Anyone who has visited the northern Kruger National Park would be well acquainted with the Mopane, a tree that proliferates in hot, dry, low-lying areas. Apart from the Limpopo Valley and northern Lowveld in South Africa, the Mopane is mainly found south of the Kunene and Zambezi Rivers. In dry, shallow soils the Mopane grows as a short shrub, dominating the landscape, but in deep, damp alluvial soils they may grow to 30m tall, forming beautiful woodlands. The trees are a favourite for many browsing animals, with elephants especially being very fond of every part of the tree, including the rough bark.
Mopane wood is hard and termite resistant, making it sought-after as a building material, for fences and mining, railway sleepers and for making furniture. It is also one of the most widely used trees for fire-wood where it occurs. The Mopane is probably best known though as the food source for a uniquely African delicacy; the protein-rich Mopane Worm – more correctly the caterpillar of the Mopane Moth Gonimbrasia belina.