The African climate is diverse, containing a rainforest in the center of the continent where it's hot and wet and two large deserts, the Sahara and the Kalahari. A vast savanna surrounds the rainforest turning into the Steppes, where the temperatures are hot and rain falls in the summer months only. A Mediterranean climate is found on the southern and northern tips of Africa. So, it's no surprise that Africa has equally diverse plant life.
Babiana pygmaea is a member of the iris family and native to southern Africa. Large flowers bloom in late winter and early spring and can be any color from white to yellow, blue and red. The flowers of some cultivars also have a strong, sweet scent. These flowers grow from corms, which have been eaten by the indigenous peoples of South Africa. These flowers are difficult to grow in other regions because the corm must be kept dry through its dormant summer season. For this reason, they are often grown in containers, separate from other plants. Babiana pygmaea grow in full sun and, during the growing season, benefit from deep watering once a week.
Orchids grow in many parts of Africa. The two main types of orchids are the terrestrial orchids, which grow on the ground in the forest or savanna, and the epiphytic orchids, which grow on the bark of a tree. Terrestrial orchids are a favorite houseplant in America and have long arching stems that boast unusual flowers in solid or variegated shades of the rainbow. They need indirect bright light and well-drained soil.
Aloes are a succulent with thick, fleshy leaves. Large striking flowers bloom on long stems during the dry winter months in South Africa. Of all the aloe plants, aloe vera is the most commonly cultivated. Aloe vera grows to 12 inches tall in full sun. Like many native African plants, aloes are not frost tolerant and will not survive standing water. The gelatinous substance inside the aloe vera leaves has been used for centuries to sooth burns and abrasions of the skin.
Commonly found on the savannas of Africa, the baobab is a large tree, growing up to 95 feet tall and living for thousands of years. Many legends surround the baobab tree as it is leafless nine months out of the year, and it looks like it is growing upside down. This tree only grows leaves and flowers during the wet season. The baobab stores up moisture in its trunk during the rainy season to survive the long dry season. The indigenous people use all parts of the baobab tree. The bark is used to make cloth; medicine is made from the leaves and the fruit is also edible.