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NAMIBIAEARTH.JPG Namibia lies in the second driest area in Africa after the Sahara, and is the most arid country in sub-Saharan Africa. Despite this, both woodlands and desert species are found in the country.

The most well known is the Welwitschia, but there are many other endemic, rare and distinctive plants. The principal reasons for the wealth of species in Namibia are the numerous and various tracks that contribute taxa, and other factors include environmental diversity, different rainfall regimes, and recurrent climate fluctuations since early times. Most of the land in Namibia is used for farming that is based on natural grazing for stock, with game farming increasing in importance, but a sizable portion has had restricted access due to mining and conservation.

The flora

About 4000 seed plants are indigenous to Namibia and almost 15% are considered endemic to the country. There are about 164 families of higher plants and of these, 32 are represented by only one species. In contrast the most diverse families are those known to be among the largest families worldwide including the Poaceae, Asteraceae and Leguminosae.

Of the 930 accepted genera in Namibia, about 370 are essentially African with almost 170 confined to southern Africa. The ca. 600 species endemic to Namibia occur in over 60 families and in about 230 genera.

Namibia shares two Centres of Plant Endemism and Diversity with neighbouring countries. The Kaokoveld CPED (Angola) in the north and the Gariep CPED (South Africa) in the south.

The origin and affinities of the Namibian flora

Interpretations of the origins of the flora of Namibia are complex as nine floristic groups have been identified, each with their own characteristic taxa, affinities and history.

Molecular studies suggest that the Hunsberg area may contain an ancient flora with an age of 20.3 Ma, with links to the Eastern Cape of South Africa. This link is still evident from extant disjunct species.

The second oldest group is situatedin the north west (11.5 Ma) and associated with SW-NE African Arid Corridor. The majority of taxa are African with extensions through Arabia to Asia, but a few taxa have links to South America. These appear to be amongst the oldest taxa and the most likely explanation for their presence here is via the Tethys Seaway. The youngest group is the succulent desert area of the Southern Namib with the Mesembryathemeum family being the most prominent.

Herta Kolberg and Patricia Craven have worked extensively on the systematics of Namibian plants. Both are now independent researchers and botanical consultants. Craven has a special interest in floristic groups, endemics and genus Petalidium; Kolberg in taxonomy, seed conservation and habitat restoration.

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The database

The aim of this webpage is to provide a comprehensive updatable working list of Namibia's indigenous flora and collate plant species information scattered in various publications and other resources like unpublished reports. It will also incorporate the extensive records and information collected by one of Namibia's early and longest-serving botanists, Mr Willy Giess, that is in our possession, as well as our own data that has been assembled for over 30 years.

The information includes as much detail as we have been able to assemble from our comprehensive plant systematic research and other aspects. Information will be added when available. Our previous database, which included information used in a MSB seed Collecting Guide for Namibia, was transferred to BRAHMS, because of participating in the Millennium Seed Bank Partnership (MSBP), and to be able to use the BRAHMS seed module.

This database focuses on the plants of Namibia, but also includes Fungi and lichens and some taxa from neighbouring countries that we have dealt with in more detail. Work on this database is not funded and data may not be sold or used for commercial purposes. For further information, please contact
boscia@mweb.com.na

© Craven P. & Kolberg, H. 2017.

The database is developed and published online using BRAHMS.