One of the most iconic sights of Mashatu Game Reserve, often referred to as the Land of Giants, are the many Mashatu trees or Nyala tree (Xanthrocercis zambesiaca) as they are known elsewhere.
Reaching up to 30m high, these trees are the giants among giants here. So large are they that they dwarf elephants, another of Mashatus giants. On a hot day it’s not uncommon to find large herds of elephants taking shelter in the shade of one of these colossal tress.
In addition to shade, Mashatu trees provide a great food source to a variety of species. The fruit, a yellowish berry about the size of a grape is loved by many including; green pigeons, parrots, antelope and elephants. Impala wonder around under these trees picking up the fruit that is dropped by the baboons and monkeys eating them up in the tree. At night bush pigs will have their turn to feed on the fallen fruit. Even humans enjoy eating the fresh fruit or making porridge from the dried pulp.
Many other species take refuge in the little crevices, holes and branches to be found in the tree. Spend time under a Mashatu tree and you could potentially spot a squirrel, mongoose, genet, monitor lizard, baboon and even a leopard.
On the reserve there is one particular Mashatu tree that we all refer to as baboons bedroom. In the mornings the guides tend to speed up as they pass under this tree, warning their guests not to look up, as the baboons wake up and answer nature’s call!!
Snakes love Mashatu trees thanks to the many hiding places it offers. It is from this, that the name ‘Mashatu’ originates. Mashatu (Shato) means Python and these trees are a favourite resting and hunting place for Pythons.
Images & text by: Janet Kleyn