Plants of Africa

July 13th, 2017

These first photos are coastal South Africa in an area called the Fynbos. The botanical world can be divided into six floral kingdoms. The largest is the northern hemisphere north of the Tropic of Cancer, which is more than half of the world’s land mass. I’m getting a feel for that kingdom presently seeing so many Mongolian plants similar to North America’s yet 180 degrees around the globe. Then South America and Australia are their own kingdoms. What little grows on Antarctica is its own.  Tropical India, Southeast Asia and about all of non-Mediterranean Africa make up a kingdom, all except Africa’s southern coastal tip.  Here lies the 6th region, the disproportionately small Fynbos.

The Fynbos is a strip of land coming less than hundred and fifty miles inland from the coast and about 500 miles from west to east. In it there are about 9000 discovered species of plants and over 6000 of them are endemic. Below are a good 20 or 30, most of which I can’t even get to family.

Having said all that, here’s the same spurge I have growing in my lawn at home.
This is one of several species of widow bird. The males cart these enormous tails around during mating season.
Some kind of ungulate scat at the first camp after leaving Cape Town…….
……not sure how they project it up into the trees.

Not too many composites.

A protea after it has bloomed. The dark star shape was a huge flower.  The family is Proteaceae  and makes up over a thousand Fynbos species.  South African pets, restaurants and hotel chains are named after it.  Macadamia nuts come from that family.


This might be conebush, a Leucadendron species in Proteaceae.

Haemanthus spp.  Looks like it should be an orobanche or some kind of saprohyte.  It’s in the Amaryllidaceae family.
Restio spp. Restionaceaes are used to make thatch.  Thamnochortus insignis is cultivated for it.

Thatch roofs made from Restio reeds have a precision look and can last 50 years.
Camp with trippy trees…..
…..having these fruits.
Nests made by weavers of which there are many species throughout Africa.

The Fynbos to the north extends into the Cape Fold Mountains and ends roughly where the Great Escarpment defines the edge of the interior plateau.  The plateau regions can be divided into High Veld, Low Veld, Bush Veld and Karoo.  The Karoo, below, was the first to be encountered and is arid and hot. Much of it resembles thorn scrub of North America’s Southwest.

Pricklypear is an invasive here.

Solanaceae, an invasive as well.

Mesquite-like acacias.

Slipper plant. It grows in a comparable latitude and habitat in Mexico.

Wonder tree.
Crawling on the stalk is a relative of the same ring worm you find curled up behind your washing machine. Some species grow to about a foot long. They’re harmless and kids will let one suitably sized curl around their wrists as a bracelet.

Few Composites

The Karoo’s ranges and valleys give way to higher elevation grasslands, or veld, as you go north.  The grasslands are extensive and appear to be in a natural state that has somehow escaped agriculture and livestock grazing.

Veld and termite mounds.

The grasses above and below were picked at arms length from a place I had lunch.  Unbelievable diversity of grasses in South Africa.

Near Pretoria

Lots of beetles

Tiny frog
Still haven’t identified this but it grows in Mexico, Argentina and South Africa.

Termite mound in Botswana.

Above and below, Victoria Falls surroundings.
Zambizi River before the falls.

After Victoria Falls, Zambia becomes wetter and jungle like, maybe dry tropics.  It skirts the much wetter Congo to the west.

These things were hard not to run over on one stretch.
Cool spider.
Another wild grass in Zambia.
Elephant grass was often over your head.

Mint of some kind.
Tribulus terrestris, goat’s head or puncture vine.  Nasty stuff.
The thorn itself.
Walking through them to get to a camp. The bike was carried.

Old termite mound.
Pines were farmed over many square miles in Tanzania. There were two species: Pinus radiata (Monterey pine) and P. patula from northern Mexico’s highlands.  Older trees were well over 50 years and are now being harvested.
Colobus monkeys in Monterrey pines.


Babao tree.
This is an escaped acete, the same grown in Latin America for vegetable oil.

These next were from Mt Longido in Northern Tanzania.

Euphorbia candelabra

Plants on Mt Kenya.

Dendrosenecio keniensis, or giant groundsel.  Several volcanoes reach alpine altitudes in the area of Mts. Kilimanjaro and Kenya.  Each has evolved its own species of the groundsel.


Lobelia telekii or giant lobelia

The deserts after Mt Kenya and on into Ethiopia were incredible but I didn’t take too many plant photos- too busy dealing with the natives.  Below are the abundant acacia trees and the pealing bark of something that looks like Mexico’s Bursera species.


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One thought on “Plants of Africa”

  1. This is so enlightening. Up to now, I’ve never connected any thoughts I’ve had about Africa to wonder, beauty, and amazing plant variety. These amazing plants have NOT been trampled to bits by war. I wonder if any are edible to the point of being developed into a viable food source relieving famine where it exists.

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