The African landscape is more vast than the diversity of its peoples, languages and cultures. Native plants of Africa traverse tropical, savanna, desert and high-mountain subarctic regions, and the abundance of plants in the tropical rain forest regions of Africa plays an important role in the amount of oxygen available in the world's atmosphere. There are many native plant species of Africa used around the world for their decorative beauty, food and non-edible products.
A delicate flowering plant that has graced many homes around the world, the African violet (Saintpaulia varieties) is native to the Nguru Mountains area in the central East African country of Tanzania. The African violet's blossoms bear a close resemblance to violet flowers, varying in colors ranging from white to purple. Its leaves have fine, furry surfaces and round or oval shapes.
The common names of this plant, which belongs to the same family as cotton, hibiscus and cocoa, include lady fingers, gumbo, quingumbo, bamyah, kopi arab and bhindi. Okra plants (Abelmoschus esculentus) are both annual and perennial depending on the variety, and they produce flowers that greatly resemble white hibiscus flowers prior to their fruit-bearing phase. The edible okra pods and leaves are prepared in a variety of vegetable and meat dishes around the world. Its seeds are also roasted and prepared as a coffee substitute.
Native to the Sudan and cultivated in tropical areas around the world, tamarind (Tamarindus indica L.) is a tree that bears sweet and sour fruits that tantalize the taste buds of those who like a natural yet tasty kick. The tamarind tree grows to heights of 100 feet, bearing evergreen leaves and brown elongated fruit pods. Inside each pod is a collection of brown, shiny seeds covered in a tangy, edible fruit pulp eaten raw or used in chutneys and culinary recipes.
Kiwano (Cucumis metuliferus) is native to the central and southern countries of Africa. Also known as African Horned Cucumber, Hedged Gourd and Horned Melon, Kiwano is a vine of the melon family that produces fruit with a spiked appearance. Although Kiwano is cultivated and exported for its decorative appearance, the fruit itself is long-lasting and very nutritious.
Although its namesake comes from the Bermuda Island, Bermuda grass (Cynodon dactylon) is native to Africa. It grows in dense, creeping clusters close to the ground, producing deep root systems that make the grass highly drought-tolerant. Some other names of Bermuda grass include wire grass, dogtooth grass and couch grass.