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biodiversity explorer

the web of life in southern Africa

Family: Ericaceae (erica and rhododendron family)

Life > eukaryotes > Archaeoplastida > Chloroplastida > Charophyta > Streptophytina > Plantae (land plants) > Tracheophyta (vascular plants) > Euphyllophyta > Lignophyta (woody plants) > Spermatophyta (seed plants) > Angiospermae (flowering plants) > Eudicotyledons > Core Eudicots > Asterids > Order: Ericales

About 126 genera and 3995 species, occurring worldwide but rare in lowland tropical regions. Two genera and 753 species are native to southern Africa, and an additional nine genera and 24 species are cultivated in the region. All except one of the native species are in the genus Erica, which is particularly diverse in fynbos.

Genera native to southern Africa

List from Oliver (2000)


About 860 species, native to Africa, Madagascar and Europe, with 752 species native to southern Africa and a further two species that are cultivated in the region. The greatest diversity is in the Western Cape and Eastern Cape.

Erica glandulosa

Vaccinium (Cranberry, Blueberry genus)

About 450 species, found worldwide with greatest diversity in South America and SE Asia. One species, Vaccinium exul, is native to southern Africa, occurring on the Drakensberg escarpment in Mpumalanga. At least three species are cultivated in southern Africa, including Cranberry Vaccinium macrocarpon and Blueberry (mainly Vaccinium corymbosum, Vaccinium australe and hybrids), which originate from North America.


Other genera, cultivated in southern Africa

List from Glen (2002). The species is listed for genera with only one species represented in southern Africa.

Arbutus unedo (Strawberry tree)

Native from Ireland through to western Asia. Berries are used in jams, jellies and fruit wines, as well as in drinks and liqueurs.


Two species cultivated: Arctostaphylos bicolor (native to California) and Arctostaphylos uva-ursi (native to northern cicumpolar regions).


Daboecia cantabrica (St. Dabeoc's heath)

Native from Ireland through to Portugal.


Enkianthus perulatus

Native to Japan and Taiwan.


Kalmia latifolia (Mountain laurel)

Native to eastern USA.

Leucothoe fontanesiana

Native to southeastern USA.


Oxydendrum arboreum (Sourwood, Tree sorrel)

Native to eastern USA.



Two species cultivated: Pieris formosa (Bolú) (native from India to Vietnam) and Pieris japonica (Asebi, Lily-of-the-valley bush) (native to China, Taiwan and Japan).


Rhododendron (rhododendrons, azaleas)

Over 1000 species, native to the Northern Hemisphere, extending south to southeastern Asia and Australasia. Nine species are cultivated in southern Africa.



  • Oliver, E.G.H. 2000. Ericaceae. In: Seed Plants of Southern Africa (ed. O.A. Leistner). Strelitzia 10: 246-248.. National Botanical Institute, Pretoria.

  • Glen, H.F. 2002. Cultivated Plants of Southern Africa. Jacana, Johannesburg.