Facts About South African Plants

king protea montage image by photobar from Fotolia.com

South Africa is known for having dry patches of desert and grassland. Despite that, the country has 10% of the flowering species in the world, and is also home to the smallest floral kingdom (fynbos) on Earth. Within the country's borders, is an entire plant kingdom--the only type of its kind in the world.


fynbos 1 image by Bruce Hewitson from Fotolia.com

Fynbos are located in the southwestern region of South Africa. They are comprised of Ericas (known as heathers), restios and proteas. Proteas grow in a multitude of colours, and are known for their spiky shape. The Ericas are more delicate in appearance, and at least one of these species can be found blooming at any time of the year. Fynbos also include 550 types of wild orchids that can be found in the mountains, thorn scrub, savannah and grasslands of South Africa.

Cape Flowers

The Cape in South Africa is known to be dry desert-type land, but once a year, the ground is covered in orange and yellow Namaqualand daisies. Also mixed in with the daisies are mesembryanthemums and flowers known as halfmens, which are given the name due to their staggering heights. The halfmens are typically found in the Northern Cape area.

Medicinal Flowers

Along with the flowers that provide beauty to the landscape, are medicinal flowers that have been used traditionally amongst the people of South Africa for health treatments. These include the Aloe Ferox, which has been used as a purgative. Indigenous Africans, along with early European settlers, depended on the healing properties of this plant. Pelargonium grossularioides are reddish, gooseberry-leaved flowers that were once used by the Cape Malay people to comfort and ease the symptoms of pregnant women.

King Protea

The official flower of South Africa has red or bright pink petals, and can grow to be 12 inches across. It has thick, spiky leaves that can grow as long as two inches. These are used to absorb moisture from the ocean, which is much needed considering that there isn't much rain in the region. The leaves of the King Protea are also useful for making tea. The flowers are fragile, however; approximately 120 of the known 370 species of protea are endangered.

Other Flora

The most common flora found across South Africa are the dry grasses, thorn trees and shrubs of the Savannah. There are also baobab trees, with their wide trunks and short branches usually referred to as upside-down trees. Numerous irises, pincushion leucospermums and pelargoniums can also be found within South Africa's borders.