Adapted to different climates
Iconic desert trees
Trees often have very deep roots – for example, the camelhorn – to tap into any ground water. Acacia (also known as the Thorn Tree) and Baobab trees also flourish across dry regions.
Africa’s flora is dictated by the local climate, and its natural vegetation is, therefore, very varied – from fertile rainforests where rain falls virtually every month of the year to arid desert landscapes where years can pass without rain.
Even deserts have plants which not only survive, but flourish. Cactuses, for example, have very thick skins to hold in moisture and thorns to stop animals from eating them. Succulents also protect their swollen leaves of water with spines or sometimes with toxins.
Trees in the tropics are often home to epiphytes – plants which grow on other plants but don’t absorb nutrients from their hosts. This includes orchids and bromeliads, which have upturned leaves to catch rainwater. There are over 50,000 different kinds of epiphytes in the world’s rainforests.
However, tropical rainforests contain the greatest biodiversity of plants and trees. And in the deepest and most unexplored regions of the Congo basin, new ones are still being discovered.
The African steppe lands are characterised by grasses – long grass in the wetter areas, and short in the drier. Some grasses, for example across the floodplains of Zambia, have adapted themselves to survive both dry and water-logged conditions.
Africa's mountain and highland areas also contain unique flora which is adapted to the cooler conditions of the continent's altitudes.