The e-Flora of South Africa (e-Flora) project was initiated in 2013 to produce an online, open-access Flora in response to global efforts to conserve our plant biodiversity.

South Africa is popular for its rich flora, containing an estimated 8% of the world’s vascular plants, three global biodiversity hotspots and approximately 21 000 species. It is important to have a fundamental knowledge of what our biodiversity consists of to conserve it. This type of information is often documented in a Flora, an inventory of all known plant species in a predefined geographic area.

The e-Flora deals with South African indigenous plants and is built on the South African National Plant Checklist. Information that deals with classification, common names, morphology, distribution, habitat, diagnostic characters, images or illustrations, and literature references are disseminated via species pages within the Biodiversity Advisor. The e-Flora is built on sound research obtained from published information and will be expanded in future to include information for families, genera and naturalised species.

Purpose of the e-Flora project

The current state of natural resources is under pressure as a result of climate change, degradation and over exploitation, which poses a risk to the wellbeing of all humans. People are dependent on plants as a source of natural products such as food, medicine and services (e.g. carbon sequestration, recycling of waste products, purification of water and air, decreased flood damage, etc.).

There is a global urgency to manage our resources responsibly in order to secure a sustainable society. A Global Strategy for Plant Conservation (GSPC) was established to promote conservation through determining what the plant diversity consists of and making information about the plants easily accessible. Target 1 of the GSPC (2011–2020) stated that a global Flora should be constructed and published online. As a result, the World Flora Online was established, which now supports six targets of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework. Creating a global Flora is an enormous task with an estimated 400 000 known species in the world. To achieve this, several countries and institutions have to participate in this major event. South Africa agreed to participate and the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) was appointed as the national coordinator of the project. Data from the South African National Plant Checklist and e-Flora has already been incorporated into the World Flora Online and is available as part of the World Flora Online Plant List and Portal respectively. Through achieving these goals, South Africa has kept to its international obligations and commitments made to the United Nations (Millennium Development Goal 7, to ensure environmental sustainability), the Convention on Biological Diversity (Aichi Target 12, conserving threatened species; Aichi Target 19, building a knowledge base of the country’s biodiversity and share the knowledge with the global community) and the GSPC 2011–2020.

The e-Flora project enables quick and efficient access to plant biodiversity data (more details are available in the e-Flora policy). Information from the e-Flora served through the Biodiversity Advisor website provides baseline data that will benefit downstream applications such as conservation activities, provincial stewardship programs, spatial-, land-use- and protected area plans, invasive species management, ecosystem delimitation, education, tourism, research and more.

How the e-Flora was created and how it is maintained

South Africa is in a fortunate position because of an active botanical community that have gathered information and published treatments for over two centuries. The timeframe of the GSPC did not leave opportunity to create floristic treatments from scratch and as a result, it was decided to aggregate existing information from various sources to populate the e-Flora database. Permissions were acquired from copyright holders to re-use information, hardcopy texts digitised, and relevant bits of information extracted from publications to store in the e-Flora database and disseminate online.

The e-Flora is a live resource that will be maintained into the future according to updates captured in the South African National Plant Checklist. It will also be expanded in future to aggregate information for families, genera, and naturalised species.

What you can do to help

Any interested party is invited to use the Biodiversity Advisor and provide comments on the usability and functionality of the website or report errors found. Reporting should take place via the ‘Report error’ button on species pages while logged in to the platform. Your constructive feedback will be much appreciated!

Research Grade images from iNaturalist are used to populate the Gallery tab and distribution maps located on the Overview and Records tabs on the Biodiversity Advisor. All botanical enthusiasts are invited to take high quality pictures that captures diagnostic characters to enable others to perform accurate identifications, and upload images to iNatuarlist. In addition, accurate identifications can now be made more easily using the floristic information provided on the species pages on the Biodiversity Advisor.

Technical details for descriptive information displayed on the Overview tab on the Biodiversity Advisor

Descriptive information from multiple sources were used to populate the e-Flora database when permission was granted by the copyright holder. Texts were extracted from publications and were not disseminated in its original, printed/published format. Some species may have more than one description recorded and can be accessed via the ‘more’ button on the species page. Where multiple descriptions are recorded, the description displayed first was chosen based on one of the following criteria: 1) Latest treatment, 2) published as part of a taxonomic revision or larger treatment, 3) most comprehensive information available, 4) English treatment. Where permission was not granted to use the latest treatment, the next available treatment was used or a reference to the treatment provided instead of a description. Last-mentioned scenario was used only in exceptional cases. In some situations, the only available treatment dates back to the protologue and are obvious areas for future research. All other treatments given after the first description are ordered chronologically.

Descriptive texts are usually stored in the e-Flora database under the name as it appears in the original publication it was taken from. If the name is currently considered to be a synonym, the description will be displayed on the species page of the accepted name. Each description on the species page is associated with its reference, giving attribution to the original source. If the published name is a synonym, the reference of the description will state the name under which it was published.


The SANBI would like to thank all the publishers and authors of publications incorporated into the e-Flora database for their valuable work performed over many years. Authors and publishers are acknowledged with a citation on the particular species page on the Biodiversity Advisor where the relevant texts are displayed. The e-Flora was made possible with the help from many individuals, supporting organisations and funders, and are acknowledged below.

  • Clare Archer
  • Robert Archer
  • Cynthia Baloyi
  • Nicola Bergh
  • Pieter Bester
  • Christopher Cupido
  • Brenda Daly
  • Clausanne Esterhuizen
  • Elizma Fouche
  • Anne-Lise Fourie
  • Graham Grieve
  • Mpumelele Gumede
  • Paul Herman
  • Lerato Hoveka
  • Thulisile Jaca
  • Aarifah Jakoet
  • Ndileka Jaxa
  • Rukaya Johaadien
  • Robetta Kandawire
  • Ronell Klopper
  • Marinda Koekemoer
  • Talia Krishanlal
  • Masedi Kwenampe
  • Colin Lineker
  • Natasha Lombard
  • Stoffel Lombard
  • Anthony Magee
  • Luvo Magoswana
  • Thuli Makhoba
  • Lufuno Makwarela
  • Thembeka Malwane
  • John Manning
  • Tlou Manyelo
  • Caroline Mashau
  • Kagiso Mashego
  • Shalom Mashile
  • Thabo Masupa
  • Mbali Mkhize
  • Ofentse Mmako
  • Katleho Mofolo
  • Khumo Morare
  • Mashiane Mothogoane
  • Liada Musandiwa
  • Prinavin Naidoo
  • Millicent Ndou
  • Mkhipheni Ngwenya
  • Tandiwe Nkonki
  • Mduduzi Nkwanyana
  • Frank Nonyane
  • Lesiba Papo
  • Ntombifikile Phaliso
  • Nonkululo Phephu
  • Magdil Pienaar
  • Gideon Rademeyer
  • Fhatani Ranwhashe
  • Kiara Ricketts
  • Joseph Sebola
  • David Sengani
  • William Sepheka
  • Sedzani Simali
  • Yashica Singh
  • Gideon Smith
  • Dee Snijman
  • Hester Steyn
  • Nonkululeko Swelankomo
  • Aluwani Tshiila
  • Barbara Turpin
  • Jacques van Rooy
  • Janine Victor
  • Lize von Staden
  • Rudi von Staden
  • Ashton Welcome
  • Wilhelmina Welman
  • Jan Wicht
  • Pieter Winter
  • Wynston Woodenberg
  • Development team at Paradigm
  • National Research Foundation
  • The Royal Society
  • World Flora Online

How to contact us

Send Marianne le Roux (e-Flora Coordinator) an email for more information.

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