Experience the Sheer Diversity of South African Plant Life


South Africa has a boggling amount of diversity in its plant life, including over 9,000 different species on its Cape Floristic Region. While many may think solely of the savanna when they think of South Africa, the country has seven other completely different ecological life zones, or biomes. Each biome has a unique mixture of native flora, including thousands of endemic species and many native flowering plants that should be familiar to gardening enthusiasts.

Explore each of these biomes with us as we highlight their rich diversity and unique traits, but remember that you can only truly experience them with your own eyes on an African safari vacation.

Plant Biomes Found in South Africa

  • Savanna
  • Desert
  • Grassland
  • Thicket
  • Forest
  • Succulent karoo
  • Nama karoo
  • Fynbos

Cape Floristic Kingdom

Plant “kingdoms” are biogeological groupings that attempt to group together as many endemic species as possible by similarities in traits, heredity, and more. Most of these kingdoms stretch across the globe; the Holarctic, or Boreal, Kingdom for instance spans most of North America and all of Europe as well as parts of North Africa.

South Africa’s Cape Peninsula boast a floral kingdom that occupies a relatively tiny area — the smallest of all the six plant kingdoms found on the globe. This cluster exists because 69 percent of the species here are endemic, which is to say they can be found nowhere else.

20 percent of all the African continent’s plant species can be found here. The Cape Peninsula also has more overall plant species within it than all of the isle of Great Britain.


Fynbos or “fine bush” is an arid, Mediterranean-like biome characterized by scrub grasses and brightly colored flowering plants. Many familiar garden species hail from here, including irises, geraniums (pelargoniums), white arum lilies, Barberton daisies and more.

Make of the Cape Floral Kingdom is composed of fynbos.


While the Cape Floral Kingdom is impressive, the Namaqualand region astounds the mind with raw beauty and emotion. Throughout most of the year, this region is arid, rocky and very desert-like. But every spring, it erupts in fields of shockingly intense color.

Images of this period can stir the soul, but they do not do the actual sight of the orange, yellow, and violet fields justice. If you want to time your trip to South Africa just right, make sure it happens when you can catch a glimpse of the Namaqualand in full bloom.

Forests, Savanna, Grassland and More

In addition to these natural gardens, South Africa has the familiar acacia trees, iconic baobab trees, ancient cycads and more. Many of these plants provide more than just beauty; medical researchers are now prizing them for their potent medicinal effects.

Sadly, many of these gorgeous and beneficial plants are threatened, including 1,435 species in the Cape Floristic Kingdom. Support their biodiversity by raising awareness and embarking on South African safari tours that contribute money to the preservation of South Africa’s wild, unique and wonderful landscapes.

Jill Liphart for Roho Ya Chui, Travel Africa

Plants of Africa to Spot in Your Safari


Some tourists are under the impression that Africa has an entirely impoverished plant population. While you will not find much by way of flora and fauna in the vast desert regions, and the grasslands can speak for themselves, one of the most beautiful characteristics of Africa is its diversity.

There is an abundance of plant life in many ecosystems, including locations in South Africa that are popular safari vacation spots. In fact, there are an astounding eight thriving terrestrial biomes and ten percent of the world’s flowering plants can be found in the region. While on your African safari vacation, do not let the animals steal all of your attention—keep your eyes open for these amazing plants.

  1. The Namaqualand Daisy

The Namaqualand is a dry, arid region of South Africa that bears little more than hearty grass and the animals that feed from it for most of the year. After a good rain, however, a miraculous sight can be seen. As the water is drawn into the earth, countless flowers spring forth in an abundance of colors, breathing a heavenly life into the landscape. This region stretches for 600 miles, so you might get lucky and see these flowers on your safari vacation if you choose to come during the rainy season.

  1. The Mystical Halfmens

There is an African legend that says the ancestors of the Bushman, driven south by enemy tribes, turned to gaze back across the Orange River and were turned into plants. The Richtersveld Halfmens stand tall, gazing towards the north forever. The mountainous desert area that they are located in is known for its succulent plants. These are particularly neat in appearance and are easy to spot.

  1. The Famous Baobab Tree

The Baobab tree is one of Africa’s most recognizable plant species. They can be found in several different locations across the continent as well as in Australia. This is a particularly interesting fact, as African and Australian Baobab trees separated less than 100,000 years ago. They can grow to rather large heights, and are characterized by their thick, upside down appearance. If you close your eyes and picture an African plain that includes a tree, chances are you are seeing a Baobab.

  1. The King Protea

The King Protea is a giant flowering plant and the national flower of South Africa. There are several different colors that blossom. They appear thick and spiny, similar to a colorful artichoke and ready to take on the harshest weather that Africa can muster. These flowers are hard to miss, as they are rather large and quite popular.

Plan Your African Safari Vacation

There is no place on Earth like Africa, where you can see the most incredible plants and animals all on one tour. While you are on your safari, try looking for these amazing plants. If you have additional questions or would like to start planning your trip, visit our safari tours page or contact a representative with Roho Ya Chui today.

Jill Liphart for Roho Ya Chui, Travel Africa