Cape Verde Plants


The islands of Cape Verde are volcanic in origin and therefore were without vegetation initially. As is common with plants, seeds are carried by birds, the wind, the sea and of course humans. Cape Verde was discovered in 1456 by the Portuguese. It has been estimated that at that time there would have been over 200 species of plants in Cape verde. That number today is estimated to be more than three times that amount.

The varying topography means that the islands have many habitats. On the eastern dry sandy islands palm trees and acacias are common. On the mountainous western islands there is a far greater biodiversity because of the varying microclimates. There are also commercial crops such as banana, sugar cane, mango, citrus and vegetables.

Information has been collected from a number of sources including our own knowledge dividing it up into sections – Endemic plants of Cape Verde, trees and cultivated plants. If you have any comments or find something that needs amending, please contact us.

Endemic Plants

In common with all parts of the world, human interaction resulting in over-development and climate change has resulted in some species dying out or in danger of extinction. The plant flora of Cape Verde is thought to consist of 740 species, 92 of which are endemic. 78% of the endemic plants are threatened (29.3% Critically Endangered, 41.3% Endangered, 7.6% Vulnerable). There is a long list of endangered plant species including Aeonium gorgoneum, Artemisia gorgoneum, Echium hypertropicum and Helianthemum gorgoneum. Sadly two plants are already listed as extinct and these are Stachytarpheta fallax and Habenaria petromedusa.

Many of the species classified as endemic are low growing plants. Few trees are listed as being endemic, but one of the most outstanding is the Dragon Tree (Dragoeiro Dracaena Draco). This is a very distinctive, easily recognised tree.

The good news is that there are now more projects addressing Cape Verdes’s environmental issues. To prevent extinction the Cape Verde authorities have established several Protected Areas (PAs) in the last 12 years. The PA network includes 47 different areas, totalling 63,067 ha of land. These include Serra da Malagueta, Santiago; Monte Verde, São Vicente; Tope de Coroa, Santo Antão; Monte Gordo, São Nicolau; Chã das Caldeiras, Fogo

For a deeper read see:
Oxford academic botanical journal assessment of the Cape Verde endemic flora
International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species

* Hover over the plant photos to see the names *

Palm trees of various kinds (Date, Coconut and Fan palms) are widely found around the islands. The Dragon tree (Dracaena draco) is easily recognised and the Baobab (Adansonia) is particularly striking with it’s bulbous trunk. The stunning Flame tree (Delonix) with its bright red flowers makes a dramatic impact. Another stunning tree is the blue-flowering Jacaranda, familiar to many from visits to Australia. Efforts are now underway at reforestation to improve the wildlife of Cape Verde. Acacia trees have been planted in forests to prevent soil erosion. The largest acacia forest is on the island of Maio.

* Hover over the plant photos to see the names *

Visitors to the Cape Verde islands will recognise a number of plants that are grown in towns and villages. Bougainvillea is widely grown with its red, white or purple paper-like flowers. Passiflora (Passion fruit), Ficus (fig) both edible and ornamental varieties, Oleander, Plumbago and Hibiscus. These are commonly found in gardens, some provide strong vibrant colours and rich greenery.

In addition to those, it is the perfect climate for succulents and Cacti. Aloe vera is commonly found with its distinctive yellow flower spikes. A ground cover plant similar to the Mesembryanthemum is also widely found with either yellow or orange flowers that open with the sun.

* Hover over the plant photos to see the names *

** The information on this page has been taken from various sources **