Cape Floral Region (CFR)

Botanist have divided the world into six Floral Regions (aka Floristic Kingdoms).

Five regions are the size of continents, but one small part of one small country is so rich and diverse in plant species that it was declared the 6th Region. This is the Cape Floral Region (CFR). “the CFR has the highest known concentration of plant species in the world, its nearest rival, the South American rain forest, has only one third the number of species.” “There are about 9,000 plant species in the CFR. About 70 percent of them grow only in this region (endemic).” (This means 6,300 plant species grow nowhere else in the world.) In 2004 UNESCO declared the CFR as a World Heritage Site due to its extraordinary assemblage of plant life and outstanding diversity, density and endemism of the flora. “Table Mountain National Park lies in the heart of the CFR, which is a biodiversity hot spot and seen by botanists as a botanical anomaly.”

The diagram below shows the world’s six Floral Regions.

Of the 9,000 plant species found in the CFR, a majority are Fynbos plants. According to the WWF “When you first look across an expanse of Fynbos, you may not at first be impressed. But when you look a bit closer you will see the sheer diversity of these numerous species.”

South Africa’s national flower, the King Protea, is perhaps the most famous species of Fynbos (large pink flower in top image). Interestingly, many Fynbos plants depend on fire for their survival, some needing the heat for their seeds to germinate.

The famous Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus described the CFR as “This Heaven on Earth”. UK botanist Ronald Good said “the Cape region is also of special interest because it has contributed much to the beauty of European gardens” (from his famous book “The Geography of the Flowering Plants”).

Good Places to experience the CFR include: Table Mountain National Park, Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden, Garden Route, a Nature Reserve or Harold Porter National Botanical Garden (on Clarence Drive).

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Note: Different plant species flower at different times of the year and plants do not flower as much on overcast days.

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