Original Research

The distribution of the dwarf succulent genus Conophytum N.E.Br. (Aizoaceae) in southern Africa

Andrew J. Young, Philip G. Desmet
Bothalia | Vol 46, No 1 | a2019 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/abc.v46i1.2019 | © 2016 Andrew J. Young, Philip G. Desmet | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 06 October 2015 | Published: 30 May 2016

About the author(s)

Andrew J. Young, School of Natural Sciences and Psychology, Liverpool John Moores University, United Kingdom
Philip G. Desmet, Ecosol GIS, Pretoria, South Africa


Background: The dwarf succulent genus Conophytum N.E.Br. is one of the most species rich in the Aizoceae. The genus is most closely associated with a region of high floral endemism and biodiversity, the Succulent Karoo biome in south-western Africa.

Objectives: To examine the distribution of Conophytum in south-western Namibia and in the Northern and Western Cape Provinces of South Africa.

Method: A database comprising 2798 locality records representing all known species and subspecies of the genus Conophytum has been constructed.

Results: The genus is primarily restricted to the arid winter-rainfall region of the Northern and Western Cape Provinces of South Africa and south-western Namibia, within the Greater Cape Floristic Region. Whilst taxa are found across all the main biomes in the region (the Succulent Karoo, Nama Karoo, Desert and Fynbos biomes), 94% of Conophytum taxa are found only in the Succulent Karoo biome and predominantly (88% of taxa) within South Africa. Endemism within specific bioregions is a feature of the genus and ~60% of taxa are endemic to the Succulent Karoo. Approximately 28% of all taxa could be considered point endemics. Whilst the genus has a relatively wide geographical range, we identify a pronounced centre of endemism in the southern Richtersveld.

Conclusion: The genus Conophytum can be used as a good botanical model for studying patterns of diversity and speciation in the Succulent Karoo biome, the effects of climate change on dwarf succulents, and for informing conservation planning efforts.


Succulent Karoo; Conophytum; Aizoaceae


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Crossref Citations

1. A first phylogenetic hypothesis for the diverse genus Conophytum (Ruschieae, Ruschioideae, Aizoaceae) suggests convergent evolution of floral syndromes
Robyn Faye Powell, James Stephen Boatwright, Cornelia Klak, Anthony Richard Magee
Perspectives in Plant Ecology, Evolution and Systematics  vol: 55  first page: 125671  year: 2022  
doi: 10.1016/j.ppees.2022.125671