Succulent Karoo

The Succulent Karoo is a desert ecoregion of South Africa and Namibia.[1]

Karoo ecoregion
Map of the two Karoo ecoregions as delineated by the WWF. Satellite image from NASA. The yellow line encloses the two ecoregions. The green line separates the Succulent Karoo, on the west, from the Nama Karoo, on the east. National boundaries are shown in black.


The Succulent Karoo stretches along the coastal strip of southwestern Namibia and South Africa's Northern Cape Province, where the cold Benguela Current offshore creates frequent fogs. The ecoregion extends inland into the uplands of South Africa's Western Cape Province. It is bounded on the south by the Mediterranean climate fynbos, on the east by the Nama Karoo, which has more extreme temperatures and variable rainfall, and on the north by the Namib Desert.


The Succulent Karoo is notable for the world's richest flora of succulent plants, and harbours about one-third of the world’s approximately 10,000 succulent species. 40% of its succulent plants are endemic.[2] The region is extraordinarily rich in geophytes, harbouring approximately 630 species.


The ecoregion is a centre of diversity and endemism for reptiles and many invertebrates. Of the ecoregion’s 50 scorpion species, 22 are endemic. Monkey beetles, largely endemic to southern Africa, are concentrated in the Succulent Karoo and are important pollinators of the flora. So, too, are the Hymenoptera and masarine wasps, and colletid, fideliid, and melittid bees.[3]

Approximately 15 amphibians are found in this ecoregion, including three endemics; among the region’s 115 reptile species, 48 are endemic and 15 are strict endemics. The Sperrgebiet region is a hotspot for an unusual tortoise, the Nama padloper. Endemism is present, but less pronounced, among the Succulent Karoo’s bird and mammal populations.[4]


The ecoregion has been designated a biodiversity hotspot by Conservation International.

External links

  • "Succulent Karoo". Terrestrial Ecoregions. World Wildlife Fund.
  • Succulent Karoo biodiversity hotspot (Conservation International)
  • Succulent Karoo (


  1. ^ Centre, UNESCO World Heritage. "Succulent Karoo Protected Areas - UNESCO World Heritage Centre". Retrieved 2017-07-13.
  2. ^ "Succulent Karoo - The Environmental Literacy Council". The Environmental Literacy Council. Retrieved 2017-07-13.
  3. ^ "Southern Africa: Southern Namibia into South Africa | Ecoregions | WWF". World Wildlife Fund. Retrieved 2017-07-13.
  4. ^ "Succulent Karoo". Terrestrial Ecoregions. World Wildlife Fund.
Berkheya fruticosa

Berkheya fruticosa (Afrikaans: vaaldissel, "pale pole") is a plant native to the Succulent Karoo of Namibia and South Africa.It is a perennial meso-chamaephyte that grows 15-25 cm high. It has prickly leaves and grows dark yellow aster flowers.

Chrysoritis aridus

Chrysoritis aridus, the Namaqua opal, is a butterfly of the family Lycaenidae. It is found in South Africa, where it is found in Succulent Karoo in the Northern Cape.

The wingspan is 22–26 mm for males and 28–34 mm for females. Adults are on year from September to November. There is one generation per year.The larvae feed on Chrysanthemoides incana and Zygophyllum species. The associated ant is unknown, but is suspected to be a Crematogaster species.

Cigaritis namaquus

Cigaritis namaquus, the Namaqua bar, is a butterfly of the family Lycaenidae. It is found in South Africa, where it is restricted to the Succulent Karoo areas from the extreme Northern Cape near the border with Namibia, to the northern parts of the Western Cape.

The wingspan is 22–25 mm for males and 24–28 mm for females. Adults are on wing from September to December with a peak in October. There is one generation per year.The larvae feed on Zygophyllum species, including Z. retrofactum. They are associated with ants of the genus Crematogaster.

Dimorphotheca cuneata

Dimorphotheca cuneata , commonly known as the rain flower or white bietou, is a plant species native to South Africa (Fynbos, Succulent Karoo, Nama Karoo, etc.). It is also widely grown as an ornamental and reportedly sparingly naturalized in Gila County in the US State of Arizona.Dimorphotheca cuneata is a subshrub that in its natural habitat will grow to be 100 cm (40 inches) tall. Cultivated specimens may read 150 cm (60 inches). Leaves are long and narrow, with a few large teeth on the edges, giving off a strong scent when crushed. Wild flower heads have white ray florets and yellow disc florets but this can vary in garden cultivars.

Gouritz Cluster Biosphere Reserve

The Gouritz Cluster Biosphere Reserve is located in the southern part of South Africa. It is divided into four connected sectors ranging from sea level to 2,240 metres. The area is the only place in the world where three recognized biodiversity hotspots converge (Fynbos, Succulent Karoo and Maputoland-Tongoland-Albany). The site is characterized by high endemism of plant species (1,325 species including 182 Succulent Karoo endemics and 92 Red List species) and threatened invertebrates including seven endemic species of the enigmatic beetle genus Colophon and 14 butterfly species. It provides a migratory route for large mammals such as the leopard and serves as a nursery for marine species.

