It’s been a week since Moses told me about his wife’s illness. She has now had the necessary injections and is taking a course of drugs. He tells me she is improving every day which makes me very happy indeed!
You would not believe the number of species of tree there are in Budongo. My plots are tiny (10mX10m) when you consider the reserve is more than 825km². But in one plot I was discovering there were 17 different species. For the last three days the phenology assistant Nelson has accompanied me and Moses to identify all trees over 3m for me. I’m dead impressed with his knowledge. He is still learning too, and when he is unsure he, carefully slices off a small top layer of the bark and smells it. If that fails to jog the memory he cuts a small branch with leaves and packs it away so he can consult a text-book back at camp.
My favourite tree in the forest is Fagaropsis angolensis (Faa). It looks other worldly. The trunk is fairly thick and is usually long and straight. But the feature that makes it stand out from all the other trees is that its bark is peppered with triangular spheres culminating in a sharp point at their tip. You wouldn’t want to lean against it, unless you’re into sadomasochism. Nelson sliced a piece of the bark off and held it out towards my face.
“What does it smell of?” he said.
I inhaled deeply. Unconvinced I inhaled again.
“It smells meaty?” I said questioning my answer.
“Yes goat meat.”
He was right, I stood there for several minutes breathing in it’s aroma chuckling to myself. Who’d have thought? How brilliant.
The Latin names of the trees are magical. They trip off the tongue almost like they are meant to be chanted out loud like a spell:
Alcornea laxiflora; Lasiodiscus mildbraedii; Myrianthus holistii; Kigelia africana; Desplatsia dewevrei; Tetrapleura tetraptera…..
When I started this study, I wasn’t sure how much enjoyment I would get from looking at trees, but it has to be said, I’ve surprised even myself. I’ve seen some incredibly beautiful trees. There are ones that are silvery grey almost luminous; their bark is so smooth that even the chimps can’t scale them. They’re forced to jump across to their branches from neighbouring trees. Then there are trees that have sap which is pearly white, like milk, but sticky to touch – Funtumia elastcia (Fa). There are so many species of Mahoganies, but they are all huge and magnificent – Mildbraediodendron excelsum (Mie).
By middle of next week I should have identified all my trees in W21. I’ll then start on N5. Where Moses (Lemi) and Moses II will help to cut paths into the forest to start laying my own transects. It’s going to be tough, but I’m looking forward to discovering another area of the reserve.