Botanical systematics

In recent decades, there has been an authentic revolution in the classification of plants with the development and progression of studies in genetic phylogeny. Many species have moved from one genus to another, new genera have been created, genera change family and several families are sometimes included in a larger family or, on the contrary, one family gets split up into several smaller ones.

With the advancement of phylogenetic studies the new plant family tree is taking shape. To achieve coherence and consensus, a classification was created in 1981, the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group (APG); composed of a growing number of experts in taxonomic botany and systematics. One of its members, Peter Stevens (Missouri Botanical Garden), maintains and updates a website with the latest changes: This is the classification that is followed in this project.

In terms of the number of genera and species of each family that are cited and, in general the taxonomy, we mainly follow the Index Synonymique de la Flore d’Afrique du Nord (ISFAN) of Dobignard & Chatelain (2010-2013), Euro-Mediterranean plant diversity (, The International Plant Names Index (IPNI) (, The Plant List (, World Flora Online ( and the most modern monographs properly analyzed.

Vascular plants (with seed —spermatophytes—) are classified into Gymnosperms and Angiosperms, whose main differences are shown in the following key:

1 Trees and shrubs without proper flowers, with male and female cones. Exposed seminal buds receiving pollen directly. In North Africa with evergreen leaves, linear, acicular or scale-like GYMNOSPERMAE

1 Trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants with real flowers, usually with a perianth, and always with stamens and/or carpels. Seminal buds inside the ovary. Decidous or evergreen leaves, variable shape ANGIOSPERMAE


The Gymnosperms are divided into 4 large groups: Cycadales, Ginkgoales, Pinales and Gnetales. In North Africa only the last two are present. Pinales with families Pinaceae, Cupressaceae and Taxaceae, and Gnetales with the Ephedraceae family.

The Angiosperms, the largest group, includes 8 large groups, Amborellales, Nymphaeales, Austrobaileyales, Chloranthales, Magnoliidae, Ceratophyllales, Monocotyledons and Eudicotyledons. In North Africa the Magnoliidae (with only one family —Lauraceae—), Monocotyledons and Eudicotyledons are present. The latter two groups include large families, of which we will only address those that are wholly or partially integrated by woody species and that usually exceed 0.5 m in height.

The common or vernacular names

Sometimes, the common names of some species are the most frequently used, even by experts, for species that are historically very well known. We include here the names that have been published, and also some names gathered form current popular knowledge. The abbreviations are: Spa.: Spanish, Fre.: French, Eng.: English, Ara.: Arabic, Tam.: Tamazight. It is sometimes hard to tell if a name is in Arabic or in Tamazight; in those cases, it is stated as Ara./Tam. When the word in Arabic changes according to the dialect of origin, some additional information is included in parentheses, either the specific variety of Arabic (for example “Hassānīya”), or the country of origin (for example “Egypt”). The Tamahaq language, from the central Sahara, has also been taken into account, as well as dialects from the southern Sahara and the Sahel.

These names are fixed and well documented for the species with the greatest socioeconomic value. The rest of the species, that is to say, those that are not particularly well known because they are not eye-catching, nor are specially beneficial or harmful, do not have a common name, and they frequently receive the same name than a similar species. On several occasions, some species are called with a common name of species they do not resemble. For these reasons, although common names and popular knowledge are interesting and valuable, they should be considered with caution.


New taxonomic revisions and addictions on the web.
Two very interesting publications to know and conserve the native flora in Morocco and Egypt
Presentation of the web and more descriptions of species
Adenocarpus faurei, the first woody species in North Africa becomes extinct
IUCN Green Status of Species
Two new experts join the review of species
Thanks to the botanical magazine Al Yasmina, the contents of the “Flore de l’Afrique du Nord” by René Maire are now easily accessible.