes on the back of the person in front of me.

Photo by L. Koran

Photo by L. Koran

Above: Our guide starts across.

Nyungwe National Park/enclos*ureAbove: I did look down after I reached the top of the second tower.

Nyungwe National Park/enclos*ureAbove: Back on the ground below the second tower.

Nyungwe National Park/enclos*ure

When you cross the middle section of the walkway and (dare to) look down, you see a narrow valley of tree ferns and hear the moving water of a stream.  The second half of the hike continues on to that valley.  There, we saw hundreds of the tall ferns.

Nyungwe National Park/enclos*ure

In fact, this trail is named — in Kinyarwanda — for the tree ferns: the Igishigishigi Trail.

Nyungwe National Park/enclos*ure

Cyathea manniana is one of two tree ferns in the park.  The other is C. dregei.  Manniana only grows in undisturbed forest, while dregei can be found along the sides of the road through the park (it also has persistent old leaves).

Nyungwe National Park/enclos*ureAbove: Looking up into the ferns. C. manniana can grow to almost 20′ (6 m.) tall.

Nyungwe National Park/enclos*ure

C. manniana is traditionally used as a medical plant to treat snake bites,” according to my field guide.*** There are nine kinds of snakes in the park, but only one is poisonous.

Nyungwe National Park/enclos*ure

Nyungwe National Park/enclos*ure

Photo by L. Koran

Photo by L. Koran

Above: A small bridge crosses the stream that we heard from the canopy walkway.  The guide meant to take us down to the water, but there were too many biting ants on the path.

Nyungwe National Park/enclos*ure

Tree ferns are one of my favorite plants, but unfortunately, they would not grow well in the cold or the heat of our Washington, D.C., garden.

Nyungwe National Park/enclos*ure

Nyungwe National Park/enclos*ureAbove: Leaving the ferns behind, we started back to the welcome center.

The Igishigishigi Trail is 1.3 miles (2.1 km.) long and takes 1 1/2 to 2 hours.  It is rated ‘easy,’ but a large part of it involves descending and ascending steps.  It’s a solid workout.

The trail begins at an elevation of 8,038′ (2450 m.) and descends to 7,530′ (2295 m.).

Nyungwe National Park/enclos*ureAbove (on the right): Nearing the final set of steps, we found a large group of Lobelia gibberoa or giant lobelias.

With their long candles of greenish white flowers, the plants can grow to 29′ (9 m.) in height.  Latex from the stems is traditionally used to treat irritation from stinging nettles.

Nyungwe National Park/enclos*ureAbove: After the hike, we went back to the Nyungwe Forest Lodge on the Huye-Rusizi Road.  The yellow flowers along the edge are a Senecio species.

*from “Ex Libris” by Eleanor Wilner.

** It’s also quite possible to see turacos flying from tree to tree from the pool at the Nyungwe Forest Lodge.

***An excellent book about the park is the Illustrated Field Guide to the Plants of Nyungwe National Park [of] Rwanda by Eberhard Fischer and Dorothee Killman.  It’s 770 pages long, with color photographs of 650 plants.  You can buy a copy here.  Unfortunately, it’s $71.  Some copies were printed for the Rwandan tourism office, and  I bought mine in a Kigali bookstore for about $25, but I haven’t seen any on sale here for about a year.

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Filed under African gardens, landscape, nature, plants, Rwanda life, Rwandan gardens, travel

The canopy walk, Nyungwe Forest

13 Moss on tall tree, Nyungwe Park, Rwanda:enclos*ure

Last February, I wrote about our stay at the Nyungwe Forest Lodge.  Recently, however, I realized that I have never given you a look inside the forest.

The Nyungwe National Park, in the southwest of Rwanda, is 393 square miles of mountain forests, swamps, and moorland.

It has over 80 miles of constructed trails, but during our two-night stay at the lodge, we mainly wanted to relax — so we decided to walk the 1.3 mile Igishigishigi Trail, which includes a canopy walkway suspended 197′ above the ground.

The Uwinka Visitor Center

The trail begins at the Uwinka Visitor Center, which was renovated three years ago with U.S. assistance.

The center’s  interpretative display features panels on the mountain rainforest and Nyungwe’s biodiversity, its people, and its role in the Congo-Nile watershed.  The text is in Kinyarwanda, English, and French.

