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South Africa’s Western Cape is more botanically diverse than the richest tropical rainforest in South America, including the Amazon. Protecting this strikingly unique and beautiful plant kingdom is a WWF conservation priority.

Fynbos is known for its high diversity of rare plant species. Cape Floral Kingdom, Western Cape, ... rel= © Martin HARVEY / WWF

A plant paradise
South Africa's Cape floral kingdom is one of the richest areas in the world for plant biodiversity.
Of the 9,000 plant species found here, a majority are native fynbos vegetation, which covers the region's magnificent mountains, and lowland valleys and coastal plains.

When you first look across an expanse of fynbos, you may not at first be impressed by the collection of low scrubby plants and a few bushes. But when you look a bit closer you will see the sheer diversity of these numerous species found nowhere else in the world.

The country's national flower, the king protea (Protea cynaroides), is perhaps the most famous species of fynbos, along with ericas and reeds.

Paradise lost

A large number of fynbos species are very rare and in danger of becoming extinct.

Constantly under threat from invading plant species, particularly wattle and acacia trees from Australia, as well as from urban expansion and land conversion for agriculture, WWF is committed to protecting the biodiversity of the Cape floral kingdom through a number of conservation projects and by supporting the Cape Action for People and the Environment programme. 

Parts of the fynbos have also been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and protected in a number of reserves.
Cape Peninsula National Park Table Mountain with endemic "fynbos" vegetation. Typical of ... 
© WWF / Martin HARVEY
Fynbos vegetation can be found throughout Table Mountain National Park, Western Cape, South Africa.
© WWF / Martin HARVEY

Not just about plants

Although the Fynbos is known for its plants, the region is also home to a diverse number of unique animal species.

Found only in the southwestern Cape, the geometric tortoise is one of the world's most endangered reptiles. © WWF
You won't find any of Africa's Big Five here - lion, elephant, leopard, black rhino and buffalo - but rather a number of smaller mammals such as baboons, jackals, duikers, and bontebok and gysbok antelopes, which are dependent on the fynbos for their survival. Other Fynbos species include the rare geometric tortoise, the endangered Table Mountain ghost frog and the endemic Cape sugarbird.
 Cape sugarbird, endemic to fynbos region and main pollinator of proteaceae flowers, Republic of South Africa.

© WWF / Martin HARVEY

Where is Fynbos?
Fynbos is highlighted in orange.

View WWF Critical Regions of the World in a larger map

Facts & Figures

  • Covering about 90,000km2, the Cape floral kingdom contains 3% of the world’s plant species and 20% of Africa's.
  • Of the 6 floral kingdoms - Antarctic, Australasian, Boreal, Neotropic, Palaeotropic and Cape - the Cape is the smallest and richest, with the highest known concentration of plant species: 1,300 per 10,000km2.
  • The fynbos constitutes about 80% of the Cape floral kingdom; of the more than 8,500 fynbos species, nearly 6,000 of them are endemic.
  • 1,700 fynbos plant species are threatened with extinction.
  • The word fynbos comes from the Dutch for fine-leaved plants.
  • Many fynbos plants depend on fire for their survival, some needing the heat for their seeds to germinate.
  • Many popular garden plants, such as geraniums and freesias have their origin in fynbos.

The king protea (,i>Protea cynaroides ) is the national flower of South Africa.
© The king protea is the national flower of South Africa. © Martin HARVEY / WWF

King protea, the national flower of South Africa.