Notwithstanding the richness in biodiversity, the area currently faces deep rooted socio-economic challenges including high unemployment, wide-spread poverty, sprawling informal settlements with inadequate services, rising HIV and crime rates.


The Karoo ( kə-ROO; from a Khoikhoi word, possibly garo "desert") is a semi desert natural region of South Africa. No exact definition of what constitutes the Karoo is available, so its extent is also not precisely defined. The Karoo is partly defined by its topography, geology and climate, and above all, its low rainfall, arid air, cloudless skies, and extremes of heat and cold. The Karoo also hosted a well-preserved ecosystem hundreds of million years ago which is now represented by many fossils.The Karoo formed an almost impenetrable barrier to the interior from Cape Town, and the early adventurers, explorers, hunters, and travelers on the way to the Highveld unanimously denounced it as a frightening place of great heat, great frosts, great floods, and great droughts. Today, it is still a place of great heat and frosts, and an annual rainfall of between 50 and 250 mm, though on some of the mountains it can be 250 to 500 mm higher than on the plains. However, underground water is found throughout the Karoo, which can be tapped by boreholes, making permanent settlements and sheep farming possible.The xerophytic vegetation consists of aloes, mesembryanthemums, crassulas, euphorbias, stapelias, and desert ephemerals, spaced 50 cm or more apart, and becoming very sparse going northwards into Bushmanland and, from there, into the Kalahari Desert. The driest region of the Karoo, however, is its southwestern corner, between the Great Escarpment and the Cederberg-Skurweberg mountain ranges, called the Tankwa Karoo, which receives only 75 mm of rain annually. The eastern and north-eastern Karoo are often covered by large patches of grassland. The typical Karoo vegetation used to support large game, sometimes in vast herds.Today, sheep thrive on the xerophytes, though each sheep requires about 4 ha of grazing to sustain itself.

Karoo toad

The Karoo toad, Gariep toad, or mountain toad (Vandijkophrynus gariepensis) is a species of toad in the family Bufonidae found in southern Namibia, much of South Africa, Lesotho, and Swaziland. It is an abundant species that occurs in many types habitat: fynbos heathland, succulent karoo, thickets, grassland, and Nama Karoo. Breeding takes place in permanent and temporary waterbodies (e.g., streams, waterholes, lakes, rain pools, even hoof prints). There are no significant threats to this adaptable species.


The Knersvlakte is a region of hilly terrain covered with quartz gravel in Namaqualand in the north-west corner of the Western Cape Province of South Africa. The name, literally "gnashing plain" in Afrikaans, is thought to be derived from the crunching of wagonwheels as they moved over the hard quartz stones. The Knersvlakte is a Succulent Karoo and dominated by leaf succulents belonging to the Aizoaceae and Crassulaceae, with a variety of shrubs spread amongst them. The climate of the region is semi-arid with long dry summers, and rainfall occurring in the winter months.

The white quartz gravel reflects the sunlight, and is not as hot as the darker rocks and soil found in adjacent areas. Because the area is isolated from other areas with abundant quartz stones, there is a high level of endemism in the plants that occur in the Knersvlakte. Many of these plants are small and compact, which is presumably an adaptation to absorb heat as rain occurs in a short and cool winter period.

The Knersvlakte Nature Reserve was established in 2014 by CapeNature and the World Wide Fund for Nature to protect the endemic vegetation of the Knersvlakte.

Lepidochrysops badhami

Lepidochrysops badhami, the Badham's blue , is a species of butterfly in the family Lycaenidae. It is endemic to South Africa, where it is found in Succulent Karoo to the east of Springbok in the Northern Cape.

The wingspan is 28–32 mm for males and 29–32 mm for females. Adults are on wing from September to October. There is one generation per year.The larvae feed on Pelargonium dasyphyllum.

Lepidochrysops mcgregori

Lepidochrysops mcgregori, the McGregor's blue, is a butterfly of the family Lycaenidae. It is found in South Africa, where it is found in Succulent Karoo of the Northern Cape.

The wingspan is 28–32 mm for males and 30–33 mm for females. Adults are on wing from late August to early October. There is one generation per year.

Lepidochrysops penningtoni

Lepidochrysops penningtoni, the Pennington's blue, is a species of butterfly in the family Lycaenidae. It is endemic to South Africa, where it is found in the Succulent Karoo of the Northern Cape.

The wingspan is 28–34 mm for males and 34–36 mm for females. Adults are on wing from August to October. There is one generation per year, with the adults only emerging after rain.

Leptomyrina lara

Leptomyrina lara, the Cape black-eye, is a butterfly of the family Lycaenidae. It is found in South Africa, in fynbos, Nama Karoo and Succulent Karoo throughout the Western Cape to the Eastern Cape, the eastern parts of Free State, the mountains of Lesotho and Northern Cape.

The wingspan is 20–29 mm for males and 23–31 mm for females. Adults are on wing from August to April. There are several generations per year in summer and spring.The larvae feed on Kalanchoe lugardii, Crassula and Cotyledon species (including C. orbiculata).

