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Systematics, diversity and forage value of indigenous legumes of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland

M Trytsman
AE van Wyk
EL Masemola


The diversity of legumes, indigenous to South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland is reported using recorded descriptive and distribution data. A total of 24 tribes, 118 genera and 1662 species were documented with the majority of genera belonging to subfamily Faboideae, tribe Phaseoleae, and the majority of species to tribe Crotalarieae. In terms of distribution patterns, most species were present in the Savanna Biome and Central Bushveld Bioregion. Even though most tribes contain species with secondary metabolites (mainly non-protein amino acids), tribes containing poisonous species are far fewer. Herbs are the key growth form, followed by shrubs, dwarf shrubs and trees. The majority of species are perennials. A map representing the collection intensity for the study area showed that the majority of legumes species were collected in the Fynbos, Savanna and Grassland Biome. It is concluded that indigenous South African legumes are extremely diverse and this denotes the importance of further investigating their forage potential or use in other agricultural practices.

Key words: Biomes, bioregions, Fabaceae, fodder, genebank, Leguminosae, pastures, tribes

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eISSN: 1684-5315