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biodiversity explorer

the web of life in southern Africa

Family: Commelinaceae

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

Forty genera and 652 species (tropical and temperate regions), with seven genera and 48 species native to southern Africa, and two genera and two species naturalised. An additional four genera and 15 species are cultivated in the region.

Genera native to southern Africa

Information mainly from Fish (2000).


About 62 species, mainly occurring in tropical Africa, with 13 species native to southern Africa.


Nine species, native to Africa and Madagascar, with one species, Coleotrype natalensis, native to southern Africa.


About 170 species, occurring in the warmer regions of the world, with 20 species in southern Africa. Features of the capsules and seeds are import in species identification.


About 50 species, native to warm regions of Africa, Asia and northern Australia, with nine species native to southern Africa.


About 20 species, native to warm regions of Africa, Asia, Australia, Central and South America, with three species native to southern Africa.


About 50 species, occurring in the tropics and warm temperate regions worldwide, with the greatest diversity in tropical Asia. Murdannia simplex is the only species native to southern Africa. In addition, Murdannia clarkeana is cultivated in the region.


One species, Triceratella drummondii, native to Zimbabwe and Mozambique.


Genera naturalised in southern Africa

Information mainly from Fish (2000).


Eleven species worldwide, of which one Gibasis pellucida is cultivated in southern Africa. It occasionally escapes to become naturalised in high rainfall areas.


About 60 species, native to North and South America. At least 10 species have been cultivated in southern African gardens of which one, Tradescantia flumensis, has become naturalised in Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal.

Other genera, cultivated in southern Africa

Information from Glen (2002).

Callisia repens

Native to Central America.


Dichorisandra thyrsiflora

Native to Brazil.


Palisota mannii

Native to tropical Africa.


Tinantia undata

Native to Central America.



  • Fish, L. 2000. Commelinaceae. In: Seed Plants of Southern Africa (ed. O.A. Leistner). Strelitzia 10: 591-593. National Botanical Institute, Pretoria.

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