Kirstenbosch was established in 1913 to promote, conserve and display the extraordinarily rich and diverse flora of southern Africa, and was the first botanic garden in the world to be devoted to a country's indigenous flora. Kirstenbosch displays a wide variety of the unique plant life of the Cape Flora, also known as fynbos, as well as plants from all the diverse regions of southern Africa. Those that cannot survive outdoors, such as plants from the arid regions, are grown in the Botanical Society Conservatory. There are over 7 000 species in cultivation at Kirstenbosch, including many rare and threatened species.

Kirstenbosch lies in the heart of the Cape Floristic Region, also known as the Cape Floral Kingdom. In 2004 the Cape Floristic Region, including Kirstenbosch, was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site – another first for Kirstenbosch, it is the first botanic garden in the world to be included within a natural World Heritage Site.

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