2a Uwinka Visitor Center, Nyungwe Park, Rwanda:enclos*ure

Below are the steps leading to the Igishigishigi Trail.  The shadow with the camera was me, the one on the left was our visiting daughter, who was wondering what she had gotten herself into.

3 Steps to Igishigishigi Trail, Nyungwe Park, Rwanda:enclos*ure

The view near the beginning of the trail is wonderful. Uwinka is at one of the highest points in the park.

7 View, Nyungwe Park, Rwanda:enclos*ure

In the left lower corner above, you can just see one of the towers that support the canopy walk.

Below is the trail,

7c Igishigishigi Trail, Nyungwe Park, Rwanda:enclos*ure

which includes several sections of steps.  The trail begins at 8,038′ and descends to 7,530′.

7d Trail steps, Nyungwe Park, Rwanda:enclos*ure

It sometimes passes along more open woodland, below.

7ba Hillside, Nyungwe Park, Rwanda:enclos*ure

We came across benches from time to time, although this double arrangement, below, didn’t look very comfortable.

14 Trail benches, Nyungwe Park, Rwanda:enclos*ure

Several species of trees are labeled like this one.

8 Labeled tree, Nyungwe Park, Rwanda:enclos*ure

The Parinari excelsa (or Umunazi in Kinyarwanda) grows to heights of 82′ to 131′ with a thick, cauliflower-shaped crown,

8a Parnari excelsa, Nyungwe Park:enclos*ure

way up there.

An assortment of ferns, mosses, lichens, and orchids live on the magnificent trees

13b Moss on tree, Nyungwe Park, Rwanda:enclos*ure

and on the forest floor.

13c Forest floor, Nyungwe Park, Rwanda:enclos*ure

One of the more common, and easily recognizable, plants along the trail is the giant lobelia, below.

1 Giant lobilias in the Nyungwe Park, Rwanda:enclos*ure

There are two species of giant lobelias in the park.  I think these are Lobelia gibberoa (or Intomvu in Kinyarwanda).

After the explorer Johannes Mildbraed first saw this plant in Nyungwe in 1907, he wrote:

[It] would have awakened the interest of the veriest dullard at botany. . . .  When I first espied these strange shapes. . . my heart beat fast at the realization of a long-hoped-for sight, a feeling that is comparable only to that of a hunter at the first sight of some rare game.

13c Giant lobelia, Nyungwe Park, Rwanda:enclos*ure

The one above was only a few feet tall, but more mature specimens towered over our heads.

13d Giant lobelias, Nyungwe Park, Rwanda:enclos*ure

After about 45 minutes, we arrived at the canopy walk.

14a Canopy walk, Nyungwe Park, Rwanda:enclos*ure

In the photo below, our guide was explaining to us how the suspended bridges can support two cars, or twenty cars, or five elephants, or something like that.

15a Canopy walk, Nyungwe Park, Rwanda:enclos*ure

Oh, why not. . .

16b Canopy walk, Nyungwe Park, Rwanda:enclos*ure

Below:  looking down from the platform of the first tower. . .

18 Look down, Canopy walk, Nyungwe Park, Rwanda:enclos*ure

Below, we started out onto the middle and highest section. . .

19 Treetops, canopy walk, Nyungwe Park, Rwanda:enclos*ure

and began to look down.

20 Look down, Canopy walk, Nyungwe Park, Rwanda:enclos*ure

22 Look down, Canopy walk, Nyungwe Park, Rwanda:enclos*ure

23 Look down, Canopy walk, Nyungwe Park, Rwanda:enclos*ure

It is unsurprisingly difficult to take pictures while standing on a 12″ wide swaying walkway.

Below, you can see the tops of tree ferns, for which the trail is named (in Kinyarwanda), and we could hear water from a hidden stream.

25Look down, Canopy walk, Nyungwe Park, Rwanda:enclos*ures

A park guidebook says, “The walkway is strong and secure but will provide the visitor with a definite burst of adrenaline.”

