In recent years domestic gardens in urban areas have been extensively studied, but findings from developed and developing countries do not always correspond. The disparity is ascribed to differences in climate, culture and socio-economics. This study from South Africa analyzes plant diversity patterns along a steep, indirect socio-economic gradient in a single city. The segregation laws of the apartheid era are responsible for the prevailing social and cultural heterogeneity. By combining cultural and socioeconomic variables into classes, the plant diversity turnover along a socio-economic gradient could be determined. This study provides further evidence of the effects that socio-economic factors, other than ecological factors which are traditionally investigated, have on vegetation patterns. Socio-economic and cultural influences within the study area influenced plant diversity patterns, showing higher species richness in the more affluent, white-dominated suburbs. However, much of this plant diversity of affluent suburbs is made up of alien species, whereasutilitarian plants, for instance, are strongly associated with the lower socio-economic status of black suburbs, which includes many indigenous species.
Key words: Apartheid, alien species, biodiversity, homegardens, Potchefstroom, urban ecology, urban flora.
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