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biodiversity explorer

the web of life in southern Africa

Plantae (land plants)

[= Embryophyta]

Life > eukaryotes > Archaeoplastida > Chloroplastida > Charophyta > Streptophytina


Anthocerotophyta (hornworts)  
Bryophyta (mosses)
Marchantiophyta (liverworts)  
Tracheophyta (vascular plants)

In older classifications there was the group Pteridophyta (ferns and fern allies; i.e. all spore-bearing tracheophytes) which included Equisetophyta, Filicophyta, Psilotophyta and Lycopodiophyta. 


Lycopodiophyta (club mosses)




Monilophyta (ferns, including horsetails)


Lignophyta (woody plants)


# "Progymnosperms"

This is a loose term used to refer to fossil lignophytes that are not seed plants. The most well-known member of this group is the genus Archaeopteris, which was a genus of large trees with conifer-like wood, fern-like leaves and was spore-bearing.


Spermatophyta (seed plants)


# "Pteridosperms" (seed ferns)

Known only from fossils, these plants looked like ferns but had seeds. The name is put in quotes because this group is probably paraphyletic because within it the gymnosperms and angiosperms are likely to have evolved.


Gymnospermae (gymnosperms)

        Angiospermae (or Magnoliophyta) (flowering plants)

A total of 433 families of which 257 are encountered in southern Africa. There are 13389 genera and 265179 species worldwide, of which 2099 genera (15.7%) and 21807 species (8.2%) are native to southern Africa. An additional 304 genera and 958 species are naturalised, and an additional 1170 genera and 4564 species are recorded as being cultivated in southern Africa. Thus, in total, 3573 genera (26.7%) and 27329 species (10.3%) of flowering plants have been recorded as being native, naturalised or cultivated in southern Africa.


  • Angiosperm Phylogeny Website. Contains up-to-date, comprehensive information on the classification of flowering plants. The classification adopted in Biodiversity Explorer is based mainly on the information from this site.

  • Plants of Southern Africa (SANBI). A complete checklist of the plants of southern Africa with links to additional information and images. Note that southern Africa is defined here as including all countries south of the Cunene and Zambezi River EXCEPT for Zimbabwe and Mozambique. Southern Africa is defined in Biodiversity Explorer as including Zimbabwe and southern Mozambique.

  • Plantzafrica.com (SANBI). Website on indigenous plants of South Africa, with an emphasis on horticultural species.

  • The Gymnosperm Database. Excellent site with in depth information on taxa in this group.

  • Flora of Zimbabwe. Excellent site with a full checklist of the angiosperm flora of Zimbabwe as well as many comprehensive species pages that include photographs.

  • Flora of Mozambique. Companion site to Flora of Zimbabwe, produced by the same people.


  • Graham, L.E., Cook, M.E. & Busse, J.S. 2000. The origin of plants: body plan changes contributing to a major evolutionary radiation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 97: 4535-4540.