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the web of life in southern Africa

Genus: Aristea

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

About 52 species, mainly southern African but the distribution of this genus extends to Senegal and Ethiopia, and there are seven species on Madagascar. Forty-six species are native to southern Africa.

Species native to southern Africa

List from Plants of Southern Africa - an Online Checklist (SANBI), Flora of Zimbabwe and Flora of Mozambique.

Aristea abyssinica

Aristea africana

Aristea anceps


Aristea angolensis

Aristea bakeri

Aristea biflora

Aristea bracteata


Aristea cantharophila


Aristea capitata 

Aristea cistiflora

Occurs on the lower southern slopes of the Langeberg Mountains in the Western Cape. Found in peaty sandstone soil and only flowers after fire or clearing of the vegetation.


Aristea compressa


Aristea cuspidata


Aristea dichotoma

Aristea ecklonii

Aristea elliptica

Occurs in the Eastern Cape, from the Zuurberg Mountains in the west to the Fish River Mouth in the east. It is found in fynbos and grassy fynbos mainly on sandstone slopes and frequently on rocky outcrops.


Aristea ensifolia

Aristea fimbriata


Aristea flexicaulis


Aristea galpinii


Aristea gerrardii


Aristea glauca


Aristea grandis


Aristea inaequalis


Aristea juncifolia

Aristea latifolia


Aristea lugens

Aristea montana


Aristea nana

Distribution extends from Robinson’s Pass in the Western Cape to Baviaanskloof in the Eastern Cape. Common in the Long Kloof and valleys to the north from Avontuur to Joubertina. It is found on sandy and rocky sandstone slopes in arid, marginal fynbos.


Aristea nigrescens

Aristea oligocephala


Aristea palustris


Aristea pauciflora


Aristea platycaulis


Aristea pusilla


Aristea racemosa

Aristea recisa


Aristea rigidifolia


Aristea rupicola


Aristea schizolaena


Aristea simplex


Aristea singularis


Aristea spiralis

Aristea teretifolia

Aristea torulosa

[= Aristea woodii]

See Flora of Zimbabwe (under Aristea woodii)

Aristea zeyheri



Three main types of pollination have been discerned in this genus (Goldblatt & Manning 2000):

  • Most species are pollinated by bees and have flowers that open in the early morning and fade by midday or by early afternoon.
  • A few species in the southwestern Cape are pollinated by monkey beetles (Hopliini) and have flowers with dark markings that last the entire day.
  • Aristea spiralis produces nectar and is probably pollinated by long-proboscid flies in the genus Philoliche (Diptera: Tabanidae).


  • Goldblatt, P. 1995. Notes on Aristea Aiton (Iridaceae: Nivenioideae): taxonomy, chromosome cytology, and phylogeny. Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden 82: 139–145.
  • Goldblatt, P., Dold, A.P. and Manning, J.C. 2005. Three cryptic new species of Aristea (Iridaceae) from southern Africa. Bothalia 35(1): 1-6.
  • Goldblatt, P. & Le Thomas, A. 1997. Palynology, phylogenetic reconstruction and the classification of the Afro-Madagascan genus Aristea Aiton (Iridaceae). Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden 84: 263–284. 
  • Goldblatt, P., Le Thomas, A. & Suarez-Cervera, M. 1996. Deux types polliniques originaux dans le genre Aristea (Iridaceae–Nivenioideae): implications phylogéniques. Grana 35: 87–96.
  • Goldblatt, P. & Manning, J.C. 1997. New species of Aristea (Iridaceae) from South Africa and notes on the taxonomy and pollination biology of Section Pseudaristea. Novon 7: 137–144.
  • Goldblatt, P. & Manning, J.C. 2000. Iridaceae. In: In: Seed Plants of Southern Africa (ed. O.A. Leistner). Strelitzia 10: 623-638. National Botanical Institute, Pretoria.
  • Oliver, E.G.H. 1976. Aristea lugens. Flowering Plants of Africa 43: t.1708.
  • Vincent, P.L.D. 1985. A partial revision of the genus Aristea (Iridaceae) in South Africa. South African Journal of Botany 51: 209–252.
  • Weimarck, H. 1940. Monograph of the genus Aristea. Acta universitatis lundensis (Lunds universitets årsskrift) N.F. Avd. 2, 36(1): 1-140.