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biodiversity explorer

the web of life in southern Africa

Order: Alismatales 

Life > eukaryotes > Archaeoplastida > Chloroplastida > Charophyta > Streptophytina > Plantae (land plants) > Tracheophyta (vascular plants) > Euphyllophyta > Lignophyta (woody plants) > Spermatophyta (seed plants) > Angiospermae (flowering plants) > Monocotyledons

With the exception of the Araceae (arum lily family), all families of the Alismatales that occur in southern Africa, are either aquatic or marsh-inhabiting plants. Members of the Araceae are often found in marshy situations and some member are aquatic (those previously in the family Lemnaceae) but many species can be found far from water. Nine of the 13 families are encountered in southern Africa. Of the 166 genera and 4560 species worldwide, 30 genera and 83 species are native to southern Africa, six genera and six species are naturalised, and an additional 19 genera and 43 species are cultivated in the region.

Families encountered in southern Africa


[= Limnocharitaceae]

About 12 genera and 81 species (mainly northern hemisphere in tropics and subtropics), with five genera and seven species native to southern Africa . In addition, there is one genus and species naturalised, and three genera and four species cultivated in southern Africa. Aquatic or marsh herbs.

Aponogetonaceae (Wateruintjie family)

One genus, Aponogeton with 43 species, native to tropical to temperate regions of Asia, Africa, Madagascar and Australia. Eleven species are native to southern Africa. 

Araceae (Arum lily family)

About 106 genera and about 4025 species, native mainly to the tropics and subtropics, but also with some species in temperate regions; especially diverse in New World tropics. Ten genera and 33 species are native to southern Africa, two genera and two species is naturalised, and a further 16 genera and 39 species are cultivated in the region. The Lemnaceae has been synonymised with the Araceae and previous members of this family are included here. They are all aquatic plants with small floating leaves and tiny flowers.

Zantedeschia aethiopica


Submerged, perennial marine plants. Five genera and 16 species (tropical seas), with four genera and five species off the coast of northern KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, and Mozambique.


Freshwater or marine herbs. Eighteen genera and about 116 species (cosmopolitan), with six genera and 13 species native to southern Africa and three genera and three species naturalised in the region. 


Marsh-inhabiting plants. Four genera and 15 species (cosmopolitan), with one genus, Triglochin, and three species native to southern Africa.

Potamogetonaceae (pondweed family)

Floating, aquatic plants. Four genera and about 102 species worldwide, of which one genus, Potamogeton, is native to southern Africa, represented by nine species.


Aquatic, grass-like, herbs that grow in saline or fresh water. Ruppia is the only genus in the family, and contains about seven species of which two are native to southern Africa.

Zosteraceae (eel grass family)

Marine perennial plants that form large beds along coastal areas, mainly in temperate regions and typically occurring in estuaries. There are two genera and 14 species, with one species, Zostera capensis, native to southern Africa.

Families not encountered in southern Africa

Butomaceae, Posidoniaceae, Scheuchzeriaceae, Tofieldiaceae