Included here is Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, southern Zaire (Shaba), most of Angola, much of Mozambique, Tanzania, northeastern Botswana, the eastern part of the Republic of South Africa, Lesotho and most of Swaziland.

Zambezian Miombo Woodland

Throughout much of this zone miombo is the prevalent woodland type. It is deciduous or semi-deciduous and usually dominated by 19 species of Brachystegia such as the endemic B. bakerana and B. tamarindoides (Fabaceae) and the related Julbernardia globiflora, J. paniculata and Isoberlina angolensis, while other principal canopy species are Afzelia quanzensis, Anisophyllea pomifera, Erythrophleum africanum, Faurea saligna, Marquesia curatellifolia and Pericopsis (Afrormosia) angolensis.  Characteristically the associated soils are free draining and often highly leached and acidic. Nevertheless, these woodlands provide habitat for hundreds of endemic plant species, although many are highly localised. The endemic trees include Allophylus didymadenius (Sapindaceae), Combretum gillettianum (Combretacea), Commiphora puguensis (Burseraceae), Diospyros mweroensis (Ebenaceae), Ficus fischeri (Moraceae), Magnistipula butayei (Chrysobalanaceae), Memecylon flavovirens (Melostomataceae), Ochna gambleoides (Ochnaceae), Oldfieldia dactylophylla (Euphorbiaceae), Psydrax richardsiae (Rubiaceae) and Terminalia gazensis (Combretaceae), but these are far out numbered by the endemic shrubs. In fact, these exceed 50 species and include Aeschynomene mossoensis (Fabaceae), Amphiasma redheadii (Rubiaceae), Anisophyllea bochmii (Rhizophoracea), Cadaba kirkii (Capparidaceae), Canthium burtii (Rubiaceae), Cissus trothae (Vitaceae), Cleistanthus polystachyus (Euphorbiaceae), Dichapetalum macrocarpum (Dichapetalaceae), Dissotis lanata (Melostomataceae), Embelia xylocarpa (Mrysinaceae), Grewia gilviflora (Tiliaceae), Hugonia gossweileri (Linaceae), Ochna mossambicense (Ochnaceae), Strophanthus welwitschii (Apocynaceae) and Vernonia suprafastigiata (Asteraceae). The trees and shrubs support a rich variety of climbers including endemic species like Adenia dolichosiphon (Passifloraceae), Bonamia mossambicensis (Convolvulaceae), Entada nudiflora (Fabaceae), and numerous epiphytes such as the endemic orchids Aerangis appendiculata, Bulbophyllum rugosibulbum, Polystachya zambesiaca and Tridactyla citrina (Orchidaceae). 

Endemic ground layer species are also very numerous including grasses such as Melinis minutiflora, Sacciolepis transbarbata, Tristachya hubbardiana, Zonotriche inamoena (Poaceae), and a huge variety of forbs like Acalypha nyasica (Euphorbiaceae), Adenia erecta (Passifloraceae), Aeschynomene mossambicensis (Fabaceae), Aloa carnea (Aloaceae), Aristolochia hockii (Aristolochiaceae), Buchnera eylesii (Scrophulariaceae), Celosia vanderystii (Amaranthaceae), Chironia laxiflora (Gentianaceae), Cryphostemma rhodesiae (Vitaceae), Cynorkis hanningtonii (Orchidaceae), Dianthus angolensis (Caryophyllaceae), Diodia flavescens (Rubiaceae), Dorstenia buchananii (Moraceae), Hibiscus jacksonianus (Malvaceae), Lactuca zambeziaca (Asteraceae), Mechowia grandiflora (Amaranthaceae), Peucedanum angolense (Apiaceae) and Polygala stenopetala (Polygalaceae), and ferns such as Actiniopteris pauciloba (Adiantaceae).

Zambezian Mopane Woodland

In the dryer parts of the zone Colophospermum mopane often becomes the dominant tree, and woodlands characterized by this species, and described locally as Mopane woodland, can be found as far a field as the Zambezi, Luangwa, Limpopo, Shashi and Sabi valleys, the Nanzhila and Machili basins of Zambia, the Makarikari and Okovango depressions in Botswana. Mopane itself even extends into the dryer parts of Angola where towards the limits of its range it can be found associated with the spectacular desert specialist Welwitschia bainesii. But even well within its range the woodlands dominated by this species show great variation in their species composition. In the Luangwa valley, for example, the most conspicuous associates are Acacia nigresens, Adansonia digitata, Combretum inberbe, Sclerocarya caffra and Kirkia acuminata, while in Angola Acacia erubescens, Balanites angolensis, Boscia microphylla, Catophractes alexandri, Combretum apiculatum, Commiphora angolensis, Grewia villosa, Rhizozum brevispinosum, Spirostachys africana, Terminalia prunioides and Ximenia caffra are some of the more characteristic species. Possibly because they are less extensive and more narrowly confined to the drier zones far fewer Zambezian endemic plants are found in mopane woodland compared with miombo woods. Nevertheless at least 50 endemic species been recorded. Some of the endemic or near endemic trees typically include Combretum elaeagnoides (Combretaceae), Diospyros quiloensis (Ebenaceae), Erythroxylum zambesiacum (Erythroxylaceae), Grewia praecox (Tiliaceae), Phyllanthus engleri (Euphorbiaceae), while the endemic shrubs of the lower layers include Acacia chariessa (Fabaceae), Boscia matabelensis (Capparidaceae), Canthium glaucum (Rubiaceae), Combretum obovatum (Combretaceae), Hippocratea buchananii (Hippocrateaceae), Rhigozum zambesiacum (Bignoniaceae), Strophanthus nicholsonii (Apocynaceae) and Teclea rogersii (Rutaceae).  These woodlands also support far fewer climbers and epiphytes and possibly with the exception of the climbing herb Cryphostemma loremorei (Vitaceae) there are very few endemic species among these groups. The ground layer, on the other hand, is rich in endemic species including Crassula rhodesica (Crassulaceae), Eulophia dactylifera (Orchidaceae), Eureiandra eburnea (Cucurbitaceae), Gutenbergia polycephala (Asteraceae), Pterodiscus elliotii (Pedaliaceae), Sesuvium nyasicum (Aizoaceae), Spermacoce arvensis (Rubiaceae), and a variety of Jatropha species such as Jatropha botswanica (Euphorbiaceae).

