Scientific Name
Pelargonium sidoides DC.
Higher Classification
Pelargonium sidaefolium (Thunb.) R.Knuth
Common Names
Kalwerbossie (a), Khoara-e-nyenyane (ss)
National Status
Status and Criteria
Least Concern
Assessment Date
A. de Castro, J.H. Vlok, D. Newton, L. Motjotji & D. Raimondo
Pelargonium sidoides is a very widespread (EOO >600 000 km²) and common species across eastern South Africa and Lesotho. Its tubers are wild-harvested for export for the international herbal medicine trade. In 2010, a detailed survey across this species' range showed that it is still abundant in many parts of its range and only a very small proportion (<5%) of the population is being impacted by harvesting. In addition, plants are able to coppice after harvesting and the majority of plants recover from harvesting. Localized declines in subpopulations do occur where repeat harvesting takes place within short time frames (<10 years) but this is occurring at less than 2% of known sites. Sustainable management of the trade in Pelargonium is required in both Lesotho and South Africa to ensure that overharvesting does not become more widespread. Population decline is also taking place as a result of habitat conversion for crop cultivation and habitat degradation due to livestock overgrazing, and these threats are currently more severe than the threat of harvesting. We however suspect that despite these threats the population has been reduced by less than 10%.
Not endemic to South Africa
Provincial distribution
Eastern Cape, Free State, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga, North West
Uniondale in the Western Cape eastwards throughout the Eastern Cape, Lesotho and the Free State as far north as Lichtenburg in North West Province and the Lydenburg district in Mpumalanga.
Habitat and Ecology
Major system
Major habitats
Albany Thicket, Fynbos, Grassland, Nama Karoo, Succulent Karoo
Usually in short grassland, sometimes with occasional shrubs or trees, often in stony soils varying from clay-loam, shale or basalt.
The tubers of P. sidoides are harvested for traditional medicine as well as for export. P. sidoides extracts are used in herbal medicine for the treatment of upper respiratory infections. There is an increasing demand for wild harvested tubers to be used in herbal remedies both within South Africa and internationally. Surveys of the population have however shown that harvesting is currently impacting only a very small proportion of the population. Even in regions where harvesting is most active, e.g. in the Eastern Cape, an extensive survey recorded harvesting in only 6% of sites (De Castro et al. 2010). This same study also reported that, on the whole, populations were resprouting after a harvest events. The majority of harvested plants (average 75%) were observed to be resprouting after being harvested. Some localized population declines and extirpations are however taking place. The survey by De Castro et al. (2010) confirmed reports that local extinctions occur when harvesting takes place too frequently. Three of the 61 sites surveyed had less than 20% of plants recovering after harvesting due to regular and intense harvest pressure. Population declines due to too regular return harvests have been observed on commonage areas in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa and in communally owned areas, particularly those close to large towns (Vlok 2005, De Castro et al. 2010, Mojotji in prep.). The greatest threat to P. sidoides is currently not harvesting, but habitat transformation and degradation. Loss of populations to habitat transformation as a result of urban development and agriculture has occurred in most of the historic sites in Gauteng Province as well as at many sites in the Free State. In the Eastern Cape, north-eastern Free State and Lesotho, many of the known localities are situated on communal grazing land, much of which has been degraded by historical and ongoing overgrazing and erosion. In the Eastern Cape, overgrazing is leading to dense acacia bush encroachment, which creates unsuitable habitat for P. sidoides.

