Abstract Aim The plant diversity of one location on the Guiana Shield, Kaieteur National Park in Guyana, is used to examine the various hypothesized origins of the flora and to evaluate which may best explain the current plant distributions. Location Kaieteur National Park is located on eastern edge of the Potaro Plateau in central Guyana, South America. The species examined have distributions that vary from local to global. Methods The distribution patterns of the families, genera and species known from Kaieteur are examined using generalized distribution patterns. Results Data on distribution patterns, elevation and habitat were gathered from 131 flowering plant families, 517 genera and 1227 species. These plants represent all taxa that are currently known to occur in the area of the original Kaieteur National Park. Families tend to have cosmopolitan or pantropical distribution, genera are mostly neotropical and at the species level, most species are restricted to the Guiana Shield (c. 40%), northern South America (69%) or neotropical (96%) in distribution, each level inclusive of the previous. Conclusions The flora at the study site in Kaieteur National Park has its strongest affinity with the Guiana Shield; 42.1% of the species have a distribution that corresponds with the Shield or is more restricted within the Shield. There is a distinct flora on the Guiana Shield and its affinities lie with the flora of northern South American and beyond that, the neotropics. The flora is not closely affiliated with the floras of the Brazilian Shield, the Amazon, the Andes, the eastern coastal forests of Brazil, southern South America, or Africa as has been previous suggested.