Mysterious Giant Plant: Mount Kenya National Park
The savanna sits astride the Equator in Kenya; it is where wild animals roam. The mountain in the distance dominating the plains is Mount Kenya. 5199 meters above sea level, it is Africas second highest mountain after Mount Kilimanjaro.
This is one of the valleys at 4,300m. Strange-shaped giant plants can be seen growing on the slopes her. The area defies all rules of accepted botanical knowledge. Alpine plants grow higher than human height. It makes people feel as if they are wandering into an unknown and ancient world. The most notable example is the Giant Senecio which grows to over 7 meters in height and has very peculiar shape. It looks similar to the cycad of the Dinosaur era; however it is a genuine angiosperm which flowers on top. It belongs to the Asteraceae family.
This is Dendrosenecio brassica. It also belongs to the Asteraceae family, but the thickness of its stem is more than 1 meter in diameter. The tip of the stem is hidden inside the layers of leaves. This is the most important part of the plant for growth. The temperature now is below freezing point. This is whats happening inside. Dendrosenecio brassica protect themselves from the cold with an antifreeze solution and layers of thick leaves. Damp air from the Indian Ocean hits Mount Kenya and forms a thick fog which lingers in the valley. Giant plants gather moisture from the mist. However, the daytime temperature on the Equator goes up to 30 degrees Celsius. The temperature inside the stem does not change much despite the drastic temperature change outside. Its empty inside. Air is stored to be warmed up during the daytime. The dead leaves around the stem act as an insulator to maintain a consistent temperature during the freezing cold at night. It is said that this is how Giant Senecio started to grow into giant plants. The more air they can store, the warmer they can stay. The gigantic plants altered their shape to survive in a unique environment on Mount Kenya.
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