Landscape & Vegetation of Serengeti National Park : Serengeti national park is a Tanzania premier national park known for its open savannahs and endless grasslands, the park lies in one of the oldest ecosystems in the world “THE MARA – SERENGETI ECOSYSTEM”.

Serengeti national park is a UNESCO World Heritage and undeniably one of the greatest wildlife watching destinations in the world, the park covers an area of 14,763 square meters of predominately rolling grasslands, savannah, riverine forests and woodlands.

Serengeti national park is well known for its open savannahs and endless grassland and it is from which it gets its name “Serengeti” which means “The Endless Plains”.

Landscape & Vegetation of Serengeti National Park
Serengeti Game drives
  • The northern section of Serengeti national park is hilly most especially around Lobo, woodlands are commonly found in this area
  • The western section comprises of broken savannah areas dotted with acacia trees and whistling thorns, riverine forests are found here and they supported by the Grumeti River flowing through the landscape

Generally Serengeti national park is made up of mostly savannah and this park of Savannah landscape are the grasslands, plains, marshes, woodlands and kopjes (koppies). Savannah is a general term used to describe the semi – arid land, from woodlands to open grasslands and all mixtures of trees and grasses in between. Savannah land in Serengeti national park supports a higher density of animals, however savannah is vulnerable to wild forest as it occasionally burn, unless they are completely consumed by animals.

Serengeti plains

The well-known Serengeti Plains cover the Southern third of Serengeti national park and they form one reason why the annual Great Migration occurs, the migration herd move South to the plains following the rains after having spent time during the dry season in the north of Serengeti which is much dry.

During the dry season, the shallow soil and over 2 million herds convert the plains in a super – productive growing state, with available green glass (food to the herds) the female wildebeests produce and suckle their calves. The predators (lions, leopards, cheetahs and wild dogs) seize this opportunity to feed and fatten in the wet season, the abundant young animals / calves create enough food for the predators.

As the dry season approaches, the seasonal waterholes dry up and the grass turns to yellow the golden color. This is the time for the wildebeests to begin their annual trek northward, the Grant’s gazelles, warthogs and Ostriches remain behind to feed on the dried grasses on the plains, only species that can do without water for long periods can live on the plains during the dry seasons.

The Serengeti plains hold 3 distinct kinds of grasslands

  • The first is the short – grass plains found around Ngorongoro and extends into Serengeti national park, the short – grass plains never burn because of the massive herds that eat most of the grasses and leave very little left to burn.
  • The second grassland type is the Intermediate – grass plains that form a crescent-shape west and north of the short – grass plains
  • The third grassland type is the long – grass plains found in the north of the Serengeti and also around Seronera.

The Shallow hardpan under the surface of the Serengeti plains catches rainwater and keeps it available for grasses which allows it to grown dense, the incredible numbers of grazing animals in Serengeti national park  eat most of the grasses multiple times during the dry season, if the grass is cut short by grazing animals, it will rapidly re – grow and will have higher nutrients and water when grown again.

By cross – cutting the short grass re-grows and the animals create a prime quality grazing lawn, some grasses in the Serengeti plains have adapted to this intense grazing pressure by growing horizontally along the ground which reduces their exposure to being eaten by herbivores.

Why are there no trees in the Serengeti plains?

During the Pleistocene age about 3 million years age, the volcanic ash blown from the Ngorongoro Highlands that are covered with what are now the plains and as a result formed a calcareous hardpan less than a meter below the soil surface. This hardpan is impenetrable to roots and the shallow soil dries out quickly making it impossible for trees to grow, Landscape & Vegetation of Serengeti National Park.

Woodlands in Serengeti plains

Woodlands in Serengeti plains are not as dense as forests as they are a sizeable amount of grass grows between the trees which exposes the woodlands to seasonal bush fires, there are large grassland meadows in the woodland called Mbugas in Kiswahili which are often dotted with grazing animals.

Resident animals such as cape buffaloes, elephants, top, giraffes, warthogs and impalas are often seen in the woodland areas.

In Serengeti national park, there are 3 general types of woodland that are

  • Velvet bush willow/Terminalia mollis woodlands occurring in the north – west of the park, this section of the park receives the most area. Trees in the plains are large and old.
  • In the Central and Western parts of Serengeti national park there are Vachellia (acacia) woodlands, there are 38 recorded species of Vachellia in the woodlands of Serengeti and 10 of these species make up more than half of the woodlands

  The most common species of woodlands is Vachellia Robusta growing on slopes and hilltops and can easily be distinguished by its dark, rough bark and feathery leaves.

  • In the East of Serengeti National park, there occur the Commiphora woodlands. This are receives least rainfall and the woodlands are a mixture of Vachellia and Commiphora species, these species are not as fire resistant as the Vachellia their cousins.
Landscape & Vegetation of Serengeti National Park
Landscape & Vegetation of Serengeti National Park

Riverine Forest

Riverine forests are a rare habitat within Serenegeti national park, the park has large rivers which are dry for most of the year. These river flow and flood during the wet season, even in the dry season the water table remains higher along the rivers, the areas hold more water, a dense forest of broad – leaved evergreen trees can grow.

The riverine trees in Serengeti plains change the environment below them making it an ideal habitat for other birds, plants, insects and animals.

 The limbs of the riverine forests, the deep shade of the forest allow the soil and the air to remain moist, the forest floor is line with shade loving plants and the trees are covered with epiphytic plants such as orchids and masses of creeping vines.

book a gorilla trip