Evergreen forests provide shady and moist areas with a closed canopy all year round.
The forests in Eastern Zimbabwe can be divided into 12 types depending on the composition of their woody species; 8 of these are present in the Vumba. Depending on their altitude these forest types are put into 4 zones. (Muller 1994, 1999).
- Montane forest zone(above 1650 m)
- Sub-montane forest zone (1350-1650 m)
- Medium altitude forest zone (850-1350 m)
- Low altitude forest zone (350-850 m)
1. MONTANE FOREST ZONE (above 1650m)
A small area of about 20 ha is found at Cloudlands. The tree species are often pioneers in other regenerating areas. This area is probably too dry for other trees, which provides the opportunity for these species to become the dominating plants.
1.2 Syzygium guineense subsp. afromontanum montane forest
These are mature forests with a number of storeys and a dense undergrowth. They receive an annual rainfall of around 1700 mm per year. There are several patches at higher altitudes in the Vumba such as the Bunga Forest, forests around Castle Beacon, and the Cloudlands & Excelsior Estates; all together covering an area of about 220ha.
Characteristic trees found here are Syzygium guineense subsp. afromontanum, Aphloia theiformis, Cassipourea malosana, Rapanea melanophloes, Podocarpus latifolius. In the sub-canopy one can find Tabernaemontana stapfiana, Pavetta umtalensis, Rawsonia lucida , Ochna holstii; Justicia betonica, Peddiea africana, Psychotria zombamontana form the shrub layer.
Ferns and orchids do well in these forests and are plentiful with many terrestrial and epiphytic species present.
1.3 Regenerating montane forest
In Vumba this forest type is found in the same locations as the Syzygium forest. Dominant species are pioneers such as Macaranga mellifera, Aphloia theiformis & Maesa lanceolata , while in some areas the pristine Syzygium status is almost reached again. The shrub layer consist mostly of the same species as the mature montane forests.
2. SUB-MONTANE FOREST ZONE (1350-1650 m)
This zone forms a buffer between the montane and medium altitude forests. It contains species from both zones.
2.1 Mixed sub-montane forest
Ca. 80 ha of this type exists in the Vumba at the lower parts of the Bunga Forest, around Castle Beacon and on the Excelsior & Misty Manor Estates.
Montane tree species such as Rapanea melanophloes, Podocarpus latifolius, Cassipourea malosana, Nuxia congesta co-exist with medium altitude species under wich species such as Chrysophyllum gorongosanum and Craibia brevi- caudata subsp. baptistarum, Ficus craterostoma .
The sub canopy also has both montane and medium altitude species such as Aphloia theiformis, Ochna holstii, Tabernaemontana stapfiana, Cola greenwayi, Myrianthus holstii, Rawsonia lucida, Vangueria esculenta. The shrub layer is well developed and has a great variety in ferns, herbaceous and woody species (Psychotria zombamontana, Peddiea africana).
2.2 Craibia brevicaudata sub-montane forest
Only 20-30 ha of this forest type is left in the Vumba. It can be found on the Cloudlands,Excelsior and Witchwood Estates, below Chinyakwaremba and near on Misty Manor, where it is usually found on granite boulder screes below cliff sites.
Dominating tree species are Craibia brevicaudata subsp. baptistarum and fig trees such as Ficus chirindensis and F. scassellatii. The sub canopy contains Dracaena steudneri, Rothmannia urcelliformis while Dracaena fragrans is common in between the boulders and forms the shrub layer together with other young trees and climbers.
2.3 Albizia-dominated regenerating forest
This type is common below most montane and sub-montane forests in the Vumba and covers about 255 ha. The canopy is dominated by Albizia gummifera or A. schimperiana while a high sub-canopy is formed by common species from other sub-montane forest types. A. schimperiana is more common in drier areas, while A. gummifera is dominant in moist forests. The shrub layer, similar to the mixed sub-montane forests, is well developed.
2.4 Albizia schimperiana forest
Only 10 ha are left near Castle Beacon and at Excelsior. It is similar to the former forest type however A. schimperiana becomes dominant due to drier circumstances. This forest type changes abruptly into Brachystegia woodland.
3. MEDIUM ALTITUDE FOREST ZONE (850-1350 m)
This type can be found on the Witchwood & Greendale estates and on the South-East facing slopes of Nyambanda Mountain, the patches cover ca. 130 ha. These forests occur below 1400 m and thus fall below the moisture adding mistbelt. The vegetation differs considerably from that in the montane forests. The temperatures are higher and the under-storey is often formed by much more dense scrub.
Dominating canopy species are Newtonia buchananii, Chrysophyllum gorongosanum, Craibia brevicaudata subsp. baptistarum and Trichilia dregeana, while the sub-canopy consists of Cassipourea malosana, Cola greenwayi, Englerophyton magalismontanum, Myrianthus holstii.
4. LOW ALTITUDE FOREST ZONE (350-850 m)
You may find remnants of riverine components in the Burma Valley but there is certainly nothing left of a true forest canopy.