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biodiversity explorer

the web of life in southern Africa

Family: Lythraceae (pomegranate family)

[= Punicaceae, Trapaceae]

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 II > Order: Myrtales

Thirty-one genera and 620 species, widely distributed with Seven genera and 47 species native to southern Africa, two genera and three species that are naturalised, and a further seven genera and 19 species that are cultivated in the region.

Genera native to southern Africa

List from Bredenkamp (2000).


About 25 species (tropical, subtropical and temperate regions), with four species native to southern Africa.


One species: Galpinia transvaalica (Transvaal privet), native to southern Africa (Mozambique, Zimbabwe, eastern South Africa).



One species native to southern Africa: Hionanthera garciae (recorded from Zimbabwe).



About 50-70 species worldwide, of which 28 species are native to southern Africa. In addition, Nesaea calcicola (native to Madagascar) is cultivated in the region.


One species native to southern Africa: Pemphis acidula (recorded from Mozambique).



About 40 species, found in warmer regions; 11 species are native to southern Africa.


One variable, aquatic species: Trapa natans (Water chestnut, Water caltrops, Saligot, Horn nut, Jesuit's nut, Ling nut, Singhara nut)

Species naturalised in southern Africa

List from Bredenkamp (2000).


Three species, native from Texas to Argentina and also Jamaica. Heimia myrtifolia has become naturalised in southern Africa.



Total of 35 species, widely distributed. Although there are no native species in southern Africa, Lythrum hyssopifolium and Lythrum salicaria (Purple loosestrife) (from temperate Old World), have been introduced to the region and become naturalised. The latter species is a declared Category 1 invasive plant in South Africa. In addition, Lythrum flexuosum (from Spain) is cultivated in the region.


Other genera, cultivated in southern Africa

List from Glen (2002). Species are listed where there is only one species cultivated in the genus.

Duabanga grandiflora (Pedada bukit)

Native from Sikkim (state of India at foot of Himalayas) to Malaysia.



About 260 species, native to warm regions of the Americas. Seven species and one hybrid cultivated in southern Africa.

Cuphea ignea (Cigar flower)


Two species cultivated: Lafoensia pacari (Pacari, Dedaleira Amarilla) (native to Brazil) and Lafoensia vandelliana (Piqui amarelho, Pau de bicho) (native from Bolivia to Brazil).


Lawsonia inermis (Henna)

Native to North Africa, SW Asia and northern Australasia. Leaves contain lawsone, which is a dye molecule that binds with protein and renders the proteinaceous substance a reddish-brown colour. In this way it is used it is used extensively for dying hair, skin, fingernails, leather, silk and wool. See Wikipedia for more.



About 50 species, native to Asia, Australia and Oceania. Four species are cultivated in southern Africa as ornamental trees in gardens.

Lagerstroemia indica

Punica granatum (Pomegranate)

Indigenous from Turkey to Central Asia. Cultivated for its edible fruit. Cultivated plants in southern Africa are mainly in gardens but it is also grown commercially on a small scale.

Woodfordia fruticosa (Fire-flame Bush, Shinajitea, Woodfordia)

Native from Tanzania through to Indonesia.



  • Bredenkamp, C.L. 2000. Lythraceae. In: Seed Plants of Southern Africa (ed. O.A. Leistner). Strelitzia 10: 344-345. National Botanical Institute, Pretoria.

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