Carrot trees, nettles and sacred caves... some of the things we discovered on our tree safari to Nakuru:

In Nakuru, we stopped at the prehistoric site on Hyrax hill and found a beautiful grove of trees covered with yellow flowers. After looking carefully (we use the word BaFFLe to help us remember to look at the Bark, Flowers, Fruit and Leaves), we discovered that these are Carrot trees (Steganotaenia araliacea)

Carrot trees are in the same family (Apiaceae) as carrots, coriander and celery and also of the Octopus tree we found in Eburu forest. They all have flowers growing on umbrella shaped stalks.

People use the leaves, bark and roots of Carrot trees for medicine. Because of this, they are often left standing when other trees are cut down.

Outside of town, on the edge of the caldera we stopped to visit some holy caves. People from all over the country come to pray here. During the independence struggle Mau Mau warriors used the caves as a hiding place. Because this is a historic and sacred site the trees have been protected. The giant Sycamore figs and Cabbage trees growing around the caves add to the solemn atmosphere.

Calderas are created when a volcano explodes or collapses. The Menengai caldera was formed around 8000 years ago. These days you can climb down into the crater and walk around the bottom. The ground is covered in black obsidian rocks and there are lots of  trees. Growing on the caldera floor we found a strange-shaped tree we had never seen before. We went closer to have a look, touched its hairy bark and OW!  It stung! It was a Nettle tree (Obetia pinnatifida) whose bark and leaves are covered in stinging hairs. 

Like other members of the nettle family, this tree is not all bad. People use its leaves and roots for medicine and make rope from its fibrous wood.

Here are some of the other trees we saw growing in the caldera:

Cheesewood tree

Sycamore fig


Sand Olive

Rhus natalensis

Cheesewood tree   (Pittisporum viridiflorum)


You can read Rupi the African Trotter's Safari story about our visit to the Menengai crater here

Menengai Crater Still Scares as it Attracts says Kenya Geographic.  Read their article here