Map of Africa
Natural History
- Introduction
- Vocabulary
- Land of Contrasts
- Climate
- Vegetation
- Animals


Classroom Ideas
(Academy Library)
- African People
- African Animals
African Photos

Natural Vegetation

The vegetation that will grow in an area is determined primarily by the climate (temperature and rainfall) and the type of soil. These factors work together, but often one is of overriding importance; for example, in the desert, the lack of rainfall limits which plants can grow.

Tropical Rain Forest | Topical Deciduous Forest and Scrub
Savanna | Desert Scrub | Montane

The variety of climate and soil conditions that occurs in Africa has produced a great diversity of plant species - each well adapted to and characteristic of the particular region in which it is found. An adaptation is any physical or behavioral characteristic that helps an organism survive in its natural environment.

Plants grow together in recognizable patterns, often with the same neighbors wherever they are found. Just as people live together in what is called a community, the plant and animal populations that live together in a particular environment are known as a community. Within each community, the basic needs of the individuals are met. The plants and animals of a community depend upon one another, and there are close relationships between organisms in the same community. For example, small birds called oxpeckers feed on ticks and blood-sucking flies that live in the hair of the rhinoceros and other large mammals in Africa.

The oxpecker benefits by having a source of food and the mammal benefits because the bird eats the ticks and flies, which are a potential source of illness and disease. In addition, the oxpecker also helps the rhinoceros by warning it of approaching danger by excitedly flying away.

Plant communities in Africa include tropical rain forest, tropical deciduous forest and scrub, savanna, desert shrub, and montane. Compare the map of natural vegetation with the climate map. The communities follow roughly the same pattern as the climates because, as stated above, the climate largely determines the type of vegetation. You would not expect to see large trees in a desert, for instance, (except at oases) because trees require a lot of water to grow tall.


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