Cape Floristic Region

The Cape Floristic Region is a floristic region located near the southern tip of South Africa. It is the only floristic region of the Cape (South African) Floristic Kingdom, and includes only one floristic province, known as the Cape Floristic Province.

The Cape Floristic Region, the smallest of the six recognised floral kingdoms of the world, is an area of extraordinarily high diversity and endemism, and is home to over 9,000 vascular plant species, of which 69 percent are endemic.[1] Much of this diversity is associated with the fynbos biome, a Mediterranean-type, fire-prone shrubland.[1] The economical worth of fynbos biodiversity, based on harvests of fynbos products (e.g. wildflowers) and eco-tourism, is estimated to be in the region of R77 million a year.[1] Thus, it is clear that the Cape Floristic Region has both economic and intrinsic biological value as a biodiversity hotspot.[1]

Cape Floral Region Protected Areas
UNESCO World Heritage Site
Floraregio van de Kaap
LocationSouth Africa
CriteriaNatural: (ix), (x)
Inscription2004 (28th Session)
Area1,094,742 ha (2,705,170 acres)
Buffer zone798,514 ha (1,973,170 acres)
Coordinates34°10′00″S 18°22′30″E / 34.16667°S 18.37500°ECoordinates: 34°10′00″S 18°22′30″E / 34.16667°S 18.37500°E
Cape Floristic Region is located in South Africa
Cape Floristic Region
Location of Cape Floristic Region in South Africa
Fynbos 18 months after fire - 360 degree photo
A 360 degree photograph of fynbos in the Groot Winterhoek region of the Western Cape about 18 months after a fire. New plants can be seen in various stages of growth following the fire. The infertile white soil that fynbos tends to grow in can also be clearly seen. Click here to see the photograph in 360 degrees.

Location and description

Home to the greatest non-tropical concentration of higher plant species in the world, the region is the only hotspot that encompasses an entire floral kingdom, and holds five of South Africa’s 12 endemic plant families and 160 endemic genera. Covering 78,555 km², Cape Floristic Region hotspot is located entirely within the borders of South Africa. It is one of the five temperate Mediterranean-type systems on the hotspots list, and is one of only two hotspots that encompass an entire floral kingdom (the other being New Caledonia). The Region covers the Mediterranean climate region of South Africa in the Western Cape in the southwestern corner of the country, and extends eastward into the Eastern Cape, a transitional zone between the winter rainfall region to the west and the summer-rainfall region to the east in KwaZulu-Natal.


Most of the region is covered with fynbos, a sclerophyllous shrubland occurring on acid sands or nutrient-poor soils derived from Table Mountain sandstones (Cape Supergroup). Fynbos is home to a diverse plethora of plant species including many members of the protea family (Proteaceae), heath family (Ericaceae), and reed family of restios (Restionaceae). Other vegetation types are sandveld, a soft coastal scrubland found mostly on the west-facing coast of the Western Cape Province, on tertiary sands. Renosterveld is a grassy shrubland dominated by members of the daisy family (Asteraceae, particularly renosterbos (Elytropappus rhinocerotis), graminoids and geophytes, occurring on the base-rich shaley soils of the coastal forelands. Small pockets of Afromontane forest (Southern Afrotemperate Forest) can be found in humid and sheltered areas.

According to Takhtajan (1978), the following families are endemic or subendemic to the region: Grubbiaceae, Roridulaceae, Bruniaceae, Penaeaceae, Greyiaceae, Geissolomataceae, Retziaceae (Retzia) and Stilbaceae.[2][3]


The World Wide Fund for Nature divides the Cape floristic region into three ecoregions: the Lowland fynbos and renosterveld, Montane fynbos and renosterveld and the Albany thickets.

The fynbos ecoregions are designated one of the Global 200 priority ecoregions for conservation. Conservation International declared the Cape floristic region to be a biodiversity hotspot.

It is thought that the Cape Floristic Region is experiencing one of the most rapid rates of extinction in the world due to habitat loss, land degradation, and invasive alien plants.[4]

World Heritage Site

Biodiversity Hotspots
Biodiversity hotspots of the world showing the Cape Floristic Region (number 12)

In 2004, the "Cape Floral Region Protected Areas" were inscribed as a World Heritage Site. The site includes eight representative protected areas:


This article incorporates CC BY-3.0 text from the reference[1]

  1. ^ a b c d e Odendaal L. J., Haupt T. M. & Griffiths C. L. (2008). "The alien invasive land snail Theba pisana in the West Coast National Park: Is there cause for concern?". Koedoe – African Protected Area Conservation and Science 50(1): 93-98. abstract, doi:10.4102/koedoe.v50i1.153.
  2. ^ Тахтаджян А. Л. Флористические области Земли / Академия наук СССР. Ботанический институт им. В. Л. Комарова. — Л.: Наука, Ленинградское отделение, 1978. — 247 с. — 4000 экз. DjVu, Google Books.
  3. ^ Takhtajan, A. (1986). Floristic Regions of the World. (translated by T.J. Crovello & A. Cronquist). University of California Press, Berkeley, PDF, DjVu.
  4. ^ South African Press Association (14 August 2014). "Cape is world's extinction capital". Retrieved 20 August 2014.

