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Mushroom Shaped Termite Hills from Mali, West Africa

Photos and Comments by Lewis Mellville

wpe6.jpg (47190 bytes)  From Lewis:

"These strange looking "mushrooms" are actually "termitries" or termite houses.    They can be found in the southwestern corner of Mali, West Africa, between the town of Kita and the village of Balaya near the Guinea border.   Huge numbers can be seen throughout the open spaces of the sub-saharan brushland or beneath trees in the open forest.  At times one gets the eerie impression of having stumbled across and settlement of hobbits or gnomes.    Occasionally they appear in multiple layers, or termite apartment buildings.   The "caps" are very hard mud concretions produced by the termites to protect the nest from the torrential rains which occur between June and August every year.    Local farmers collect the caps and place them on the cut tops of  fence posts to protect them from water and subsequent rot.     Termite houses are commonly found in association with the scrub trees of  the area (leguminaceae), seedlings of which can be seen sprouting in the mud.    The trees eventually to full size with large termite cities spreading out beneath the shade of the branches. "

Lewis Melville,  Department of Botany,  University of Guelph