Malelane Mountain Bushveld | Gertenbach Landscapes 2
This landscape is located in the extreme south-western corner of the KNP and includes all the mountains of the Malelane and Stolznek areas. Geologically, archain granite and rock formation of the Swaziland System form the underlying material of this area. Mountains such as Sithungwane and Newu consist of granite, while Khandizwe, Tlhalabye and Mathili are made up of Swaziland rock formation. Dolerite intrusions also occur in the Swaziland System and granite. It has been observed that the parent material of the eastern slopes of a koppie consist of dolerite while the western slopes are mainly granite. The altitude varies from 350 to 800 metres with Khandizwe being the highest point at 847 metres. This landscape represents 2,4 percent of the area of the KNP. The slopes are steep and the most important spruits are the Nsikazi, Matjulu and Matjulwana.
This area has a moderate sub-tropical climate with warm summers and cool winters. The climate on the mountain plateaus is probably more extreme with the possibility of frost not excluded. The annual rainfall varies from 600 to 700 mm and probably increases to more than 1000 mm on the mountains. The average annual rainfall for Malelane and Stolznek is 620 and 723 mm respectively. According to Gertenbach (1980) the abnormally high average rainfall at Stolznek can be attributed to the short period in which rainfall has been recorded.
Harmse & Van Wyk (1972) regards the soils of this landscape as shallow rocky soils and classify them in the Lithosol catergory. The most common soil Forms that occur are Mispah and Glenrosa. Clay accumulation took place to a limited degree in the bottomlands and Valsriver and Oakleaf soils developed. The soils of the mountainous plateaus are well drained, more deeply leached and is generally classified as Hutton soils.
The vegetation of this landscape is very heterogeneous, but Combretum apiculatum is omnipresent on the shallow soils regardless of the parent material of the soil (Fig. 6). The structure of the woody component varies from dense to moderate, 3 metre high shrubs with single trees and can be described as a bushsavanna. Other woody plants which occur regularly are Acacia nigrescens, Combretum zeyheri, C. collinum, Terminalia sericea, T. prunioides, Dischrostachys cinerea subsp. Africana, and Acacia tortilis. The vegetation is very similar to that found on the koppies in the Lowveld Sour Bushveld of Pretoriuskop and elements of this landscape are also sporadically found amongst the mountains. Considering that Landscape 5 is adjacent to this mountain bushveld, elements of the latter also occur regularly in this landscape.
Fig.6. Landscape 2. Malelane Mountain Bushveld
From the nature of this mountainous landscape different micro-habitats occur e.g. small ravines which result in the occurrence of a range of unique plant species. A few that deserve to be mentioned are the following: Kirkia wilmsii, Sterculia murex, Commiphora harveyi, Strychnos henningsii, Homalium dentatum, Premna mooiensis, Celtis Africana, Aloe bainesii, Ficus capensis, F. sonderi, F. soldanella, Urera tenax, Olax dissitiflora, Portulacaria afra, Albizia versicolor, Dalbergia armata, Pterocarpus angolensis, Erythrina latissima, E. lysistemon, Vepris reflexa, Pittosporum viridiflorum, Croton gratissimus, Euphorbia ingens, E. evansii, Maytenus undata, Cassine aethipica, Hippobromus pauciflorus, Berchemia zeyheri, Manilkara mochisia, Breonadia microcephala, Tarchonanthus camphorates, Brachylaena huillensis, Rauvolfia caffra, Olea Africana, Heteropyxis natalensis, Commiphora neglecta, Acacia karroo, Sideroxylon inerme, Manilkara concolor, Apodytes dimidiate, Calodendrum capense, Tecomaria capensis, Cussonia natalensis, Faurea saligna and F. speciosa.
The dominant grasses in this area are Heteropogon contortus, Pogonarthria squarrosa, Panicum maximum, Digitaria eriantha subsp. Pentzii, Cymbopogon plurinodis, Aristida congesta subsp. Barbicollis, Tricholaena monachne, Trichoneura grandiglumis, Enneapogon cenchroides and Themeda triandra. A common garden flower Gerbera jamesonii occurs extensively in this mountain veld.
Recently a new plant community was discovered on the mountain plateaus. It is an open Acacia davyi-savanna with Tristachya hispida as the dominant grass. The occurance of this community suggests that a higher rainfall prevails and the possibility of frost is not excluded. This community is related to the grassveld on the highveld. The bushy ravines on the slopes of the mountains accommodate sub-tropical forest vegetation with Aloe bainesii being a unique component. Tree ferns (Alsophila dregei) are common.
This area is the most important habitat for mountain reedbuck (Redunca fulvorufula), grey rhebuck (Pelea capriolus) and reedbuck (Redunca arundinum) in the KNP. The mountain reedbuck population was strengthened by the importation of +/- 200 animals from the Mountain Zebra National Park, while for all practical purposes the grey rhebuck has become extinct. During 1981, 20 individuals were re-established on the Acacia davyi-plateaus. Kudu and impala (Aepyceros melampus) are common in this area, while sable antelope and white rhino are generally less abundant. Animals such as elephant and buffalo occur in relatively low numbers while the same applies to wildebeest and zebra to a lesser degree. As a result of the rocky nature of this area, klipspringers (Oreotragus oreotragus) are plentiful with duikers (Sylvicapra grimmia) constantly present. Carnivores such as wild dog (Lycaon pictus) and spotted hyaena (Crocuta crocuta) frequently make their lairs in the caves and crevices of the mountainous parts of this landscape. The last observation of brown hyaena (Hyaena brunnea) in the KNP was recorded in this landscape. Baboons (Papio ursinus) are also inhabitants of these koppies.