Native Trees and Other Plants

Omani wild plants use less water, because they have adapted to the desert climate over thousands of years. Likewise they are more likely to be immune to disease than foreign imported trees. They support many other species from microbes, to insects, reptiles, birds and mammals, forming an important part of Oman's ecosystems.

Trees such as the Simr (Acacia tortilis), Ghaf (Prosopis cineraria) and Sidr (Ziziphus spina-christi) play an especially important role in supporting underground organisms, smaller seasonal plants which grow in their shade, insects such as bees, all mammal species using their shade (and leaving fertiliser where they lie) and many bird species.

The Sarh (Maerua crassifolia), threatened by livestock browsing because it is so palatable to them and does not have the sharp spikes of the acacia, plays a special role in honey production. It flowers at a different time of year from other trees thus extending the season in which bees can gather nectar to produce their honey.

Ghaf Flowers (Prosopis cineraria)
© D Insall

Hostile Foreign Trees

The Ghaf Bahri (Prosopos juliflora), also known as Mesquite, is a major issue in Oman and other desert regions. Originally from Mexico, it enables itself to spread rapidly by releasing a chemical from its leaves and flowers that poisons the ground, stopping the seeds of other plants from germinating.

In this way it progressively strangles the growth of native plants, taking over large areas of land. Studies abroad have shown that it can cause allergies among some people who sit in its shade or move near it.

Ghaf Bahri (Prosopis juliflora)
© D Insall