Economically important Plants


                    All most all plants are useful in one way or the other. The Bedouins utilize wild plants for producing medicines, oils, etc, some of which are essential to their daily existence. The management and utilization of these relatively meagre plant resources of the deserts are one of the impressive aspects of the nomadic communities' life in the past few decades.

The ethenobotanical resources of Saudi Arabia can be broadly classified into fibre yielding plants, oil-producing plants, timber plants, edible plants and medicinal plants. Juniperus, Prosopis, Tamarix, Ziziphus, etc. were a good source of timber for construction. The use of Salvadora persica roots as tooth-brush, Myrrh from Commiphora,  Henna from Lawsonia inermis, etc. is common even in these days. Reeds such as Phragmites, Typha, Scirpus are still being used more making baskets, mats, etc., although to keep the tradition alive. Pillows have been made from the inflorescence of Typha, Sacharum, Aerva javanica and mats from the fibres of Sansevieria, Dracaena, etc.

          Not less than 319 species have been identified in the past decades which have been widely used in Saudi folk medicine. Various essential oils were extracted from species belonging to the Lamiaceae family. Species such as Anastatica hierochuntica, Matricaria aurea, Lawsonia inermis, Mentha spp. Calligonum comosum, Teucrium polium, Withania somnifera, Anagyris foetida, Senna alexandrina, etc. are good sources of medicines for treating various ailments. Scientists have reported the presence of linalool in Lavandula pubescens. It also contains small amount of camphor and large amounts of sesquiterpenes. Microbiological screening also revealed that the oil was active against many microorganisms.  Achillea fragrantissima, a common plant in the central raudhas and northern parts, contains unsaturated fatty acids, giving the characteristic odour. The content of the lipids in the aerial tops is appreciable and may be of economical significance. Analysis on Horwoodia dicksoniae also proved to contain high percentage of volatile oils, which makes the species one of the rare aromatic plants of Brassicaceae. Plectranthus tenuiflorus, Cleome chrysantha, Rosa abyssinica, Artemisia spp. Lavandula dentata and a considerable number of flowers of various plants also contain various types of volatile oils which could be used in perfume or pharmaceutical industries. Moringa peregrina, a tree species in the northwestern Hijaz Mountains is a good source of oil, which could be used as a medicine or as an edible oil.

            A significant number of wild plants are remarkable for their variety and beauty. Gynandris sisyrinchium (Iridaceae), Pancratium tortuosum, Crinum album, Scadoxus multiflorus (Amaryllidaceae), Anthemis deserti, Centaurothamnus maximus  (Asteraceae), Delonix elata, Cadia purpurea (Fabaceae) and a number of other species belonging to Aloe, Caralluma, Duvalia, Euphorbia, Klenia, etc are elegant plants with colourful foliage or flowers.

          As many as 98 wild species are reported edible and are eaten in one way or the other. Amaranthus viridis, Rumex vesicarius, Corchorus olitorius, Portulaca oleracea, Lactuca spp., Eruca sativa, Malva parviflora, etc some of the important plants of which the fresh leaves are eaten.

Preliminary catalogue of some of the economically important plants in Saudi Arabia


A. Medicinal plants


Acalypha fruticosa Forssk.                                        Euphorbiaceae

            An extract of leaves is used for treating bee stings.

Achyranthes aspera L.                                               Amaranthaceae

            Crushed roots are used on scorpion bites to ease irritation.

Achillea biebersteinii Afan.                                       Compositae

            An infusion form its leaves is used for the treatment of itching.

Adenium obesum (Forssk.) Roem. & Schult.  Apocynaceae

            Its sap is used for treating dislocations, painful joints, swellings etc.

Aerva javanica (Burm.f.) Juss. ex Schults                    Amaranthaceae

            A paste made from its inflorescence is used for treating bruises.

Ambrosia maritima L.                                                Compositae

Plant extract is used to relieve spasms.

Anastatica heirochuntica L.                                     Crucifereae

A solution of dried plant and water is used by women to ease childbirth.

Arnebia hispidissima (Lehm.) DC.                            Boraginaceae

            A solution obtained from boiling the whole plant in water is taken as tea to relieve fever.

