Deserts of Saudi Arabia  
Home Vegetation Asir Taif Northern Regions

Hail

 

             30% of the land in Saudi Arabia is covered by sandy-deserts. Although the desert of Saudi Arabia is more or less continuous, extending from North to South, the Nafud in the north and the Rub-al-Khali in the south are the largest among all. Other sand bodies, such as the crescent-shaped Dahna situated in the Najd Area and the Al-Jafurah on the Eastern region are relatively smaller in size. Rub-al-Khali or the 'Empty Quarter' is believed to be the largest continuous sand body in the world and supports the life of at least a few endemic plants such as Calligonum crinitum spp. arabicum, Tribulus arabicus, Cornulaca arabica, etc.

               The Great Nafud is composed of transverse sand dunes that often reach up to a height of about 120 m. The sand of Nafud is reddish in colour due to iron oxide coating while the sands of other deserts are somewhat yellowish in colour.

Rub-al-Khali occupies an area of about 650,000 sq. km with sparse vegetation. Sand dunes in this desert often reach a height of about 250 m, especially on the eastern side of the country. Rainfall is almost nil in this desert. Yet sporadic rains measuring about 35 mm/year are reported in some years. Vegetation composed of diffuse shrubs. Annual plants are virtually nil in this desert.

Life in the desert, particularly plants, insects, lizards, rodents, snakes, birds, etc. are highly dependent and each one helps in the survival of the others. As the rains in the deserts are intermittent and erratic, every drop of water that fall on the sand is precious for the existence of plants and animals. Plants have several adaptations that help them to survive in the desert, such as ability to collect and store water, features that help reduce water loss, etc. Desert plants usually have small leaves or leaf-like appendages, thick, waxy cuticle on the surface of stems and leaves, sunken stomata, sand covered strong-roots that help to penetrate deep into the soil in search of water and also help the plant to hold firmly on the ground against sand-storms. As far as the animals are concerned, the source of water comes from the plants, while in the case of carnivorous creatures /animals the water need is satisfied by the fluids contained in the bodies of the animals that they live upon.

                Sand dunes plants of Saudi Arabia

 '+' = present   '-' = not present

Species                                        Great Nafud     Dahna          Ruba al-Khali      Jafurah

 

Allium ampleoprasum                            +                      +                      -                       -

Anthemis deserti                                   +                      +                      -                       -

Aretmisia sieberi                                   +                      -                       -                       -

Artemisia monosperma                          +                      +                      -                       -

Astragalus collinattiae                            +                      -                       -                       -

Astragalus hauarensis                            +                      +                      -                       -

Astragalus schimperi                             +                      +                      -                       -

Astragalus spinosus                               +                      -                       -                       -

Brassica tournefortii                              +                      +                      -                       -

Cakile arabica                                      +                      +                      -                       -

Calligonum comosum                            +                      +                      -                       +

Calligonum crinitum                               -                       -                       +                      -

Centropodia forskalii                            +                      +                      +                      +

Cistanche phelypaea                             +                      -                       +                      -

Cistanche tubulosa                                -                       +                      -                       -

Cornulaca arabica                                 -                       -                       +                      -

Cornulaca monacantha                          -                       -                       -                       +

Cynomorium coccineaum                      +                      -                       -                       -

Cyperus conglomerates                         +                      +                      +                      +

Dipcadi erythraeum                               +                      +                      -                       -

Diplotaxis acris                                      +                      +                      -                       -

Dipterygium glaucum                             -                       +                      +                      +

Ephedra alata                                       +                      -                       -                       -

Ephedra foliata                                      -                       -                       +                      -

Eremobium aegyptiacum                       +                      +                      +                      +

Erodium laciniatum                                +                      +                      -                       +

Erucaria hispanica                                 +                      +                      -                       -

Gastrocotyle hispida                             +                      +                      -                       -

Halothamnus bottae                              -                       -                       +                      -

Haloxylon persicum                              +                      +                      +                      +

Haloxylon salicornicum                         +                      +                      -                       -

Helianthemum salicifolium                      +                      -                       -                       -

Heliotropium dygynum                           -                       +                      +                      +

Hippocrepis bicontorta                         +                      +                      -                       -

Hypecoum geslinii                                 +                      +                      -                       -

Hypecoum pendulum                            +                      +                      -                       -

 

Species                                        Great Nafud     Dahna          Ruba al-Khali      Jafurah

 

Ifloga spicata                                        +                      -                       -                       -

Limeum arabicum                                 +                      +                      +                      -

Linaria tenuis                                        +                      +                      -                       -

Loeflingia hispanica                               -                      +                      -                       -

Lotus halophilus                                    -                      +                      -                       -

Madicago laciniata                               +                      +                      -                       -

Maresia pygmaea                                 +                      +                      -                       -

Moltkiopsis ciliata                                 +                      +                      +                      +

Monsonia nivea                                    +                      +                      +                      +

Neurada procumbens                           +                      +                      +                      +

Ononis serrata                                      -                       +                      -                       -

Orobanche cernua                                +                      +                      +                      +

Paronychia desertorum                          -                      +                      -                       -

Pennisetum divisum                               +                      -                       -                       -

Plantago boissieri                                  +                      +                      +                      +

Plantago ciliata                                      +                      +                      -                       -

Plantago cylindrical                               +                      +                      -                       -

Rhanterium epapposum                        +                      +                      -                       -

Scrophularia deserti                              -                       +                      -                       -

Scrophularia hypercifolia                       +                      +                      +                      -

Scrozonera tortuosissima                      -                       +                      -                       -

Silene arabica                                       +                      +                      -                       -

Silene villosa                                         +                      +                      +                      +

Sophora gibbosa                                  -                       +                      -                       -

Stipagrostis drarii                                  +                      +                      +                      +

Stipagrostis plumosa                             +                      -                       +                      -

Teucrium oliverianum                            +                      +                      -                       -

Tribulus macropterus var. arabicus        -                       -                       +                      +        

Tribulus pentandrus                               -                       +                      -                       -

Zygophyllum mandaville                        -                       -                       +                      -

 

conceived, designed and maintained by dr. jacob thomas, dept. of botany & microbiology, king saud university, riyadh, saudi arabia.