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biodiversity explorer

the web of life in southern Africa

Family: Verbenaceae (teak, lantana family)

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 > Asterids > Euasterid I > Order: Lamiales

There are a total of 34 genera and 1175 species (worldwide), of which seven genera and 37 species native to southern Africa. An additional three genera and 12 species have become naturalised in the region, and an additional two genera and 14 species are cultivated in southern Africa. A number of genera have been moved from the Verbenaceae to the Lamiaceae

Genera native to southern Africa

List from Retief (2000). Note that the genera Clerodendrum, Karomia, Premna and Vitex have been moved from the Verbenaceae to the Lamiaceae.


About 30 species, native to Africa, Madagascar and Arabian Peninsula to West India, with 14 species native to southern Africa.



About 150 species, native to tropical America and Africa. There are seven indigenous species in southern Africa, three species naturalised and a further two species that are cultivated in the region.

Lantana camara


About 200 species, native to tropical Africa and America, with eight indigenous species in southern Africa.



The 11 species are found in warm and tropical areas, with one, Phyla nodiflora, native to southern Africa (recorded from Zimbabwe, see Flora of Zimbabwe).



One species native to southern Africa - Plexipus caespitosus.



About 20 species, native to tropical and subtropical Asia, Asia Minor, Africa and parts of America. There are five species native to southern Africa .



About 200 species, native mainly to tropical and temperate America although there are also 2-3 species native to the Old World. One species is native to southern Africa and five species have been introduced to the region, which in summer rainfall areas have become common weeds along roadsides and in open spaces. An additional three species are cultivated but not naturalised in the region.


Genera naturalised in southern Africa

List from Retief (2000).

Citharexylum (zither wood)

Five species cultivated, one of which has become naturalised in Zimbabwe. The wood is used for making musical instruments.



About 30 species, native in the Caribbean and South America. Duranta erecta, originating from Argentina, was introduced to southern Africa as a garden ornamental shrub but has become naturalised. An additional species, Duranta stenostachya, is cultivated in the region.



The 65 species are native mainly to tropical and warm regions of America although there are a few in the Old World. Two species have become naturalised in southern Africa, and an additional species is 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 cultivated in southern Africa. Some genera listed under Verbenaceae in Glen (2002) are now classified in the Lamiaceae.


Two species cultivated: Aloysia ligustrina (native from the USA to Argentina) and Aloysia triphylla (Lemon verbena) (native from Mexico to Argentina).


Petrea volubilis (Petrea, Purple wreath)

Native from Mexico to Brazil.



  • Retief, E. 2000. Verbenaceae. In: Seed Plants of Southern Africa (ed. O.A. Leistner). Strelitzia 10: 557-559. National Botanical Institute, Pretoria.

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