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Over 1.300 bushes and shrubs grow in East Africa. Many are inconspicuous and difficult to identify. After rain when they shoot and flower identification might be easier and some become real beauties!

Photos von Elvira Wolfer









Candle bush (Senna/Cassia didymobotrya, family Fabaceae/pea family, subfamilie Caesalpinoideae). Most species in this genus are poisonous. The candle bush grows between 700 and 2.100 m near lakes, swamps or rivers since it needs enough water. Photo from Lake Naivasha. 


Flowering Leleshwa bush (Tarchonanthus camphoratus, family Compositae).If you rub the leaves you can smell the camphor they contain. It grows between 1.500 and 2.800 m in stony areas. Maasais use the leaves as deodorant or sponge. Photo from Hell’s Gate National park.








Carissa edulis (Family Apocynaceae) are thorny bushes. The flowers are white stars when fully open. They grow up to 2.000 m in bush land and can reach 5 m in height.


Commiphora sp. (Family Burseraceae). About 27 species grow in dry areas in East Africa. Only after rains the leaves shoot. During dry seasons they are leafless and the photosynthesis is done by the chlorophyll in the stem and branches. Sharp spines protect them. The species are hard to differentiate and it is often only possible by the different kinds of saps or fruits. Together with acacia they form the acacia-commiphora bush land. Photo from Samburu National reserve.








Sickle bush (Dichrostachys cinerea) resembles acacias and belongs to the same subfamily of Mimosoideae. Sickle bushes grow up to 1.700 m in savannas and dry bush land.




Azanza garckeana


Azanza garckeana Family Malvaceae. Synonyms: Thespesia garckeana F. Hoffm. Thespesia rogersii S. Moore

A bush or tree of up to 10 m. Large leaves and 4 x3 cm fruit capsules. It grows in various habitats.








“Cups and saucers” (Carphalea glaucescens, coffee family Rubiaceae). They only grow between 200 and 900 m in acacia-commiphora bush land. The slightly pinkish flowers colour the area after rains. Photo from Tsavo East.


Gardenia ternifolia variation Jovis-tonantis (Family Rubiaceae/coffee family) are ever-green bushes. Giraffes shape them into bizarre sculptures. The fruits reach 7 cm in diameter. Photo from Masai Mara National reserve.








Lantana trifolia (Family Verbenaceae) is indigenous in the contrary to the introduced Lantana camara, which has even invaded protected areas where it edges out the original vegetation. Lantana camara is a fast spreading bush which is very hard to eliminate due to its tap roots and many seeds. This is a further example how dangerous introduced species can be! Lantana trifolia grows up to 1.900 m in various vegetation types. Photo from the Aberdare’s National park.


Orange-leaved Croton (Croton dichogamus. family Euphorbiaceae) occurs in dry bush. The species dominats part of the Masai Mara.








Grewia silimis is a widespread and lovely flowering bush (Family Tiliaceae). Photo from Lake Nakuru National park. The white flowering species is Grewia tenax. The fruits are edible and get dispersed by birds. All occur in open grass land and grow 2 – 3 m tall.


Grewia bicolor from Lake Bogoria.








Maerua triphylla (Family Capparaceae) are roundish bushes in grass land. Picture from Lake Manyara National park.


The caper family is represented by several genus in Africa. Some are small trees, others bushes or climbers. The fruits of some are edible. Maerua sp from Meru National park.






Sand olive (Dodonaea angustifolia, family Sapindaceae) is a bush of various but mostly dry biotopes up to an altitude of 2.700 m. It can survive fire amazingly well. The fruit capsules have 2 – 3 papery wings.