Biodiversity & Conservation

, Volume 5, Issue 5, pp 575–589 | Cite as

Profiling a besieged flora: endemic and threatened plants of the Cape Peninsula, South Africa

  • H. Trinder-Smith
  • R. M. Cowling
  • H. P. Linder


The Cape Peninsula (area: 471 km2), situated at the south-western extremity of the Cape Floristic Region, has exceptionally high plant species richness (2285 species and infraspecific taxa) and numbers of endemic (90; 88 species and two infraspecific) and threatened (141; 138 species and three infraspecific) taxa (termed species from here on). This biodiversity is threatened by urban development and the spread of invasive alien plants. Peninsula endemics are concentrated in a few, predominantly species-rich families and these correspond well with endemic-rich families in other areas of the Cape Floristic Region. A high level of similarity exists between families with threatened and families with endemic species. A frequency analysis of the biological traits of both endemic and threatened species shows that low growing, ant-dispersed shrubs are over-represented in both groups. Endemics are most likely to be non-sprouters, but threatened plants do not have a specific post-fire regeneration strategy. Threatened species have higher frequencies of geophytes, sprouters and wind-dispersed species compared to endemic species. Numbers of endemic and threatened species are not randomly distributed with regard to occurrence in vegetation types and patterns are similar for both groups. The habitat and biological profiles of both endemic and threatened species suggest that they are highly vulnerable to extinction as a result of increasing rates of alien plant infestation, urbanization and inappropriate fire regimes.


Cape Peninsula fynbos endemism rarity taxonomic profile biological profile threats 


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Copyright information

© Chapman & Hall 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • H. Trinder-Smith
    • 1
  • R. M. Cowling
    • 2
  • H. P. Linder
    • 1
  1. 1.Bolus Herbarium, Department of BotanyUniversity of Cape TownRondeboschRepublic of South-Africa
  2. 2.Institute for Plant Conservation, Department of BotanyUniversity of Cape TownRondeboschRepublic of South Africa

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