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Plants that survive in the saudi desert

Updated on June 15, 2012

ochradenus baccatus

When in bloom this bush attracts flies and ants. It is a member of the Mignonette Family (Resedaceae). The yellow fruit is edible and medicinal. In Arabic it is called « kurd)}. It usually flowers in the cooler months and the seeds form in June and July. The best photographs are taken in the escarpment, 30 kms to the west of Riyadh.

pergularia tomentosa

The twining bushes of Pergu laria can be seen all over the place but as the plant is covered with tiny, sticky hairs it is usually so covered with dust and sand that itgoes unnoticed. Being poisonous, it is left alone by the grazing animals and grows into quite large untidy bushes. It is a member of the Milkweed Family.

picris babylonica

The Babylonic Ox-tongue is a very common annual all over the place in the cooler months. In some places it is so thick it makes a bright yellow carpet as in this photo taken near Khafs Banban about 100 kms north of Riyadh. It is a favourite food of the spiny-tailed lizard. In the Daisy Family (Compositae), it is called «huzahn», «ccha'w dthub» or «hauwa'adan» in Arabic.

farsetia burtonae

Another member of the Mustard of Cabbage Family, (Cruciferae), the white and pale mauve Farsetia covers the flat, sandy desert towards Majma'h, about 100 kms. north of Riyadh. This was taken in March. It is called «shajar al kalb» by the local bedouins.

rhanterium epapposum

Another plant that blooms later than the annuals is the Rhanterium. It is also cropped by camels and furnishes the natural salts thatthey need. This perennial, dwarf shrub grows almost anywhere, but mostly on the open plain. It has a long tap root which goes straight down and lateral roots reaching down 20 or 30 cms in search of water. During the hot months the bushes become dry but a thread of living tissue survives in the root stock ready to expand when the conditions are favourable again.

teucrium polium

This plant is entirely covered with a protective sort of felt, and it isn't easy to see the ti ny wh ite is a member of the Mint Family (Labiatae) and has been known since ancienttimes for its fever-curing properties. It is also used as a purgative and is said to be usefu I in the treatment of both malaria and cholera. It is called Poley in English and «ja'ad» in Arabic. (Teucrium is named after Teucer, 1st king of Troy, and many of its species are natives of the Mediteranean). It blooms late in the season - April, May, June and even July. It is found in most of the wadis. (Wadi Hair south-west of Riyadh).

gagea reticulata

The bright yellow, star-like flowers of Reticulate Gagea peep out from amongst the rocks on the sides of the wadis and spread down onto the siIty flats beside the wild Iris about 160 kms. north of Riyadh near Tumair. This plant is in the Lily Family (Liliaceae) and is called «thlug» in Arabic. It blooms in February and March.


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