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 and for that very reason today we share some facts to remind, inform and/or highlight just how special our backyard really is. The facts shared in today’s blog are taken from SANBI Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden, a wonder to visit to enjoy our amazing biodiversity and natural heritage.

So you may ask what’s a floral kingdom? Floral kingdoms are the largest natural units that can be determined for flowering plants. Regions that share the same combination of plant families form part of the same floral kingdom. There are six floral kingdoms of the world (Holarctic; Neotropical; Pelaeotropical; Australian; Cape; and Antarctic).

So what’s so special about the Cape Floral Kingdom? Here are 6 ‘wow factors’ for you:

  • 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- that’s only 0.04% of the surface area of the Earth
  • It contains nearly 9000 species of flowering plants- that’s about 3% of Earth’s species
  • Two out of three species in the Cape Floral Kingdom are endemic, meaning they occur nowhere else on Earth. This is the highest level of endemism in the world!
  • The Cape Floral Kingdom is a World Heritage Site

The Cape’s vegetation is termed Fynbos. Yes many of our readers know what this is, but we share a bit more about Fynbos for those who may not, and you may too learn a thing or two you didn’t know or may not remember.

What’s so fine about Fynbos?

  • Fynbos is the vegetation that is found growing naturally on the mountains and coastal plains of the south-western tip of South Africa, 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 makes up 80% of the Cape Floristic Region/ Cape Floral Kingdom
  • Fynbos is characterised by the presence of four main plant groups: restios, proteas, heaths and geophytes, as well as seven plant families that only occur in fynbos
  • It’s amazingly diverse, and exceptionally rich in species, and occupies a relatively tiny area of land
  • 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- that’s more than the total number of species in the British Isles- crammed into an area smaller than London
  • To emphasise the diversity try these comparatives, let’s blow your mind with some numbers: 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 SA- 8 species per 100 km2

Marvel in the Cape Floristic splendour, how can you not? Appreciate and safe guard 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 persons 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 our Floral Kingdom and be proud of it!

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botsocblog

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

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