Endangered African Plants

Many endangered African plants may become extinct. Without a national inventory listing the existing flora in all areas of Africa, preservation of endangered African plants may not happen. According to Janice S. Golding of the Environmental Change Institute, one-tenth of the flora of South Africa is on the "red list," which contains information on plants and animals facing global extinction. This can be due to use as food, medicine, firewood or illegal collection.


Cycads are used as houseplants and are interesting landscape plants in warm climates. They are drought tolerant and easy to maintain. The problem is many cycads are now on the endangered African plants red list. One of the reasons for this is because cycad hunters have collected most of these slow-growing species from the wild. Some have been put into botanical gardens and others have been sold on the black market to cycad collectors. Encephalartos lehmannii, native to the Eastern Cape Providence, is almost extinct. This plant is popular because of its blue-gray leaves, which make a real statement in landscapes. Encephalartos lehmannii can tolerate frost, making it attractive to landscapers and collectors in temperate climates.


Many endangered African plants are hardy down to 0 degrees F, which allows them to be grown in many places throughout the world. According to Gerald Carr, emeritus professor of botany at Oregon State University, there are 300 genera and 7,500 species of Euphorbia worldwide, making them one of the largest plant families. Many of these Euphorbia are native to Africa. Euphorbia bupleurifolia and Euphorbia obesa are two varieties that are in danger of extinction in their natural habitat, even though they are grown worldwide in gardens and as houseplants.


Native to South Africa, Haemanthus is part of the Amaryllis family. The bulbs remain dormant when not in active growth. They are popular bulbs among collectors. Although most species of Haemanthus are easy to grow, the problem with re-establishing them in the wild is lack of suitable habitat. Haemanthus carneus is quite rare in its native habitat, possibly due to natural habitat destruction because of urbanization. Haemanthus pumilio is also on the red list of endangered African plants. One problem with it reproducing in the wild is that is does not self-pollinate. Pollinators in Africa are not as plentiful as they once were. What this means is that plants that rely on insects for pollination may become extinct in their natural habitat.

Keywords: endangered African plants, cycad, Euphorbia, African plants, Haemanthus

About this Author

Sheri Ann Richerson is a garden writer living in the Midwest. Her articles regularly appear in numerous gardening magazines. She is also the author of numerous books including "The Complete Idiot's Guide To Year-Round Gardening" and "101 English Garden Tips."