The Southern African Area includes plants from South Africa, Lesotho, Swaziland, Botswana, and Namibia. The plants of this region are famous for their diversity of flowers and forms. The range of microhabitats created by topography and climate fosters this plant diversity. Many species are found nowhere else in the world.

The Garden’s collection is especially rich in mediterranean-climate flora of the Cape region. We feature plants from the karoo habitat (with spring bulbs and annuals, blooming mostly February–May) and the fynbos plant community (chaparral-like plants with proteas, ericas, and restios). The collection also includes plants of the Eastern Cape region, which does not have a mediterranean climate.

Some adaptations found in these plant communities include water and nutrient storage, such as succulent leaves and carbohydrate-rich bulbs. Plants from the Cape region are well suited to conditions in California gardens and have become popular in horticulture; many are of ethnobotanical importance. Both the Cape region and California are two of the world’s biodiversity hotspots, but the Cape region contains more than 2½ times the number of species in 1/3 of the area! Demand for medicinal plants from the wild, habitat loss, illegal collecting, and competition from introduced species threatens many species with extinction.