The main features of indigenous trees in Zimbabwe include:
- Species diversity: Zimbabwe is known for its rich biodiversity, and the indigenous trees reflect this diversity. There are numerous species of indigenous trees, each with its unique characteristics, growth habits, and uses.
- Scattered distribution: Indigenous trees in Zimbabwe are often found scattered and mixed with other species in natural forests, rather than forming large, homogeneous stands. This scattered distribution makes it costly and logistically challenging to exploit these trees commercially.
- Gnarled or stunted growth: Many indigenous trees in Zimbabwe exhibit gnarled or stunted growth forms. This can be attributed to various factors such as competition for resources, harsh environmental conditions, and natural disturbances like fire. These growth forms may make the trees less suitable for commercial use.
- Vulnerability to damage: Indigenous trees in Zimbabwe may face damage from factors such as fire, pests (e.g., borers), and human activities (e.g., fruit gathering). These factors can negatively impact the health and structural integrity of the trees, reducing their commercial value.
- Low tree density: The density of indigenous trees per hectare is generally low, and this is further decreasing due to deforestation and land-use changes. The low tree density limits the availability of commercially viable timber resources and contributes to the overall decline of indigenous forests.
- Slow growth rate: Most indigenous tree species in Zimbabwe have a slow growth rate. It takes many years or even decades for these trees to reach maturity, limiting their commercial value in terms of timber production.
- Commercial usefulness of specific forests: While the commercial use of indigenous trees may be limited in many areas, there are exceptions. The umgusa or teak forest in Matabeleland is an example of an indigenous forest that has commercial value due to the quality of its timber. Such forests offer opportunities for sustainable timber harvesting and economic benefits.
Overall, the characteristics of indigenous trees in Zimbabwe highlight the need for sustainable management and conservation efforts to preserve these valuable resources for future generations.