Artemisia sieberi Besser                                             Compositae

            The whole plant is used as a smoke inhalant to treat various diseases. Leaves are used as an anthelmintic.

Astragalus atropilosus (Hochst.) Bunge                     Papilionaceae

Mixture of dried leaves and animal fat is applied to relieve backpain.

Calligonum comosum L’Herit                                    Polygonaceae

Dried stems and leaves are used against toothache

Carissa edulis (Forssk.) Vahl.                         Apocynaceae

Its berries are eaten for colic, menstrual pain

Citrullus colocynthis (L.) Schrad.                             Cucurbitaceae

Leaves, seeds and roots are used to treat insect bits and colic.

Clematis simensis Fresen.                                          Menispermaceae

Fresh leaves are used as a poultice to treat rheumatic pain.

Conyza incana Willd.                                                 Compositae

           The smoke of burned leaves are used to repel insects, also used for relieving muscular pain.

Cynomorium coccineum L.                                       Cynomoraceae

The fleshy part of the plant is eaten as a laxative.

Dracaena ombet Kotschy & Peyr                               Agavaceae

Resin used for treating haemorrhage, skin infections.

Ecbolium virde (Forssk.) Alston                                 Acanthaceae

Its leaves are used for treating skin rashes.

Euphorbia schimperiana Scheele                              Euphorbiaceae

An extract of leaves and roots is used as a laxative

Euryops arabicus Steud.                                            Compositae

The leaves and stems are used for treating wounds.

Geranium trilophum Boiss.                                       Geraniaceae

A mixture of ground plant and water is applied on the body to relieve pain.

Glycyrrhiza glabra L.                                                 Papilionaceae

Mixture of powdered rhizome and water or olive oil is used for treating muscle pain.

Gymnema sylvestre (Retz.) R.Br.

           Chewing the leaves of this plant will prevent the ability of the tongue to taste sweet.

Haploplyllum tuberculatum (Frossk.) Fiori               Rutaceae

Leaves are used as a sedative. The juice of leaves is used to strengthen weak muscles.

Indigofera articulata Gouan                                      Papilionaceae

Soaked roots are chewed to relieve toothache

Lawsonia inermis L.                                                  Lythraceae

Leaves(“Henna”) is widely used by women as a dye.

Matricaria aurea (Loel.) Sch.-Bip.                             Compositae

Inflorescence is used for making a tea for all stomach ailments.

Mentha longifolia (L.) L.                                           Labiatae

Fresh leaves with tea is taken to relieve stomach-ache and head-ache

Moringa peregrina (Forssk.) Fiori                              Moringaceae

Oil from the seeds is used to relieve headaches, fever

Nepeta deflersiana Schweinf.                         Labiatae

A mixture of leaves extract and tea is taken orally to ease stomach problems

Nerium oleander L.                                                    Apocynaceae

An extract from leaves is used for treating bronchitis, and coughs.

Ocimum basilicum L.                                                            Labiatae

Crushed fresh leaves are placed on bruises to avoid infection.

Plectranthus barbatus Andr.                                     Labiatae

The juice of crushed fresh leaves is used as a deodorant.

Pluchea arabica (Boiss.) Qaiser & Lack                    Compositae

The whole plant is used for treating boils, skin sores

Polycarpaea repans (Forssk.) Aschers. et Schweinf.   Caryophyllaceae

Crushed plant is applied as an antidote against snake bites.

Psiadia punctulata DC.                                             Compositae

Branches and stems are boiled with water and used to relieve muscle pain.

Rhazya stricta Decaisne                                              Apocynaceae

Whole plant is used for improving bad breath, chest pain, skin rash.

Ricinus communis L.                                                 Euphorbiaceae

Leaves and roots are used to treat bad breath, toothache etc.

Ruta chalepensis L.                                                   Rutaceae

Leaves are used to cure rheumatism and abdominal colic.

Salvadora persica Garc          .                                   Salvadoraceae

Stems are used as toothbrush.

Sansevieria ehrenbergii Schweinf. ex Baker              Agavaceae

Juice from the leaves is used for treating blisters

Seidletzia rosmarinus Bunge ex Boiss.                       Chenopodiaceae

Its leaves are used as a cleansing agent.

