There have been several attempts to classify the vegetation of South Africa in the last century.
For many years the Veld Types described by John Acocks were the used and accepted vegetation units. Acocks travelled very widely throughout South Africa during a 40-year period and sampled some 3300 sites. He was meticulous in recording plant species at the various sites and he described vegetation patterns at a scale that is much smaller than the biome. He described 70 Veld Types in South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland. One can refer to Acocks' 1988 book Veld Types of South Africa for the descriptions, together with photographs, species compositions, and some other characteristics of each veld type.
Other vegetation maps
There was a map produced in 1935 by Pole Evans that describes 12 vegetation types for South Africa. This was followed in 1938 by Adamson who published a map with 14 vegetation types.
Mapping the Biomes
In 1994 Rutherford and Westfall (1994) mapped six biomes in South Africa :
Rutherford (1997) adds Desert.
Low and Rebelo (1996) include a Thicket biome.
In 2006 Mucina & Rutherford described 435 vegetation types in South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland, with 5 units mapped for the Prince Edward Islands in 'The Vegetation of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland. Strelitzia 19'.
Next time you travel, take time to look around to see if you can recognise characteristic patterns and shapes to the vegetation about you.
Further Reading on Vegetation
Acocks JPH (1988) Veld types of South Africa. (Third edition) Mem. Bot. Surv. S. Afr. No. 57: 1-146
Rutherford, M.C. & Westfall, R.H. 1994. Biomes of southern Africa: an objective characterization. Mem. Bot. Surv. S. Afr. No. 63.
Low, A.B. & Rebelo, A.G. (eds.) 1996. Vegetation of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland . Pretoria: DEAT. This publication is available online at http://www.ngo.grida.no/soesa/nsoer/Data/vegrsa/vegstart.htm
Rutherford, M.C. (1997) Categorization of biomes. In: Cowling RM, Richardson DM, Pierce SM (eds.) Vegetation of Southern Africa. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp. 91-98 ISBN 0-521-57142-1
Pole-Evans, J.B. 1936. A vegetation map of South Africa. Mem. Bot. Surv. S. Afr. No. 15:1-3.
White, F. 1983 The vegetation of Africa: a descriptive memoir to accompany the Unesco/AETFAT/UNSO vegetation map of Africa. (Natural Resources Research: 20). Paris: United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization 356p.