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dry river bed plants in Saudi Arabia

Updated on June 15, 2012

asteriscus pygmaeus

This stemless flower is in the Daisy Family (Compositae) and is called Jerico Ox-eye in English. When the seeds ripen the sepals fold over and harden as a protection, only opening when it is damp. These hard, dried-up mushroom-like remains can be found sticking out from the stony ground during the surtlmer months. The fresh plant was someti mes put in sacks of rice, by the bedouin, to keep it sweet. The plant blooms in the cooler rainy season and these photographs were taken in April, near the Camel Trail along the Mecca Road.

bassia eriophora

This little plant with its flowers hidden in fleece is to be seen in June and July. It is called «al guttainah» in Arabic. It is a member of the Goosefoot Family (Chenopodiaceae).

astragalus sieberi

The long spines on this plant are the main nerves of last year's leaves, so each year the plant gets spikier and spikier. It is in the Pea Family (Leguminosae), and is called «qa'tad» in Arabic.

astragalus splnosus

This is called Spiny Milkvetch in English and is in the Pea Family (Leguminosae). The typical «pea» flower sticks out of the puffed-out calyx which protects the seeds from the hot sunand also allows them to be dispersed by the wind. The seeds are in a little pod inside the calyx. The flowers, including the calyx, are edible and taste rather like a bitter pea. It is a very prickly plant, as its Latin name implies.

It grows to about one metre in height and at first glance is all spines and flowers, the leaves being small and developing a little later. It likes stony ground and is found allover the place. I have found bushes in bloom at the beginning of January and up until the end of May. During the hot, dry months, if the bedouin are short of forage for their camels, they burn these bushes a short while, to reduce the spi nes and then give them to the camels. It is called «ka'dadd» in Arabic.

fagonia cretica

There are several species of Fagonia growing in central Arabia but perhaps this has the largest flowers and is the most conspicuous. From January to late May the rocky sides of wadis are covered with this pretty pink rock plant. It is in the Caltrops Family (ZygophyllaceaeJ and is called Cretan Fagonia in English.

echinops splnoslsslmus

Thorny-headed Globe Thistle is a memberofthe Daisy Family (Compositae) and is quite widespread in central Arabia. As its name implies, it is very prickly but it doesn't seem to deter insects or wasps from visiting the flowers. It is called «shidqah» in Arabic and blooms usually in April, May and June.

diplotaxis harra

One of several yellow mustards growing in this area, this one is called «Hairy Rocket» in English. A member of the Mustard or Cabbage Family (Cruciferae) it grows in profusion over the gentle hills just north of Riyadh.

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