Senecio asirensis Boulos et Wood                              Compositae

A decoction made from its leaves is used for treating fevers.

Senna italica Miller                                                    Caesalpiniaceae

            A solution made from boiling the leaves in water is used for treating constipation and stomach cramps.

Sisymbrium irio L.                                                     Cruicifereae

            A solution obtained from boiling the seeds in water is used to relieve cold and fever.

Tamarindus indicus L.                                              Caesalpiniaceae

            Fruits are used as a laxative.

Tephrosia apollinea (Delile) Link                               Papilionaceae

            Ground leaves are used to treat cough.

Teucrium polium L.                                                   Labiatae

            Juice from fresh leaves is applied on cuts and abcesses

Withania somnifera (L.) Dunal.                                 Solanaceae

            Pounded leaves and roots are used as a poultice.

Ziziphus spina-christi(L.)Desf.                                  Rhamnaceae

            Fruits and seeds are used against dandruff, headache



B. Edible plants


Amaranthus graecizans L.                                         Amaranthaceae

            Edible part:  Cooked leaves and stems

Amaranthus viridis L.                                                Amaranthaceae

            Edible part:  Cooked young stems and leaves

Apium graveolens (L.) Lag.                                        Umbelliferae

            Young leaves and stems

Avena sativa L.                                                           Gramineae


Beta vulgaris L.                                                          Chenopodiaceae

            Cooked roots

Capparis spinosa L.                                                   Capparaceae

            Young, fresh fruits are used to make pickles.

Capsella bursa-pastoris (L.) Medicus                        Cruciferae

            Young leaves and stems

Celtis africana Burm. f.                                              Ulmaceae

            Fresh fruits

Chenopodium album L.                                             Chenopodiaceae

Fresh leaves and young shoots

Chenopodium ambrosioides L.                                  Chenopodiaceae

            Fresh young leaves and stems

Citrullus colocynthis (L.) Schrad.                             Cucurbitaceae

            Dried and cooked seeds

Cynomorium coccineum L.                                       Cynomoraceae

            Fleshy stem

Cyperus esculentus L.                                                Cyperaceae

            Tuberous roots

Diplotaxis erucoides (L.)DC                                      Cruciferae

            Fresh leaves and stems

Eleusine coracana (L.) Gaertn.                                  Gramineae


Eruca sativa Mill.                                                       Cruciferae

            Young and fresh leaves

Ficus cairica L.                                                          Moraceae

            Ripe fruits

Hyphaene thebaica (L.) Mart.                                    Palmae

            Fresh pericarp of the fruit

Lactuca serriola L.                                                     Compositae

            Young green leaves

Malva parviflora L.                                                    Malvaceae

            Young stems and leaves

Malva verticillata L.                                                  Malvaceae

            Fresh leaves

Mentha longifolia L.                                                  Labiatae

            Fresh leaves

Olea europaea L.                                                        Oleaceae

            Ripe fruits        

Origanum syriacum L.                                               Labiatae

            Fresh young branches

Panicum miliaceum L.                                              Gramineae


Pennisetum glaucum (L.) R. Br.                                Gramineae

            The flour from the ground seeds

Phoenix dactylifera L.                                               Palmae

            Ripe fruits

Portulaca oleracea L.                                                            Portulacaceae

            Fresh young branches

Ranunculus muricatus L.                                          Ranunculaceae

            Fresh leaves and stems

Raphanus sativus L.                                                  Cruciferae

            Tuberous roots

Rumex vesicarius L.                                                   Polygonaceae

            Fresh leaves

Scorzonera papposa DC.                                            Compositae

            Whole plant eaten raw.

