Virunga National Park lies on DR Congo’s eastern border with Uganda, in eastern Africa. This is home to the famed Mountain Gorillas but also features hippos, lions, forest elephants, the golden cat, and the okapi. This was Africa’s first national park, originally named Albert NP after King Albert I of Belgium in 1925 before the time of independence. Since then, the park has suffered greatly from unstable politics and threats of oil exploitation. However, dedicated naturalists and park rangers have brought the park back from the edge of destruction and made it a thriving tourist attraction and safe home for wildlife.
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Like other deciduous larches, the subalpine larch, Larix lyallii, sheds its needles each year. The trees make a grand show up there near the treeline, with their yellow needles and often twisted form. Further down the mountains, they tend to be taller and grow straighter. Fresh new twigs have single needles, whereas older twigs have clusters of needles growing from a little raised knot along the twig. Cones are spherical with long bracts extending out past each scale, giving the cones a shaggy appearance. These trees grow along with their very close and very similar relative, Larix occidentalis, in the upper Rocky Mountains and Cascade range in the northwestern United States and nearby regions of Canada.
The wooly white Edelweiss (Leontopodium alpinum) is endangered due to over-collection. The alpine flower has a long history of use as a folk remedy and lover’s sign of devotion. Ever heard the famous song by the name “Edelweiss“? You may recognize it’s melody.