26 View from canopy walk, Nyungwe Park, Rwanda:enclos*ure

In the photo above, taken from the walkway, you can see what I think are the young reddish-rose leaflets of Carapa grandiflora.  There is a wonderful full-color field guide on the plants of the park (here*), but, of course, mine was sitting back home on my desk during our trip.  However, I’m sure this was the best thing for my relationships with my husband and daughter, not to mention the guide.

Although the forest is home to many species of birds and monkeys, we did not see any along this trail — possibly because the popular walk is a bit noisy with humans talking.  But we saw both blue and L’Hoest’s monkeys along the road on the drive back to the lodge and from the balconies of our rooms.  And there is another park trail that features groups of chimpanzees.

And the next day, when we were almost out of the park, we spotted this guy, below, and a friend walking along the side of the road (photo by M. Koran).

Baboon in Nyungwe National Park.  Photo by M. Koran/enclos*ure

To scroll through larger version of the images, click on ‘Continue reading’ below and on any thumbnail in the gallery.

*Sometimes you can find it here in Rwanda at bookstores or museum shops.  However, they were not selling it at the park or lodge when we were there.
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Filed under landscape, nature, plants, Rwanda life, Rwandan gardens, travel

Having many aspects, uses, or abilities

About two weeks ago, I received three Versatile Blogger Awards in seven days.  They came, most kindly, from Kevin at Nitty, Gritty Dirt Man, Jean at Jean’s Garden, and Angela at Bumble Lush.

Who started this award  and exactly what it means, I haven’t been able to find out. (I’m not really very versatile, just unfocused.)  But it seems to be a notice of esteem, and for that I’m very grateful to all three of them.

There are rules, however,  for accepting this award, including*

Share seven completely random pieces of information about yourself.

OK, here goes:

1)  I don’t like yellow daffodils.  Well, I like them in vases, but I think the color is just wrong for early spring in the garden.  I prefer blooms in what I think of as dirty white and dirty pink, although that doesn’t sound very nice.

2) My garden design style is deconstructed, naturalistic colonial revival.  Not sure what that means, but that’s what it is.

3) I am a sucker for really big plants, and if they’re old-fashioned or a little weird looking, so much the better — sunflowers, dinner-plate dahlias, angelica, Rudbeckia maxima, ostrich ferns, wild mulleins, giant feather grass, cycads, tree ferns, bananas.  I really want to try some hogweed and gunnera.

4) While I recognize its value, I still resist botanical Latin.  Also, je n’ai jamais pensé que j’aurais toujours besoin d’apprendre le français in high school. (I have lived in Madagascar, Togo, Morocco, Rwanda, and Niger.)

5) I’m a Law and Order junkie — classic L&O, not the others.  I pretty much know all the dialogue and, once, during a business trip to Albania, I watched several episodes in German with total enjoyment.  (I also watched two episodes of a British documentary series about the American revolution that had been dubbed in Albanian and then subtitled back to English.  If you go, take a Kindle.)

6) When asked to list my goals for being an Ambassador’s spouse (yes, there was a class), I started with, “stop going outside in my pajamas.”

7) I have really great daughters:  nice, smart, employed, and in their own apartments.  It’s because they have a great dad and grandparents (that’s their grandmother Lori’s arm and hand, at about age 12, in my header).

Forward the award to 15 fellow bloggers, and inform them with a comment on each of their blogs.  Fifteen!  This may have something to do with why I received three awards in one week.

Here are my awardees:

View from Federal Twist — His ‘New American’ garden in New Jersey is just stunning.  Click here and see 2011 at Federal Twist.  James is also sharing his process of creating a city garden in Brooklyn (and he answers all of us who have commented or given advice on his fence color in such a gentlemanly manner).

Pearled Earth — I just discovered this blog, which is written by a gardener in Scranton, Pennslyvania.  She really deserves the title ‘versatile’ because she is a talented illustrator as well as a gardener and writer.  See her charming story about Frederick, master of ambush, here.

Each Little World — She writes so well about gardening, ceramics, literature, movies, and Wisconsin politics.  And I love her blog’s header — and its name; see where it came from here.

Chicks with Ticks —  Girl Power goes outside in a serious way.  They are scientists (see here), plus they have tee shirts and, in a February 13 post, they really do tell you how to remove a tick.

Now, I’m going to fudge the rules and pass the award  to 11 garden writers who might be wonderful bloggers today, were they still alive. (Whether they will follow the guidelines where they are now, I cannot be sure.)

