SA Flora

SA Flora

South Africa boasts one of the largest concentrations and varieties of flowers in the world. This floral heritage has given the world a host of well known garden species, such as agapanthus, Barbeton daisy and gladiolus.

Western Cape's MIMETESFrom the tropical mangrove swamps along the KwaZulu-Natal, to the dry savannah of Eastern Transvaal and the mountain ranges of the Cape Peninsula; 216 of the world's 400 plant families can be found. Furthermore, the known number of species in the country stand at around 22,000 (and counting!). The large diversity of the Western Cape - nearly 9,000 - has been declared one of the world's six "Floral Kingdoms". Cape Town's Table Mountain alone has about 1,500 indigenous species, more than the number in the whole of Britain.

Two distinct varieties of South African flora can be defined: a tropical / subtropical element found in the eastern, central and northwestern regions; and a temperate element which is most typical of Cape flora and epitomizes the beauty and variety of vegetation indigenous to South Africa.

One of the protea familyThe protea (see on right), South Africa's national flower, is the most celebrated member of the indigenous Cape fynbos. It is named after Proteus, the Greek god who had the ability to change his shape; in the same way the protea takes on a infinite number of forms. Attempts are being made to grow the protea overseas, notably in the USA. The orchard is another member of the Cape floral kingdom. Disa, "the flower of the gods" is the emblem of the Cape Province and perhaps the most celebrated member of the Cape orchids.

Kirstenbosch Gardens - a king proteaThe Kirstenbosch Gardens (see on left - a king protea in the Gardens), established in 1913 (and lies on the south side on the Table Mountain), has gained world reknown for thier floral wealth as well as for thier contribution to botany. The Gardens cover nearly 6 square kilometers (about 2.5 square miles); but only about 6% of this area is cultivated; this part alone holds 6000 species of indigenous plants, and the herbarium has more than 250,000 species.

In the far north of the country the landscape is dominated by baobabs, some possibly as old as 4000 years. In the far south the yellowwoods, many of then up to 1000 years old, tower above the jungle-like vegetation. Between these extremes an almost infinite variety of plant life abounds; from armies of aloes and the curious quiver trees to brilliant bauhinnias, succulent plants in many shapes and sizes, and the hallmark of Africa, the familiar thorn trees.

The province of KwaZulu-Natal has a tropical climate which, along with the warm breezes of the Indian ocean, strongly determines the nature of the flora. Many flowering plants such as poinsettias, frangipani and bougainvillea are found along the coastline. Also found in abundance are mangrove swamps and true rain forests with palm trees and banana trees.

The majority of the flat temperate grasslands that cover the Free State are cultivated, mostly for farming maize and wheat. The area is dry and hot, a perfect home for the acadia tree which is widely found in this area. The kaye is another tree native to the Free State. Colourful flowering plants such as the ursinia or the gazania help brighten up this otherwise khaki-coloured grassland.

Aloe of the Transvaal floraAnother feature of South African vegetation is bushveld or savannah, which occurs mainly in what was known as the Transvaal. Thorn trees and veld (grassland) characterize the hot and hazy highveld from the Limpopo River down to Johannesburg. The acacia and aloe are found scattered all over this savannah. In the early summer months jacaranda trees blossom in brilliant hues of mauve and blue. Near the town of Tzaneen the vegetation changes dramatically. Because of it's position at the foot of the Mpumalanga plateau with high rainfall and fertile soil, the region is home to citrus, avocado, banana, pawpaw pecan nut and macadamia nut trees.