South Africa has 20,000 documented different species of plants, amounting to about 10% of the plant species in the world. What makes this statistic even more remarkable is that only 1% of the country is forested.
Though South Africa can boast of a large amount of grass species, the number of fungi that grow in South Africa dwarfs the amount of plants that grow in the country. As of the early twenty-first century, it was estimated that 200,000 species of fungi grow in South Africa. This was considered a conservative estimate, given that it discounted a large amount of fungi associated with insect biodiversity.
Further, South Africa is home to one unique genus of plant: the protea, or sugarbushes as they are sometimes called. 130 different species of protea are found in South Africa. In local South African cultures these often represent hope and change. Due to the genus’s diversity in form, it was named for the Greek god Proteus, who could change his appearance at will. Though native to South Africa, these plants have been immensely popular throughout history and have been exported around the world.
The remainder of South Africa's flora can be largely distinguished by geographical region:
- Much of South Africa's flora are different grass species found in the vast grasslands of the Highveld.
- There are also an incredible amount of low growing shrubs and acacia trees, such as different varieties of camel-thorn and whitethorn trees.
- The northwest is home to a number of aloe and euphorbia succulents, which survive in the harsher climates due to their ability to store water.
- The northeast is home multiple varieties of baobab trees flourish.