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Order: Poales

Life > eukaryotes > Archaeoplastida > Chloroplastida > Charophyta > Streptophytina > Plantae (land plants) > Tracheophyta (vascular plants) > Euphyllophyta > Lignophyta (woody plants) > Spermatophyta (seed plants) > Angiospermae (flowering plants) > Monocotyledons > Commelinoids

Seventeen families of which 10 are encountered in southern Africa. There are 997 genera and 18325 species recorded worldwide, of which 250 genera and 1861 species are native to southern Africa. An additional 32 genera and 132 species are naturalised, and an additional 49 genera and 352 species are recorded as being cultivated in southern Africa.

Families encountered in southern Africa

Typhaceae (bullrush family)

One genus, Typha, and 8-13 species, with two species native to southern Africa. Typha capensis is widespread whereas within southern Africa, Typha domingensis has a worldwide distribution in temperate and tropical regions but in southern Africa only occurs in Botswana (Okavango Delta).

Bromeliaceae (pineapple family)

About 57 genera and 1700 species, almost all of which are native to subtropical and tropical America. There is, however, one species native to tropical West Africa. There are no species native to southern Africa. The most familiar cultivated bromeliad is the Pineapple Ananas comosus. In southern Africa, 31 genera and 297 species have been recorded in cultivation, mainly as ornamental plants, probably the most familiar being the air plants which are epiphytic species in the genus Tillandsia.


Two genera and four species. Prionium serratum (Palmiet) is the only species in the genus and is endemic to South Africa. Thurnia is native to the Guyana region of South America.


Seven genera and 430 species (cosmopolitan), with two genera (Juncus and Luzula) and 18 species native to southern Africa, five species naturalised, and an additional one species that is cultivated.

Cyperaceae (sedges)

About 98 genera and 4350 species, with 42 genera and 514 species native to southern Africa. An additional eight species are naturalised and three species are recorded as being cultivated in the region.


A family of mainly aquatic plants containing 10 genera and 1160 species (pantropical, extending into temperate regions), with three genera and 25 species native to southern Africa.


A family of aquatic plants containing five genera and about 260 species (pantropical to warm temperate), with one genus (Xyris) and 17 species native to southern Africa.

Restionaceae (restios)

There are 38 genera and about 520 species (Africa, Madagascar, Southeast Asia, Australia, New Zealand, Chile in South America), with 18 genera and 342 species native to southern Africa, occurring mainly in the fynbos.


One genus and four species, with one species, Flagellaria guineensis, native to southern Africa.

Poaceae (grasses)

There are 668 genera and 10035 species (worldwide), with 181 genera and 941 species native to southern Africa. An additional 32 genera and 119 species are naturalised in the region. Another 18 genera and 51 species have been recorded as being cultivated in southern Africa. The family includes numerous economically important species including wheat, maize and rice.

Families not encountered in southern Africa

Sparganiaceae, Rapateaceae, Mayacaceae, Anarthriaceae, Cetrolepidaceae, Joinvilleaceae, Ecdeiocoleaceae


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