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mountains in southeast Africa, extending from the Sabie River in the north to the Groot Kei River in the south and forming part of the Great Escarpment. In the middle of the range are the eastern outskirts of the Lesotho elevation, with the highest points in all of southern Africa (Mt. Thabana-Ntlenyana, 3,482 m). The Drakensberg Mountains serve as a divide between the short rivers of the Indian Ocean basin, which dissect the abrupt, stepped eastern slopes, and the upper reaches of the Orange River. A stretch of rolling foothills separates the mountains from the coastal lowlands. The mountains are composed of bright sandstone from the Karroo system, covered by darkly hued beds of basalt. The latter are responsible for the plane of peaks dissected by erosion into steeply sloped, stepped plateaus.
The climate and vegetation of the eastern windward slopes and the western leeward slopes differ sharply. Heavy rains (mainly in the summer) of up to 2,000 mm a year fall on the eastern slopes. The dry western slopes have an extremely continental climate. Snow falls on the mountain peaks in the winter. The damp eastern slopes are covered up to the elevation of 1,200 m by tropical rain forests with evergreen leafy and coniferous trees, lianas, and epiphytes. From 1,200 or 1,500 m up to 2,000 m there are growths of spiny shrubs, xerophytes, and succulents (acacias, aloes). At higher elevations are mountain meadows and rock streams. On the western slopes the forests give way to savannas and shrubs.
L. A. MIKHAILOVA