Leaves of the Colophospermum mopaneMopane tree trunkMopane or Mopani worms is a popular dish in Namibia.

Family: Fabaceae

Scientific Name: Colophospermum mopane

Common names: Mopane, mupani, mopanie, mophane

SANTN: 198

Description: Shrub or small tree, may reach up to 15 m in very favourable conditions. The bark is dark gray and strongly fissured, with the leaves looking like a butterfly wing. The Mopane occurs central and northern Namibia, Botswana and South Africa. It prefer the drier bush savannah regions similar to the Etosha Park regions of Namibia.

Medical uses: Stubborn wounds can be treated with the gum, by heating green wood slowly over a fire till the sap start exuding.

Superstition uses: Some indigenous people believe that the Mopane attract lightning

Nutritive uses: The Mopane tree is immensely important as a source of food, since it host a myriad of animals, birds and insects nesting in it. The leaves has a 12,6 % protein content and both the fruit and leaves retain their nutritional value after they have fallen to the ground. The flat kidney shaped seed pods, and leaves are quite high in resin, and not many animal species will eat it.

Other uses: The Mopane tree is also host to the larvae of the Mopane moth (Gonimbrasia belina), which feed on the leaves and lay its eggs on the leaves and bark. The Mopane worm (larvae) are very popular with the local people, which collect masses of this delicatessen during season, either dry or smoke it over an fire.

Interesting Facts: In Namibia, the only wildlife that generally feed on the leaves are elephants, impala and kudu. Domestic goats seem to like the fresh leaves also.

Credits: Christian Fourie.