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biodiversity explorer

the web of life in southern Africa

Coniferophyta (pines, cypresses, yellowwoods, etc)

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

Families encountered in southern Africa

Araucariaceae (monkeypuzzle family)

Three genera (Wollemia, Agathis and Araucaria) and 41 living species, distributed in the Southern Hemisphere but not native to Africa. Fossils have been found dating back to the Jurassic and the family was once more widespread, occurring in both hemispheres. [Is there any fossil material from Africa?]. Species of Agathis and Araucaria are cultivated in urban areas of southern Africa as garden and roadside trees. The genus Wollemia contains a single species Wollemia nobilis, which is considered the most basal species in the Araucariaceae family tree and which, amazingly, was discovered as recently as 1994 in New South Wales, Australia. As far as is known, it has not yet been cultivated in southern Africa.


Closely related to the Taxaceae. Includes only the genus Cephalotaxus which is found from India to China and Japan.

Cupressaceae (cypresses)

Widdringtonia nodiflora (Mountain cypress)

Pinaceae (pines)

There are about 12 genera and 200 species, almost exclusively native to the northern hemisphere. Many species of pines (genus Pinus) have been cultivated in southern Africa, of which eight have become naturalised.

Podocarpaceae (yellowoods)

Podocarpus latifolius


Includes only the species, Sciadopitys verticillata (Japanese umbrella pine), which is found in Japan.

Taxaceae (Yew family)

Five genera and 17 species, mainly occurring in the Northern Hemisphere. Two species in the genus Taxus have been cultivated in southern Africa: Taxus baccata (European yew, Common yew) and Taxus canadensis (Canada yew, Amercian yew).


[= Gnetopsida, Gnetophyta]

Includes the families Ephedraceae (with one genus: Ephedra), Gnetaceae (with two genera: Gnetum and Vinkiella) and Welwitschiaceae (one genus: Welwitschia), of which only the latter occurs in southern Africa. The Gnetales used to be regarded as the sister group of the angiosperms but through molecular studies, the evidence now points to it lying within the Coniferophyta (Simpson, 2006).


One species: Welwitschia mirabilis.