External links

Afrotropical realm

The Afrotropical realm is one of the Earth's eight biogeographic realms. It includes Africa south of the Sahara Desert, the southern and eastern fringes of the Arabian Peninsula, the island of Madagascar, southern Iran and extreme southwestern Pakistan, and the islands of the western Indian Ocean. It was formerly known as the Ethiopian Zone or Ethiopian Region.

Cape Provinces

The Cape Provinces of South Africa is a biogeographical area used in the World Geographical Scheme for Recording Plant Distributions (WGSRPD). It is part of the WGSRPD region 37 Southern Africa. The area has the code "CPP". It includes the South African provinces of the Eastern Cape, the Northern Cape and the Western Cape, together making up most of the former Cape Province.

The area includes the Cape Floristic Region, the smallest of the six recognised floral kingdoms of the world, an area of extraordinarily high diversity and endemism, home to more than 9,000 vascular plant species, of which 69 percent are endemic.


Carpacoce is a genus of flowering plants in the family Rubiaceae. All species are endemic to the Cape Floristic Region of South Africa.


Cliffortia, or Caperose is a genus of plants that has been assigned to the rose family, with currently 132 known species. Its species can be found in southern Africa, particularly in the Cape Floristic Region where 124 of the species can be found, 109 of which are endemic to the CFR. Most species are ericoid shrubs, some small trees up to 5 m (16½ ft) high, others more or less herbaceous groundcover. All are wind pollinated and have separate male and female flowers in the axils of the leaves, mostly individually, sometimes grouped, which may be on the same plant or on separate plants.


Danabaai is a settlement in Garden Route District Municipality in the Western Cape province of South Africa.

Though sometimes considered a suburb of Mossel Bay, Danabaai is a conservancy, hosting examples of coastal and limestone varieties of fynbos and supporting one of the highest numbers of endemic species in the Cape Floristic Region.


Diastella is a genus containing seven species of flowering plants, commonly known as “silkypuffs”, in the protea family. The name comes from the Greek diastellein “to separate”, with reference to the free perianth lobes – the plants are distinguished from the closely related and similar leucospermums by the possession of four free perianth segments. The genus is endemic to the Cape Floristic Region of South Africa where it has a very limited range and is associated with fynbos habitats. The species are all small shrubs. Most species are threatened.


The Grubbiaceae are a family of flowering plants endemic to the Cape floristic region of South Africa. The family includes five species of leathery-leaved shrubs in two genera, Grubbia and Strobilocarpus. They are commonly known as sillyberry.


Heliophila is a genus of flowering plants in the family Brassicaceae. Members of this genus are either annuals or perennials and some are popular as ornamental plants. Endemic to southern Africa, the majority of the approximately 80 species grow in South Africa, particularly the Cape Floristic Region, while a few extend into the Namib Desert.

Hottentots Holland Mountains

The Hottentots Holland Mountains are part of the Cape Fold Belt in the Western Cape, South Africa. The mountain range forms a barrier between the Cape Town metropolitan area and the southern Overberg coast.

The range is primarily composed of Table Mountain Sandstone, and forms a large range between the Cape Town outlying suburbs of Somerset West and Gordon's Bay to the west, and the large Elgin valley to the east. Sir Lowry's Pass is the only crossing, in the form of the N2 motorway. The Steenbras Dam, one of Cape Town's main supply dams, is located in the southern section of the range. This is due to the abundant rainfall experienced in the uplands, located in the Elgin Valley around the town of Grabouw on the eastern slopes.

At the start of the Great Trek in 1835 when migrants decided to leave the Cape Town area, or Cape Colony as it was then known, the first mountain range they crossed was this range. Cuts and wheel markings from their ox wagons can still be seen in rock formations in the vicinity of Sir Lowry's Pass on this mountain range. This route still serves as the primary route out of the Cape Town area for travellers heading up the east coast of South Africa.

The climate is typically Mediterranean, however it is generally much cooler and more verdant than other areas in the Western Cape, with annual precipitation exceeding 1500 mm and summertime maxima rarely exceeding 25 °C. Snow is not unusual on the higher peaks, like Verkykerkop, Somerset Sneeukop (Afrikaans: Snow Peak) at 1590 m high and The Triplets in the northern section of the range. This area and the other ranges to the south are considered the hub of the Cape floristic region with the most biodiversity in the entire fynbos biome. The surrounding lowlands have rich alluvial soils supporting viticulture and other deciduous fruit farms.

