Because of its exceptional geology, the Barberton Greenstone Belt supports a rich biodiversity. The steep and broken terrain, unusually mineralized soils, high rainfall and extremes of temperature, give rise to a wide diversity of habitats resulting in what botanists call a ‘local centre of plant endemism’, one of 20 such biodiversity hotspots in South Africa. Habitats range from Afro-mon-tane forest, through montane grassland, savanna and wetlands. Almost 1 500 plant species have been identified in the Barberton Greenstone Belt. These include the endangered and endemic woolly cycad (Encephalartos heenanii) the restricted and rare Encephalartos paucidentatus (Barberton cycad and the rare endemic protea, Protea comptonii.
The area is home to over 300 species of birds and many mammals such as antelope, leopard, caracal and a wide range of smaller creatures. Several insect species are restricted to the Greenstone Belt. Butterflies are abundant and Barbara’s copper (Aloeides barbarae) Jeffery’s blue (Lepidochrysops jefferyi) and Swanepoel’s blue (Lepidochrysops swanepoeli) are found nowhere else in the world.