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Plants: Gardens: Heart of Africa

To safari means to travel, and this is a journey unlike any other. At many points along the paths of the Safari Park's Heart of Africa exhibit, you'll feel as if you are truly on safari: the views surrounding you are straight out of Africa. Breezes ruffle the nodding grasses as spiny trees frame a landscape of succulents and bright spots of color, where flowers beckon to birds and insects. Strange plants like the sausage tree join familiar ones like calla lilies as you wind your way through sun-baked savanna and rippling waterways, discovering Africa's botanical beauty. As they do in their homeland, the plants blend their individual highlights to create a scenic paradise, reminiscent of when the world was young.

What better place than here in Heart of Africa to find thorn acacias? Their spiky silhouettes are prominent in these African vistas, scattered along the walkways and grasslands. But African acacias are hard to come by in California, so the horticulture department looked for a suitable and available substitute to round out the complement of trees. They found it in the Chilean mesquite tree Prosopis chilensis, which has similar bark and leaf structure to the thorn acacias. In fact, the mesquite occupies the same environmental niche in North and South America that the thorn acacia does in Africa.

A carpet of carpet geraniums Geranium incanum adds a rosy glow to the African landscape, whether on its native continent or here in San Diego's Africa away from Africa!