Succulents of South Africa – A guide to the regional diversity

By Ernst van Jaarsveld, Ben-Erick van Wyk and Gideon Smith. Color illustrations by Elise Bodley

succulents of south africa


This 144 page book is an excellent guide and introduction to the succulent flora of South Africa and the different regions where they occur.  This book is not currently part of the COC&SS library and may be out of print.

This book is not a comprehensive guide to all succulents in South Africa, but it does a great job in explaining the reasons for the diversity and all the different habitats and succulent plant regions found in South Africa.

After a brief introduction the authors include a general description of the types of succulents.  This is followed by sections about survival strategies, reasons for the diversity of succulents in South Africa and the Geology and Climate of South Africa.

A good map showing the different succulent regions in South Africa precedes a section that discusses every succulent region in the country.

Each chapter includes photos of representative habitats, a map, nice drawings and some photographs illustrating the more representative succulents, including some endemics, found in the different regions described.  Location, climate and tips about exploring the different areas is mentioned for each region.

The regions discussed are:  The Richtersveld, Bushmanland, the Knersvlatke, the Sandveld, the Tanqua Karoo, Fynbos, the Great Karoo, the Upper Karoo, the Little Karoo, the Southern Cape, the Noorsveld, the Eastern Cape, the Subtropical Coast, the Grasslands and the Bushveld.

The book ends with a useful book list for further reading.


a- Endemic means an organism is only found in a certain region, country or specific geographical area.

b- There are many names of plants and some places that will seem foreign to the readers.  These are all written in Afrikaans, one of the many official languages of South Africa, although before Apartheid ended in the early 90’s, Afrikaans was the only official language of the Republic of South Africa.  Afrikaans, the main language of white South Africans, is a West Germanic language derived from the Dutch language that was spoken by the early white settlers of South Africa (Source: Wikipedia).

c– Apartheid (from the Afrikaans word for “apartness”), was a former policy of segregation as well as a political and economic form of discrimination against non-European groups in the Republic of South Africa. Source: Wikipedia.

d- Note that there are no cacti in South Africa as the Cactaceae family is only originally found in the Americas.

e- The word VELD or VELDT is used to describe many of the different regions in the book is an Afrikaans word that means field.  It mainly refers to the rural open spaces of South Africa or Southern Africa. Source: Wikipedia.

Reviewed by Rosario Douglas