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sahara: eco info: vegetation
Saharan plants survive thanks to root systems that plunge as far as 80 ft. under ground to suck up subterranean moisture. Most vegetation is located in the Atlas Mountains and along the Atlantic coast where rainfall is heavier. In parts of the southern Libyan Desert no greenery exists for more than 120 miles.

DOUM PALM (Hyphaene thebaica):

A native of Upper Egypt, Sudan, Kenya and Tanzania, the doum palm was considered sacred by ancient Egyptians. Seeds of doum nuts have been found in the pharohs' tombs. The doum palm, also known as the gingerbread palm, grows a red-orange, apple-sized fruit that tastes like gingerbread. The fruit's hard, white nut is used to make buttons; Rind from doum nuts is used to make molasses; ground nuts are used to dress wounds. The palm's leaves are used to make mats, bind parcels and writing paper. The doum palm can reach heights of 20 to 30 ft.

DATE PALM (Phoenix dactylifera ):

A part of any Saharan oasis, the date palm was cultivated in the Nile Valley thousands of years before the Egyptians developed hieroglyphics. Its leaves were used by the ancient Egyptians as a symbol of longevity. The date, its sugary fruit, is used to make syrup, alcohol and vinegar. The tree's leaves are used for furniture, baskets and fuel. The sap can be drunk. The palm can grow to 75 ft. tall, yield up to 180 lbs. in fruit and live for 150 years.

ACACIA (Acacia):

Acacias are well equipped for deserts. The tree's feathery leaves protect its bark from dry winds. If it doesn't rain, acacias may not produce leaves. In the Sahara, acacias grow where there is at least 1" of rain per year. The tree blooms in yellow or white fuzzy flowers. The bark of most acacias produces tanin, which is used in tanning leather. Sudan's acacia senegal produces gum arabic, which is used in adhesives and pharmaceuticals.

Palms Photo Credit: University of Hamburg

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