Home » Projects » The Flora of Namibia

The Flora of Namibia

The administration of the Flora of Namibia Project is housed in the National Herbarium (WIND).

What is a flora?

A Flora is an account of the plants of a particular region and its main function is to provide a means of identification and an easy means of reference that can be used by a broad spectrum of people, including researchers, extension officers, farmers and the general public.

Floras have descriptions, keys and illustrations of all or some of the plants of a particular area or country.

The Flora of Namibia seeks to bring together existing and new knowledge gained from the study of our indigenous and naturalised plants, to form an up-to-date knowledge base in order to promote knowledge and sustainable utilisation of this resource. With the Flora of Namibia Project, we are poised and obligated to amass the legacy of our botanists into a modern Flora of Namibia. This will open our natural world to a new generation of botanists and natural historians who can further expand our knowledge and contribute to the conservation of our rich natural heritage.

 Why are we writing the Flora of Namibia?

This Project is devoted to produce the Flora of Namibia, gathering the legacy of more than two centuries of Namibia botanists into a modern work. This Project will:

  • Provide a guide to the identification, habitat, status, and distribution of Namibia's plants for professional and the general public or end-users; 
  • Assimilate and build on the rich tradition of botanical exploration in Namibia;
  • Incorporate current genetic-based information in addition to traditional taxonomic approaches; and
  • Increase interest in the appreciation and conservation of Namibia's flora.

The diverse riches of our landscape have attracted many people to this country. In the1900s, botanical work in Namibia exploded with the development of the WIND herbarium. Over the past years, detailed geologic information, soil maps, and aerial photography have allowed botanists to discover numerous hidden botanical hot spots where many species new to science have been found.

Some of the reasons why we need this flora are as follows:

  • The botanical community has identified the need for an updated checklist of Namibian plant species
  • Namibia's students need access to information about our plant life
  • The Flora will promote conservation
  • A modern Flora of Namibia will facilitate sound management decisions
  • There is no modern Flora of Namibia
  • To meet national and international obligations

The compilation and publication of the revised list of plants of any country marks a new stage of progress in the knowledge of its botany.

Who might use this flora?

  • Farmers and extension officers
  • Students, teachers of environmental and biological sciences and environmental scientists
  • Conservation groups
  • Industry including environmental consultants and wetlands biologists
  • State and local government agencies, land planners
  • Freelance environmental practicioners
  • Foresters, park and wildlife resources personnel
  • Amateur botanists and tour guides
  • Gardeners and the general public

Expected outputs

  • An English Flora of Namibia, with updated keys, distribution maps and information
  • A user-friendly computerised database on the plant species of Namibia that can be made generally available
  • Field guides for the use of tourists, guides and the Namibian public, including students
  • Scientific and popular publications to promote understanding and sustainable use of the Namibian Flora.

Key impacts

  • Easier access for Namibians to indigenous plant information, thus empowering Namibians to work in this field which at the present moment is dominated by consultants
  • Facilitated production of publications and computer-based information on plants, thus promoting sectors such as tourism and environmental education
  • Identification of commercial potential of plants via increased awareness of the present and potential uses of indigenous plants
  • Improving the quality of life for Namibians by providing information to promote the development of new sustainable sources of income
  • Meeting the obligations of the Government of Namibia to the Convention on Biodiversity by conducting research on botanical diversity in Namibia.

Methodology

  • Fieldwork in under-collected and under-researched areas
  • Collation of information on useful and poisonous plants
  • Taxonomic updating of sections of the old Flora by reference to the latest literature and the National Plant collection
  • Translating the Prodromus from German to English
  • Undertaking taxonomic revisions of the Prodromus, a task which needs input from the respective specialists in these families.

Agreed format/layout of the flora

  • Family description
  • Key to genera
    • Genus Author (& place of publication if type is from Namibia)
    • Important literature such as recent revision/s
    • Description (± 10 lines long)
    • Worldwide number of species; distribution
  • Key to species
    • Species Author (& place of publication if type from Namibia)
    • Type (if from Namibia)
    • Synonyms (whose types are from Namibia)
    • Description (10-20 lines long)
    • Habitat; flowering time; known range in altitude; distribution in Namibian districts; worldwide distribution; endemism
    • Representative specimens
    • For each species: distribution map; one line-drawing for each genus

There will be a general emphasis on current nomenclature, according to the provisions of the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature.

Agreed taxonomy

  • The content of the new flora is based on the latest published taxonomic accounts, assessed against current regional and taxonomic expert opinion
  • Representing a consensus view of Namibian plants for the purposes of communication at a national level
  • Have general acceptance by the Namibian botanical community
  • Be a consensus view of the Namibian flora at national level for national purposes
  • Use of synonyms relevant to Namibia
  • Cross reference to alternative taxonomic views

Progress so far

  • Translation of the "Prodromus einer Flora von Südwestafrika" from German to English has been successfully completed. This flora constituted 163 plant families and 723 genera that were all translated
  • Nomenclatural correctness has been improved
  • New collections have helped to better the correctness of former plant names; and an additional support to this advance are critical notes
  • The project's revisionary work has revealed areas of interest in the systematic botany of Namibia.

A revision of Namibian Apocynaceae - not yet published

The Apocynaceae family (Hoodia family) is known to contain species of economical and horticultural potential. As a result of this, the family was chosen to serve as the prototype for all the other revisionary works to be done under the Flora of Namibia Project.

The following products have been produced to date:

  • "A revision of Namibian Apocynaceae – a treatment for the flora of Namibia"
  • A poster "What Hoodia species is it?" [jpg 633 kb]
  • A booklet "Hoodia in Namibia" [pdf 4.4 Mb]
  • Flora of Namibia: Anthericaceae

Outcomes

  • Scientifically defensible and appropriate information provided for legislative purposes
  • Collaborative research and networking opportunities
  • An agreed methodology which works
  • Standardisation of taxon names across the country
  • Increased taxonomic knowledge
  • Highlighting resolution of taxonomic problems in the flora
  • Encourage publication of many undescribed species

Ms Frances Chase

202 2021