The wonder of plants at Lake Tana

A rich flora and vegetation can be found around Lake Tana. A vibrant mosaic of interwoven ecosystems waits to be explored, the still waters of the lake merge into papyrus reed-beds and natural forests rise up from bounteous wetlands.

Churches and monasteries of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church are found scattered over the islands and shores of Lake Tana. These beautiful ancient buildings are surrounded by dense patches of natural forest which have stood protected by the church for more than 500 years. They are the last refuges from the onward drive for new land for farming and settlements. These rich habitats still shelter a wide variety of beautiful flower and plant species, including some endangered endemic species such as the tall Millettia ferruginea, known locally as the Berbera Tree, which locals use as animal fodder. The thickets surrounding old churches are of vital importance in ensuring these endangered species and their genetic treasures are not lost forever.

The Zege Peninsula, located at the southern end of the lake, is particularly worth visiting to see its pristine indigenous forest. Wild Arabica Coffee plants dominate the undergrowth and the air is alive with wildlife all around you. Coffee plants are very important in Ethiopian culture, as its cherries are used to make the country’s national drink, Buna, otherwise known as coffee.

The wetlands around Lake Tana are important strongholds for plant species and provide an excellent habitat and source of natural resources needed by fish, wildlife and humans alike. One of the most important wetland plants is the Papyrus which is used as fuel and building material, for example for the unique Tankwa boats. When the gentle wind blows you can hear the rustling of the tall stalks of the papyrus that lines the shores of Lake Tana.

Many plants around Lake Tana are known for their natural healing properties and are widely used in traditional medicine. More than 67 plant species are used as natural remedies used by the local communities for generations to treat a wide range of illnesses such as a coughs, swellings and weight loss. Tana’s treasure chest of natural medicine has yet to be fully explored. Who knows what miracle cures the shores have yet to disclose.