BACKGROUND : Relatively little has been researched or published on the importance of peri-urban domestic gardens
as part of a household livelihood strategy in South Africa. Due to lack of comprehensive data on peri-urban domestic
gardens, their potential value as luxury green space, provision of food, income and ecosystem services to the fast
growing urban population in South Africa is not clearly known. The aim of this study was to document differences and
similarities in plant use and diversity in domestic gardens of two peri-urban communities in the Limpopo Province that
differ in proximity to an urban area.
METHODS : Data on plant use categories of 62 domestic gardens in the peri-urban areas of the Limpopo Province
were collected in Seshego and Lebowakgomo. Semi-structured interviews, observation and guided field walks with
62 participants were employed between May and October 2012.
RESULTS : A total of 126 plant species were recorded for both Seshego and Lebowakgomo. Domestic gardens in the
more remote areas of Lebowakgomo were characterized by higher percentage of food plants (47 species, 83.8% of the
total food plants recorded) and medicinal plants (31 species, 83.7%). Lebowakgomo domestic gardens were also
characterized by higher numbers of indigenous plants (76.7%) showing similarities to the natural surrounding vegetation
in terms of plant species. On the contrary, domestic gardens of Seshego on the periphery of the city centre were
characterized by higher percentage of exotic species (81.8%) and ornamental plants (73%), with food plants playing a
supplementary role. Comparison of the two areas demonstrated a remarkable difference in plant use and composition.
CONCLUSIONS : This study revealed that there are differences in utilization of plant resources between households on the
edge of an urban centre and those in the more remote areas. Food and medicinal plants play an important role in
remote areas; while ornamental plants play an important role in urban domestic gardens. But the collective desire for
food, medicinal and ornamental plants by both communities on the edge of an urban centre and those in the more
remote areas highlight the importance of plant resources in domestic gardens.