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biodiversity explorer

the web of life in southern Africa

Subfamily: Mimosoideae

Life > eukaryotes > Archaeoplastida > Chloroplastida > Charophyta > Streptophytina > Plantae (land plants) > Tracheophyta (vascular plants) > Euphyllophyta > Lignophyta (woody plants) > Spermatophyta (seed plants) > Angiospermae (flowering plants) > Eudicotyledons > Core Eudicots > Rosids > Eurosid I > Fabales > Family: Fabaceae

Eighty-two genera and 3275 species (cosmopolitan but absent from north temperate regions), of which 14 genera and 106 species are native to southern Africa, an additional four genera and 28 species are naturalised, and an additional 11 genera and 96 species are cultivated in the region.

Genera native to southern Africa

List from Germishuizen (2000).


About 900 species, mainly in tropical and subtropical regions, particularly in Australia and Africa. There are 58 species native to southern Africa, 17 naturalised, and an additional 62 species that are cultivated in the region (mainly originating from Australia). Acacia in the broad sense is not monophyletic and has been split into a number of different genera. However, there has been controversy over the use of the name Acacia for the Australian group of species when in fact it belongs to the African species. African botanical sources are still using Acacia for the African species and this practice is followed here until there is better consensus.


About 10 species found mainly in tropical regions. One species, Adenopodia spicata, is native to southern Africa. 



About 145 species, distributed from Africa to Asia and Australia. There are 17 species native to southern Africa, three species that are naturalised to the region, and an additional eight species that are cultivated in the region.


One species: Amblygonocarpus andongensis (Scotsman's rattle), occurring in the Caprivi Strip (Namibia), Botswana, Zimbabwe and Mozambique.


Two species, native to Africa, with one, Calliandra redacta, found in southern Africa (endemic to the Northern Cape, on granite ridges).



About 20 species, occurring from Africa to Asia and Australia, with two, Dichrostachys cinerea and Dichrostachys forbesii, found in southern Africa. 


African in distribution, with eight of the nine species native to southern Africa.


The 20 species are native to tropical regions, with six species native to southern Africa.


One species: Faidherbia albida (Apple-ring acacia, Ana tree, Winter thorn), native to tropical and subtropical Africa including southern Africa. See Flora of Zimbabwe.


About 400 species, found throughout the tropics but mainly in South America. There is one native species and one naturalised species in southern Africa. Mimosa pigra (Giant sensitive plant, Raak-my-nie) is a declared Category 3 invasive plant in South Africa. An additional eight species are cultivated in the region.


The 11 species occur in tropical regions, with one species, Neptunia oleracea (Water mimosa), native to southern Africa. c


About 14 species, native to tropical Africa and America, with two species, Newtonia buchananii (pictured) and Newtonia hildebrandtii (Lowveld newtonia), native to southern Africa.


One species: Xerocladia viridiramis (= Xerocladia zeyheri), found in Namibia and Namaqualand.



About 12 species, native to tropical Asia and Africa, with one species, Xylia torreana (Hairy sand ash), occurring in southern Africa (in Zimbabwe, Mozambique and the Pafuri region of the Kruger National Park). See Flora of Zimbabwe.

Genera naturalised in southern Africa

List from Germishuizen (2000).


Most of the 22 species are native to the tropics and subtropics of the New World. Desmanthus virgatus (Hedge lucerne, Bundleflower, Donkey bean) has become naturalised in southern Africa (near Pietermaritzburg in KwaZulu-Natal).



Twenty-four species (Texas in USA to Peru). Leucaena leucocephala (Leucaena, Reuse wattel) is naturalised in southern Africa and is a declared Category 1 invasive plant in the Western Cape, and a Category 2 invasive plant in the rest of South Africa. In addition, Leucaena latisiliqua (Lead tree), native to Mexico, is cultivated in southern Africa.


Paraserianthes lophantha is naturalised, originating from Australia, and is a declared Category 1 invasive plant in South Africa.


About 44 species, mainly native to America but also to SW Asia and Africa. No native species in southern Africa, but four species have become naturalised in this region, and an additional three species are cultivated in the region.

Other genera, cultivated in southern Africa

List from Glen (2002). The species name is provided in genera that have only one species represented in southern Africa.

Adenanthera pavonina (Red sandalwood)

Indigenous from India to southeast Asia.



Two species cultivated, which were previously in the genus Pithecellobium.


Enterolobium contortisiliquum (Black ear)

Indigenous from brazil to Bolivia.


Gagnebina pterocarpa

Indigenous from the Comores to Mautitius.


Inga laurina (Spanish oak)

Indigenous from Mexico to Argentina.


Lysiloma latisiliqua (Wild tamarind)

Native to Florida (USA) and the West Indies.


Painteria nitida

Native to Sri Lanka.


Pararchidendron pruinosum

[= Pithecellobium pruinosum]

Native to Australia.



About 40 species (tropics), with two species cultivated in southern Africa.



Two species cultivated.


Zapoteca portoricensis (White tamarind)

Native from Mexico to Brazil.



  • Germishuizen, G. 2000. Fabaceae. In: Seed Plants of Southern Africa (ed. O.A. Leistner). Strelitzia 10: 262-303. National Botanical Institute, Pretoria.

  • Glen, H.F. 2002. Cultivated Plants of Southern Africa. Jacana, Johannesburg.