Soil that collects in cracks and crevices in the rocks support growths of clubmoss, palm-leafed ferns and the fascinating resurrection plant. This bush, which appears dry and dead throughout winter, turns green almost overnight after rain. The unusual shapes of the candelabra euphorbia and tall aloes with striking red flowers are also found among the boulders.
The Matobo area is believed to have the greatest diversity of trees in Zimbabwe, with over 200 species, but in the plains and valleys various species of acacia make up the bulk of the vegetation.
Some of the largest trees in the hills are the mountain acacia and the pod mahogany, whose large black and red seeds look like sweets and are used by curio-sellers to make necklaces. Very shallow pockets of soil can support surprisingly large trees. Members of the fig family grow in the smallest cracks and send aerial roots down sheer rock faces until they reach the ground.
The paperbark tree has bark like thick onion-skin parchment which peels off in strips and flaps in the breeze, and the sickle bush with its pink and yellow powder-puff flowers is dotted here and there. The Rhodesian wattle makes a splash of yellow on the landscape when it is in flower and the lucky-bean tree contributes bold red flowers and seeds, also used in curio-making.
The creamy-white blossom of the wild pear hums with the activity of thousands of bees. The wild teak is one of the largest trees on the plains, dropping pods shaped like fried eggs with spiky centres. Large isolated stands of mopane occur throughout the park and their butterfly-shaped leaves are often a help to antelope in surviving the dry seasons.
But while the purpose of the National Park is to preserve this wealth of fauna and flora for people to appreciate, its success in doing so has brought problems for the park.
Since Zimbabwe gained its independence in 1980 the number of tourists visiting the Matobo Hills has increased dramatically and the pressure on a relatively small number of sites on the regular tourist route has created conservation problems.
Vandalism and graffiti in the painted caves spurred the formation of the Matobo Conservation Society. Chairman Gavin Stephens said: 'Without doubt the damage that has been done to the Matobo art in the last five years is greater than in the previous 100 years.' With an education programme targeting the schools around the park and brochures aimed at visitors, the association is trying to halt this damage.