These first six awardees did  indeed write for those early collective blogs on paper called newspapers and magazines (R.I.P.):

Henry Mitchell:   He’s just my favorite, less for his advice (which was excellent, although he died planting daffodils, sorry), than for the way he conveyed the joy and aggravation (joy of aggravation) of being a gardener.  He wrote “The Essential Earthman” column in The Washington Post for almost 25 years.  His would be my first click every morning.

Elizabeth Lawrence:  She was the first woman to graduate from N.C. State University’s landscape architecture program, in 1932, and was a columnist for the Charlotte Observer.  She also wrote  the classic A Southern Garden.  Her blog could advice me on my D.C. zone 7  and my Africa zones 9 -11 gardens.

Vita Sackville-West, or rather The Hon. Victoria Mary Sackville-West, Lady Nicholson:  She made a super-famous garden at Sissinghurst Castle and wrote for The Observer.  Her blog would find its niche.  She wrote this in her column in 1952:  “It sometimes happens that people inherit, or acquire, an old dwelling house or cottage with a pool or even with the remains of a moat. Presumably, such surroundings are highly picturesque, and the fortunate owner wants to make the most of them. So I thought I would devote my next two articles to this rather special problem.”

Charles Dudley Warner:   “Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody ever does anything about it.”  He said that, not his neighbor, Mark Twain.  He wrote for the Hartford Courant.  He was funny, and he was interested in city park supervision and other public policy issues, so perhaps he would be a contributor to Garden Rant.

Gertrude Jekyll:  She stabbed the Victorian garden through the heart and wrote for Country Life, The Garden, and other magazines.  She was also interested in cottage furnishings, rural crafts, and country life.   I’ll bet that she would blog on those subjects, rather than on color theory and bedding plants.

Celia Thaxter:  She was a poet, gardener, and hotelier on the Isles of Shoals, Maine.  She wrote My Island Garden, but also a true-life crime story, “A Memorable Murder” for The Atlantic Monthly (they also published her poetry).  She might have one of those ongoing “Who killed .  . .”  blogs.

And these are my final awardees:

Emily Whaley:  She wrote, with William Baldwin, Mrs. Whaley and Her Charleston Garden at the age of 86.  She was said to have had “an opinion on everything,” and loved being part of the city’s garden festivals.  Perhaps she would have also enjoyed a “what’s blooming today” blog.

Elizabeth von Arnim, aka, Countess von Arnim-Schlagenthin, later Countess Russell.  She wrote lovingly of her garden and satirically of her first husband (she referred to him as “Man of Wrath”) in Elizabeth and her German Garden.  She also wrote Enchanted April, which was made into a gorgeous movie, with an Italian garden as the star.  She might write a “woman of a certain age” blog.

Russell Page:  He was one of the foremost landscape designers of our time and wrote The Education of a Gardener,  yet never had a garden of his own.  Perhaps he would continue to spin out ideas for his ideal personal garden in blog postings.

Edith Wharton:  She wrote Italian Villas and Their Gardens.  I think her blog would be about decorating, though, and she would probably enjoy Pinterest.

Derek Jarman:  He was terribly versatile:  film director, stage designer, diarist, artist, gardener, and author.  I would hope that he would also occasionally post about his garden in Dungeness, England.  It is, I think, my favorite; it has so much soul.  AIDS took him in 1994, at age 52.  This is part of the poem he nailed to the side of his cottage:

Busy old fool, unruly Sun,
Why dost thou thus,
Through windows, and through curtains, call on us?
. . . Love, all alike, no season knows nor clime,
Nor hours, days, months, which are the rags of time.

– John Donne, “The Sun Rising”

Derek Jarman's garden. Photo via Wikipedia, under Creative Commons license.

*The Versatile Blogger Award Rules:
1. In a post, you must display the Versatile Blogger Award badge and thank the blogger/s who nominated you with link/s back to their blog/s.

2. In the same post, share seven completely random pieces of information about yourself.

3. In the same post, include this set of rules.

4. Forward this award to 15 fellow bloggers, and inform them with a comment on each of their blogs.

Source and credit for photo above here.


Filed under garden design, garden writing