John Patrick Rourke

John Rourke (born 26 March 1942, Cape Town) is a South African botanist, who worked at the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden and who became curator of the Compton Herbarium. He is a specialist in the Flora of the Cape Floristic Region, in particular the Proteaceae family.

He studied at the University of Cape Town from 1960 to 1970, where he got his B.Sc., M.Sc. and Ph.D. He started working at Kirstenbosch from 1966, and succeeded Winsome Fanny Barker as curator of the Compton Herbarium in 1972. He published several revisions of Proteacean genera including Leucadendron, Leucospermum, Mimetes, Vexatorella, Sorocephalus and Spatalla. In 1997 he was made foreign member of the Linnean Society of London. Several plant species were named in his honor including Cleretum rourkei, Grubbia rourkei, Watsonia rourkei, Leucadendron rourkei, Galium rourkei, Acmadenia rourkeana and Diosma rourkei.The standard author abbreviation Rourke is used to indicate this person as the author when citing a botanical name.

Phylogenetic diversity

Phylogenetic diversity is a measure of biodiversity which incorporates phylogenetic difference between species. It is defined and calculated as "the sum of the lengths of all those branches that are members of the corresponding minimum spanning path", in which 'branch' is a segment of a cladogram, and the minimum spanning path is the minimum distance between the two nodes.

This definition is distinct from earlier measures which attempted to incorporate phylogenetic diversity into conservation planning, such as the measure of 'taxic diversity' introduced by Vane-Wright, Humphries, and William.The concept of phylogenetic diversity has been rapidly adopted in conservation planning, with programs such as the Zoological Society of London's EDGE of Existence programme focused on evolutionary distinct species. Similarly, the WWF's Global 200 also includes unusual evolutionary phenomena in their criteria for selecting target ecoregions.

Some studies have indicated that alpha diversity is a good proxy for phylogenetic diversity, so suggesting that term has little use, but a study in the Cape Floristic Region showed that while phylogenetic and species/genus diversity are very strongly correlated (R2 = 0.77 and 0.96, respectively), using phylogenetic diversity led to selection of different conservation priorities than using species richness. It also demonstrated that PD led to greater preservation of 'feature diversity' than species richness alone.


Renosterveld is a term used for one of the major plant communities and vegetation types of the Cape Floristic Region (Cape Floral Kingdom) which is located in southwestern and southeastern South Africa, in southernmost Africa. It is an ecoregion of the Mediterranean forests, woodlands, and scrub biome.


Sorocephalus is a genus containing 11 species of flowering plants, commonly known as powderpuffs, in the Proteaceae family. The name means “heaped head”. The genus is endemic to the Cape Floristic Region of South Africa, more particularly the winter rainfall zone of the south-western Cape. The species are all small shrubs characterised by flower-heads containing clusters of four or more flowers. Most species are threatened.


Spatalla is a genus containing 20 species of flowering plants, commonly known as "spoons", in the Proteaceae family. The genus is endemic to the Cape Floristic Region of South Africa where it is associated with fynbos habitats. The species are all small shrubs. The name is derived from the Greek, meaning “wantonness”, alluding to the plants’ unusually large pollen-presenters. Most species are threatened.

Trichostetha bicolor

Trichostetha bicolor is an afrotropical species of flower scarab beetle endemic to South Africa, where it occurs in the Cape Floristic Region. It it sometimes synonymized with Trichostetha capensis, but in addition to morphological differences, T. bicolor is found further south and in different habitat types than the former species, with no intermediate forms or populations.

Trichostetha capensis

Trichostetha capensis—also known as brunia beetle—is an afrotropical species of flower scarab beetle endemic to South Africa, where it occurs in the Cape Floristic Region.

Trichostetha coetzeri

Trichostetha coetzeri is an afrotropical species of flower scarab beetle endemic to South Africa, where it occurs in the Cape Floristic Region. It was first described by Holm and Marais in 1988.

Trichostetha curlei

Trichostetha coetzeri is an afrotropical species of flower scarab beetle endemic to South Africa, where it occurs in the Cape Floristic Region. It was first described by Perissinotto, Šípek & Ball, 2014.


Vexatorella is a genus containing four species of flowering plant, commonly known as vexators, in the Proteaceae family. The genus is endemic to the Cape Floristic Region of South Africa. The name means “little trouble-maker”, given with reference to the initial difficulties of placing V. latebrosa within the family. All species are shrubs which occur in dry fynbos habitats on the fringes of the Succulent Karoo ecoregion. The inflorescences are similar to those of the related leucospermums but also share features of the leucadendrons, with the floral bracts becoming woody and enlarged following pollination. The flowers are insect-pollinated, with the seeds dispersed by ants (myrmecochory).

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