Namaqua National Park

Namaqua National Park is a South African national park situated approximately 495 km north of Cape Town and 22 km northwest of Kamieskroon. It has an area of more than 700 km2. The park is part of Namaqualand, an area covering 55,000 km2 located within the semi-desert Succulent Karoo biome. This biome is a biodiversity hotspot with the largest concentration of succulent plants in the world. The park also has an arid environment with succulent plants. The park was created to protect its flowers. During the spring, wildflowers bloom there in a spectacular fashion. The park's main tourist attraction is this abundant spring bloom of brightly coloured wildflowers.


Namaqualand (Afrikaans: Namakwaland) is an arid region of Namibia and South Africa, extending along the west coast over 1,000 kilometres (600 mi) and covering a total area of 440,000 square kilometres (170,000 sq mi). It is divided by the lower course of the Orange River into two portions – Little Namaqualand to the south and Great Namaqualand to the north.

Little Namaqualand is within the Namakwa District Municipality, forming part of Northern Cape Province, South Africa. It is geographically the largest district in the country, spanning over 26,836 km². A typical municipality is Kamiesberg Local Municipality. The semi-desert Succulent Karoo region experiences hot summers, sparse rainfall and cold winters.Great Namaqualand is in the ǁKaras Region of Namibia. Great Namaqualand is sparsely populated by the Namaqua, a Khoikhoi people who traditionally inhabited the Namaqualand region.


The Pneumoridae are a family of nocturnal short-horned grasshoppers in the order Orthoptera, commonly known as the bladder grasshoppers. Their centre of diversity is in southern Africa, but one species occurs as far north as South Sudan. Most adult males acquire an inflated abdomen, a specialization for amplified sound production, which is likely its primary function. Most genera display striking sexual dimorphism, and several species exhibit a dual male phenotype.

Robertson Karoo

Robertson Karoo is a semi-arid vegetation type, restricted to sections of the Breede River Valley, Western Cape Province, South Africa. It is a subtype of Succulent Karoo (geographically an extension of the "Little Karoo") and is characterised by the dominance of succulent plant species, and by several endemic plants and animals.

Stygionympha geraldi

Stygionympha geraldi, or Gerald's brown, is a butterfly of the family Nymphalidae. It is found in South Africa, in succulent Karoo areas inland from the Northern Cape coast.

The wingspan is 32–36 mm. Adults are on wing from September to October. There is one generation per year.The larvae probably feed on Poaceae grasses.

Tankwa Karoo National Park

Tankwa Karoo National Park is a national park in South Africa. The park lies about 70 km due west of Sutherland near the border of the Northern Cape and Western Cape, in one of the most arid regions of South Africa, with areas receiving less than 100 mm of average annual precipitation, moisture-bearing clouds from the Atlantic Ocean being largely stopped by the Cederberg mountains. Other low areas receive little more, as the Roodewerf station (co-ordinates: S32°14’27.9” E20°05’44.5”) with 180 mm of mean annual rainfall. In the hottest areas of the park, the mean maximum temperature in January is 38.9 °C, and in July the mean minimum temperature ranges from about 5 to 7 °C. Before this Park's proclamation, the only protected area of Succulent Karoo was the 2 square kilometre patch of the Gamkaberg Nature Reserve. Succulent Karoo has, together with the Cape Floral Kingdom, been declared a Biodiversity Hotspot by Conservation International.

Tankwa's area has been increased from an initial 260 to 1436 km2. It is bounded on the east by the Roggeveld Mountains, on the west by the Cederberg, to the north by the Kouebokkeveld Mountains and on the south by the scattered foothills of the Koedoesberge and Klein Roggeveld Mountains, and the Tankwa River. The park's headquarters are located at Roodewerf (GPS co-ordinates: S 32° 14’ 27.9” E 20° 5’ 44.5”). Distances from the nearest towns to the park's headquarters are: Ceres (180 km), Sutherland (120 km), Calvinia (110 km) and Middelpos (52 km).In 1998 Conrad Strauss sold 280 km2 of sheep farm to the South African National Parks. The park has started the reintroduction of game that used to be found naturally in the area. Research was done beforehand to ensure that introduced animals would survive on the overgrazed veld. The vegetation in the park falls within the Succulent Karoo biome and has been described as very sparse shrubland and dwarf shrubland. Several unique succulent genera occur here, such as Tanquana, Braunsia and Didymaotus. The park is home to a large variety of birds (188 species – 2015 figure), such as the black-headed canary, Ludwig's bustard, and the black-eared sparrow-lark. Peak birding season is August to October.

Thestor dryburghi

Thestor dryburghi, the Dryburgh's skolly, is a species of butterfly in the family Lycaenidae. It is endemic to South Africa where it is only known from northern Namaqualand in succulent Karoo-covered hills at Kamieskroon to the north-west of Steinkopf in the North Cape.

The wingspan is 34–37 mm for males and 36–38 mm for females. Adults are on wing from August to October. There is one generation per year.

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