A 2010 resource assessment (De Castro et al. 2010), which sampled 103 sites across this species' range indicate that it is sparsely distributed and represented by isolated and mostly small subpopulations in Gauteng, Mpumalanga and Western Cape. It is however abundant to extremely abundant in the north-eastern and south-eastern Free State and Lesotho. It is also abundant in the Eastern Cape from around Grahamstown eastwards and north-eastwards to about King William's Town. In the Free State and Lesotho, 60% of surveyed sites were estimated to have more than 100 000 plants occurring within a 100 ha area, and at one site near Harrismith, the size of the population within a 100 ha survey plot was estimated to be 652 400 plants. At five of the 30 sites where density counts were conducted in the Eastern Cape, more than 100 000 plants were estimated to occur within 100 ha survey sites, and near Hogsback up to 297 500 plants. A total of 17.8 million plants were estimated to occur in a 50 000 ha area near Cathcart, whilst the number of plants in an area of approximately 45 000 ha south of Bedford was estimated to be approximately 4 million (De Castro et al. 2010), indicating that in spite of intensive harvesting within many of these areas, Pelargonium sidoides is still extremely abundant in the wild.

Population trend
Field studies in South Africa and Lesotho showed that P. sidoides plants are able to regrow rapidly within two weeks to one year after harvesting, due to lignotuber segments that commonly break off during extraction and remain buried. Although plant remnants left in the soil after harvest resprout well, the regrowth of the commercially valuable lignotuber is very slow, severely limiting opportunities for return harvest. Under the harsh in situ conditions of the wild, new lignotuber formation from previously harvested resprouting plants has been estimated to only reach harvestable size again between 10 and 15 years after initial harvesting, depending on environmental conditions (Motjotji 2011). Newton et al. (2008) suggest that local wild populations may be lost entirely if too frequent harvesting occurs, especially in periods of drought. Minimizing tuber damage, implementing minimum return harvest intervals and establishing harvest quotas or implementing other appropriate management interventions are high priorities if the harvesting of P. sidoides in the wild is to be sustainable and continue to provide livelihoods to many.
Assessment History
Taxon assessed
Status and Criteria
Citation/Red List version
Pelargonium sidoides DC.Declining 2011.1
Pelargonium sidoides DC.Declining Raimondo et al. (2009)

De Castro, A., Vlok, J.H. and McCleland, W. 2010. Field survey of the distribution of Pelargonium sidoides and size of selected sub-populations. Resource Assessment study conducted for the South African National Biodiversity Institute.

Goldblatt, P. and Manning, J.C. 2000. Cape Plants: A conspectus of the Cape Flora of South Africa. Strelitzia 9. National Botanical Institute, Cape Town.

Motjotji, L. 2011. Towards Sustainability of Harvesting the Medicinal Plant Pelargonium sidoides (Geraniaceae). Unpublished M.Sc., University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg.

Newton, D., Letsela, T., Lijane, T., Mafetale, N., Manyama, P.A., Naha, S., Ntloko, B., Ntsohi, R., Paetzold, B., Pires, A., Polaki, M., Raimondo, D., Rouget, M., T'Sele, T., Wistebaar, N. and Zimudzi, C. 2008. A Non-Detriment Finding for P. sidoides (DC) in The Kingdom of Lesotho. Unpublished document prepared as part of a CITES Scientific Authority training programme and a contribution to a regional BMP-S for P. sidoides.

Pooley, E. 2003. Mountain flowers: a field guide to the flora of the Drakensberg and Lesotho. Natal Flora Publications Trust, Durban.

Raimondo, D., von Staden, L., Foden, W., Victor, J.E., Helme, N.A., Turner, R.C., Kamundi, D.A. and Manyama, P.A. 2009. Red List of South African Plants. Strelitzia 25. South African National Biodiversity Institute, Pretoria.

Vlok, J.H. 2005. Veld Harvesting of Pelargonium sidoides and Pelargonium reniforme in the Eastern Cape—Second survey report. Report commissioned by Parceval (Pty) Ltd, Wellington.

de Castro, A., Vlok, J.H., Newton, D., Motjotji, L. & Raimondo, D. 2012. Pelargonium sidoides DC. National Assessment: Red List of South African Plants version 2017.1. Accessed on 2019/06/26

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Distribution map

© D. Newton

© D. Newton

© D. Newton

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