Zambezian Dry Semi-Deciduous Baikiaea Forest

These forests, which are usually characterized by the presence of Baikiaea plurijuga, are typically found in the dryer parts of this zone, usually on sandy, free draining soils. The most extensive stands can be found in the Kalahari and in the southern part of the upper Zambezi basin. Other characteristic trees include Entandrophragma caudata and Pterocarpus antunesii. Among the endemic plants are deciduous trees such as Pteleopsis anisoptera (Combretaceae), Terminalia randii and T. stublmannii (Combretaceae), shrubs such as Fagara trijuga (Rutaceae) Psychotria butayei (Rubiaceae), Rytigynia orbicularis (Rubiaceae), the suffrutex Ozoroa stenophylla (Anacardiaceae), climbers such as Combretum mossambicense (Combretaceae), while at ground level endemic herbs include Erlangea remifolia (Asteraceae), Phyllanthus martinii and P.microdendron (Euphorbiaceae) and Vernonia rhodesiana (Asteraceae).

Zambezian Chipya Woodland

Chipya woodland is distinctive for the absence of typical miombo woodland species such as Brachystegia, Isoberline and Julbernandia. More characteristic are various fire resistant trees such as Afzelia quanzensis, Albizia autunesiana, Amblygonocarpus andongensis, Burkia africana, Erythrophleum africanum, Parinari curatellifolia, Pericopus angolensis and Pterocarpus angolensis. It also differs from miombo woodland in the composition of its herbaceous layer, with three of the more common species Aframonum biauriculatum, Pteridium aquilinum and Smilax kraussiana usually absent from miombo woodland.  However, chipya often consists of a complex mosaic representing different stages of succession, and in fact, usually owes it existence to former cultivation or fire. Some of the endemic plants include deciduous trees such as Terminalia erici-rosenii and T. trichopoda  (Combretaceae), shrubs such as Combretum mweroense and Terminalia griffithsiana (Combretaceae), climbers such Combretum gossweileri (Combretaceae) and perennial ground layer herbs such as Acalypha fuscescens, Phyllanthus crassinervius, P. holostylus Tragia prostrata and T. rhodesiae (Euphorbiaceae), Berkheya angolensis, B. caulinopsis and Vernonia subplumosa (Asteraceae) and Monostachya staelioides and Pentas purpurea (Rubiaceae).


Airy Shaw, H. K. 1947. The vegetation of Angola. Journal of Ecology, 35: 23-48.

Cowling, R. M, Richardson, D. M. & Pierce, S. M. 1997. Vegetation of Southern Africa. Cambridge University Press.

Goldblatt, P. 1978. An analysis of the flora of southern Africa: its characteristics, relationships, and origins. Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden, 65: 369-436.

Lawton, R. M. 1978. A study of the dynamic ecology of Zambian vegetation. Journal of Ecology, 66: 175-198.

Malaisse, F. 1978. The Miombo ecosystem. In: Tropical forest ecosystems. Natural Resources Research Vol. XIV. UNESCO

O’Conner, T. G. 2005. Influence of land use on plant community composition and diversity in Highland Sourveld grassland in southern Drakensberg, South Africa. Journal of Applied Ecology, 42: 975-988.

Polhill, R. M. 1968. Tanzania. In: Conservation of Vegetation in Africa south of the Sahara. Eds. I. Hedberg and O. Hedberg. Acta Phytogeographica Suecica, 54: 275-279.

Roberts, B. R. 1968. The Orange Free State. In: Conservation of Vegetation in Africa south of the Sahara. Eds. I. Hedberg and O. Hedberg. Acta Phytogeographica Suecica, 54: 275-279.

White, F. 1976. The underground forest of Africa: a preliminary review. Gardens Bulletin (Singapore). 29:55-71.

White, F. 1978. The Indian Ocean Coastal Belt. In: Biogeography and Ecology of southern Africa. Ed. M. J. A. Werger. Dr W Junk Publishers. The Hague.

White, F. 1983. The Vegetation of Africa. UNESCO.

Wild, H. & Fernandes, A. 1967. Flora Zambesiaca - (Supplement) Vegetation Map of the Flora Zambesiaca Area. M. O. Collins, Rhodesia.