Mount Elgon is a 4,321m high extinct volcano which a million years ago stood taller than Kilimanjaro does today. Although the mountain straddles the Uganda-Kenya border, its loftiest peak, Wagagai, lies within Uganda.
Mount Elgon is an important watershed, and its slopes support a rich variety of altitudinal vegetation zones ranging from montane forest to high open moorland studded with the other-worldly giant lobelia and groundsel plants.
Elgon was declared a National Park in 1993 and was approved as a UNESCO Man and Biodiversity Reserve in 2005. Elgon's slopes support a rich variety of vegetation ranging from montane forest to high open moorland studded with lobelia and groundsels. The vegetation varies with altitude. The slopes are covered with olive Olea hochstetteri and Aningueria adolfi-friedericii wet montane forest.
At higher altitudes, this changes to olive and Podocarpus gracilior forest, and then a Podocarpus and bamboo Arundinaria alpina zone. Higher still is aHagenia abyssinica zone and then moorland with heaths Erica arborea and Philippia trimera, tussock grasses such as Agrostis gracilifolia and Festuca pilgeri, herbs such as Alchemilla, Helichrysum, Lobelia, and the giant groundsels Senecio barbatipes and Senecio elgonensis.
The botanical diversity of the park includes giant podocarpus, juniper and Elgon olive trees cedar Juniperus procera, pillarwood Cassipourea malosana, elder Sambucus adnata, pure stands of Podocarpus gracilior and many orchids.
Of the 400 plant species recorded for the area the following are of particular note as they only occur in high altitude broad-leaf montane forest: Ardisiandra wettsteinii, Carduus afromontanus, Echinops hoehnelii, Ranunculus keniensis (previously thought endemic to Mount Kenya), and Romulea keniensis.
Elephants and buffalo can be found on the lower mountain slopes. The park is also home to a variety of antelope and monkeys, including the Black-and-white Colobus and Blue Monkey. Over 300 birds can also be found in the area, including the endangered Lammergeier, African Goshawk, and Baglafecht Weaver. Maathai's Longleg an endangered dragonfly was discovered here in 2000 and named after Nobel Prize winner Wangari Mathaai.
Mt Elgon moorland still portrays its natural beauty. The Wagagai Peak (4321m), with 40 Sq Km caldera is the main reason why many visitors opt for Elgon hiking safari adventures.