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Flora | Plants

Of the 2153 plant species in the park 98 are endemic or near-endemic. These include the extremely rare, Protea nubigena, a plant found nowhere on earth except on a high ridge in the Royal Natal section of the park.

Part of the reason for the Maloti-Drakensberg Parks rich biodiversity is its extremes of altitude, from 1 000 metres above sea level to 3 500 metres. It is home to aquatic, forest, scrub, fynbos, savannah, mountain grassland and heath plant families, including a large number of species listed in the Red Data Book of threatened plants, with 119 species listed as globally endangered.

The flora of the high alti-montane grasslands is mainly Tussock grass, creeping plants, and small shrubs such as ericas. These include the rare Spiral Aloe (Aloe polyphylla), which as its name suggests has leaves with a spiral shape.

Meanwhile the lower slopes are mainly grassland but are also home to conifers, which are rare in Africa, the species of conifer found in the Drakensberg is Podocarpus.

The grassland itself is of interest as it contains a great number of endemic plants. Grasses found here include Oat grass (Monocymbium ceresiiforme), Diheteropogon filifolius, Sporobolus centrifugus, Caterpillar grass (Harpochloa falx), Cymbopogon dieterlenii and Eulalia villosa.

The high treeless peaks of the Drakensberg (from 2,500 m upwards) have been described by the World Wildlife Fund as the Drakensberg alti-montane grasslands and woodlands ecoregion. These steep slopes are the most southerly high mountains in Africa, and being further from the equator provide cooler habitats at lower elevations than most mountain ranges on the continent.