The Advantages of Indigenous Plants
While many plants may grow in a range of countries around the world, similar to people, they originated from a particular place. Plants are `indigenous’ to the country that they originated in. Agapanthuses, for example, are grown in most countries of the world, but originate in South Africa.
The opposite of an indigenous plant is an exotic plant. An exotic is a plant that originates in another country. Most Rose species, for example, are exotic plants in South Africa as they mostly originate in Asia.
There are many advantages of growing indigenous plants, which we briefly discuss below.
1. They can often survive in poor soils and with minimum care:
Agapanthus and tulbaghia are good examples of indigenous plants that will survive in almost any conditions in most parts of South Africa. For this reason agapanthus and tulbaghia are often grown on pavements with little or no care.
2. They require little or less water than exotic plants:
Aloes are another good example of a South African (indigenous) plant that requires very little care and virtually no water. Aloes have traditionally grown in very low rainfall areas. Indigenous plants have adapted to the environment that they have originated in.
3. They attract birds and other wildlife:
The wildlife in a particular area is more familiar with plants that are indigenous to that area and typically survive on the fruits of these plants. Planting indigenous trees and shrubs in your garden will attract a lot more wildlife than the planting of exotics.
4. Indigenous plants are an important source of medicinal plants:
Herbal remedies stem from plants that have historically grown in the area. Perhaps the most famous of our indigenous medicinal plants is the African potato. The African potato (Hypoxis) is indigenous to the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga, Gauteng and Limpopo. It is well known for its immune boosting properties and is reputed to be effective in the battle against cancer, TB, asthma, HIV/Aids and a host of other chronic conditions. The corm of the plant is dried and crushed into a powder and sold in the form of capsules and creams online and at wellness outlets countrywide.
It is important to note that a plant is generally indigenous to a region and not necessarily to a country. South Africa has a wide diversity of climatic conditions which would not all suit the same plants. The Acacia Fever Tree (Acacia Xanthophloea) is generally known to be indigenous to South Africa, but struggles to grow in Gauteng and the Free State, thus making it indigenous to the warmer regions of KwaZulu-Natal and the Mpumalanga low-veld. Before you choose your plants, be sure to do some research to ensure that you get the most out of your garden while also supporting your local plant life.