South Africa has remarkably diverse plant life for a country of its size, comprising thousands of different species, many of them native. Grasslands cover most of the plateau areas, resembling a prairie on the nearly treeless High Veld. The Bush Veld is characterized by savanna vegetation, consisting of mixed grassland with trees and bushes such as the baobab tree in Limpopo Province and the mopani tree in the central Bush Veld. On the Great Karoo and Little Karoo, the grasslands are sparse. Vegetation consists of coarse desert grasses that grow in tufts and become green only after rain. The semidesert Northern Cape is transformed after spring rains with blooming wildflowers in the Namaqualand region.
About 90,000 sq km (about 30,000 sq mi) of the Cape Peninsula and the southern part of Western Cape Province contain the distinctive fynbos biome (ecological community). Although relatively small in area, this region constitutes one of the six recognized floral kingdoms of the world. It includes 8,500 plant species, of which more than 6,000 are indigenous. This biome is home to the protea, an evergreen shrub for which South Africa is renowned.
The only significant forests in South Africa lie along the coasts of Western Cape and Eastern Cape provinces, although there are patches of protected rain forest in the Eastern Low Veld.
Hardwood species such as yellowwood, ironwood, and lemonwood trees are found in these areas, but softwoods are scarce; coniferous pines from Europe and North America have been planted to provide timber and wood pulp.
Numerous large mammals, including lions, elephants, zebras, leopards, monkeys, baboons, hippopotamuses, rhinoceroses, and antelopes, are indigenous to South Africa. For the most part such animals are found only on game reserves. Much of Kruger National Park, the oldest game reserve, was a protected area as early as 1898. It covers an area of 19,485 sq km (7,523 sq mi) along the Mozambique border.
Kruger National Park includes nearly every species of indigenous wildlife and is particularly noted for the small black rhino population built up by the National Parks Board. Other notable reserves include Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park (shared with Botswana) in the northwest; Addo Elephant National Park, near Port Elizabeth; and Mountain Zebra National Park, near Cradock. Bird life is abundant and includes the larger birds: ostrich, francolin (a type of partridge), quail, guinea fowl, and grouse. Snakes are common in most of the country. "South Africa" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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