Do you realise just how special our backyard really is? Facts about The Cape Floral Kingdom

Written by Catherine Clulow

All too often we take for granted what’s right under our noses. Today we share some facts to remind us just how special our backyard really is. The facts shared in this blog are from SANBI Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden, a wonder to visit to enjoy our amazing biodiversity and natural heritage.

So what is a Floral Kingdom? Floral Kingdoms are the largest natural units for flowering plants. Regions that share the same combination of plant families form part of the same floral kingdom. There are six Floral Kingdoms in the world: Holarctic, Neotropical, Palaeotropical, Australian, Cape and Antarctic.

What is so special about the Cape Floral Kingdom?

  • It is the smallest of all the Floral Kingdoms.
  • It is the only Floral Kingdom to fall completely inside the borders of a single country.
  • It occupies about 90,000 square kilometres: Only 0.04% of the surface area of the Earth.
  • It contains nearly 9,000 species of flowering plants: About 3% of Earth’s species.
  • Two out of three species in the Cape Floral Kingdom are endemic to this area, meaning they occur nowhere else on Earth. This is the highest level of endemism in the world.
  • The Cape Floral Kingdom is a UNESCO World Heritage Site owing to its unparalleled ecological diversity.

The Fynbos Biome is a part of the Cape Floral Kingdom. Fynbos is one of its main vegetation types.

What’s so fine about Fynbos?

  • Fynbos is the vegetation that is found growing naturally on the mountains and lowlands of South Africa’s Cape Floral Kingdom and is unique to the area.
  • The name comes from the Dutch ‘fijn’ and ‘bosch’ meaning fine bush, referring to the very small leaves and flowers of many of the species.
  • Fynbos constitutes 80% of the vegetation of the Cape Floristic Region/ Cape Floral Kingdom.
  • Fynbos is characterised by the presence of three main plant families: Restios, Proteas and Ericas, as well as seven other plant families that only occur in fynbos.
  • It’s amazingly diverse, and exceptionally rich in species, and occupies a relatively tiny area of land of similar size to Portugal and Malawi.
  • Over 7000 species occur in 41 000 km2, and 80% of them occur nowhere else on Earth.
  • The Cape Peninsula alone has 2 600 species, more than the total number of species in the British Isles, in an area smaller than London.
  • Comparing species diversity with other heathland communities in Australia and California, and with the rest of South Africa:

Cape Floristic Region/Cape Floral Kingdom: 94 species per 100 km2

Australia: 14 species per 100 km2

California: 12 species per 100 km2

The rest of South Africa: 8 species per 100 km2

Marvel in the Cape Floristic splendour, how can you not? Appreciate and safeguard our amazing biodiversity. We live in a truly special place and need to remember that and remind each other from time to time.

King Protea (Catherine Browne, Botanical Society of SA)
©Catherine Clulow

The Botanical Society of South Africa (BotSoc) is an NGO focusing on biodiversity conservation and awareness and environmental education and for over 103 years has been working with passionate partners and people to conserve the natural heritage and flora of Southern Africa. BotSoc’s mission is “ To win the hearts, minds, and material support of individuals and organisations, wherever they may be, for the conservation, cultivation, study and wise use of the indigenous flora and vegetation of southern Africa, for the benefit and sharing by all”. Find out more about BotSoc here and consider joining the BotSoc family.

Go out and learn about, appreciate and enjoy The Cape Floral Kingdom and be proud of it!

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The Botanical Society of South Africa (BotSoc) are an NGO conserving and educating about biodiversity for over 100 years.

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