Sesamum indicum L.                                                 Pedaliaceae

            Dried, ripe seeds

Sisymbrium irio L.                                                     Cruciferae

            Fresh, young leaves

Sonchus oleraceus L.                                                 Compositae

            Tender branches

Sorghum vulgare Pers.                                               Gramineae

            Flour from ground seeds

Tamarindus indica L.                                                            Papilionaceae

            Ripe fruits

Tripleurospermum auriculatum (Boiss.) Rech. f       Compositae

            Fresh leaves

Urtica pilulifera L.                                                    Urticaceae

            Fresh young leaves

Urtica urens L.                                                           Urticaceae

            Young stems and leaves

Ziziphus spina-christi            (L.) Willd.                                Rhamnaceae

            Fresh, ripe fruits


C. Aromatic Plants

(plants with aromatic foliage)


Achillea bibersteinii Afan.                                           Compositae

Achillea fragrantissima (Forssk.) Sch.-Bip.                Compositae

Ambrosia maritima L.                                                 Compositae

Artemisia judaica L.                                                   Compositae

Artemisia sieberi Besser                                              Compositae

Basilicum polystachion (L.) Moench                           Labiatae

Chrysanthemum coronarium  L.                                 Compositae

Cymbopogon commutatus (Steud.) Stapf.                   Gramineae

Cymbopogon schoenanthus (L.) Spreng.                    Gramineae

Ducrosia anethifolia (DC.) Boiss.                               Umbelliferae

Lavandula spp.                                                           Labiatae

Mentha longifolia (L.) Huds.                                       Labiatae

Meriandra benghalensis Benth.                                   Labiatae

Micromeria spp.                                                          Labiatae

Ocimum spp.                                                               Labiatae

Origanum syriacum L.                                                Labiatae

Pegolettia senegalensis Cass.                                     Compositae

Pulicaria glutinosa Jaub. & Spach.                             Compositae

Pulicaria guestii Rech. F. & Rawi                               Compositae

Pulicaria incisa (Lam.) DC.                                        Compositae

Pulicaria jauberti Gamal-Eldin                                    Compositae

Pulicaria schimperi DC.                                             Compositae

Ruta chalepensis L.                                                     Rutaceae

Scutellaria arabica Jaub. & Spach                              Labiatae

Tagetes minuta L.                                                       Compositae

Tanacetum santolinoides (DC.)Fein. & Fer.               Compositae

Teucrium spp.                                                             Labiatae

Thymus decussatus Benth        .                                   Labiatae


D. Ornamental Plants

(plants with attractive flowers or shoots)


Abutilon pannosum (G.Forst.) Schltdl.                        Malvaceae

Adenium arabicum Balf. f.                                          Apocynaceae

Aerva javanica (Burm.f.) Juss. ex Schult                     Amaranthaceae

Ajuga arabica P. Davis                                               Labiatae

Albuca abyssinica Dryand                                           Liliaceae

Alkanna orientalis (L.) Boiss.                                      Boraginaceae

Allium spp.                                                                  Liliaceae

Aloe spp.                                                                     Liliaceae

Amaranthus hybridus L.                                             Amaranthaceae

Anisotes trisulcus (Forssk.) Vahl.                                Acanthaceae

Anthemis spp.                                                              Compositae

Arundo donax L.                                                         Gramineae

Asperagus spp.                                                            Liliaceae

Asphodelus tenuifolius Cav.                                        Liliaceae

Astragalus kahiricus DC.                                            Papilionaceae

Astragalus seiberi DC.                                                Papilionaceae

Astripomoea malvacea (Koltz.) Meeuse                     Convolvulaceae

Barbeya oleoides  Schweinf.                                        Barbeyaceae

Buddleja polystachya Fresen.                                      Loganiaceae

Campanula spp.                                                          Campanulaceae

Caralluma spp.                                                           Asclepiadaceae

Cenchrus ciliaris L.                                                     Gramineae

Cichorium spp.                                                            Compositae

Clitoria ternatea L.                                                     Papilionaceae

Colutea istria Mill.                                                      Papilionaceae

Convolvulus arvensis L.                                             Convolvulaceae

Convolvulus oxyphyllus Boiss.                                   Convolvulaceae

Crinum album (Forssk.) Herbert                                 Amaryllidaceae

Delonix elata (L.) Gamble                                           Caesalpiniaceae

Delosperma harazianum (Defl.) Popp. & Ihl.  Aizoaceae

Desmidorchis penicillatus (Defl.) N.E. Br.                  Asclepiadaceae

Dianthus spp.                                                              Caryophyllaceae

Diplotaxis erucoides (L.)DC.                                      Cruciferae

Diplotaxis harra(Forssk.) Boiss.                                 Cruciferae

Dobera glabra (Forssk.) Poir.                                     Salvadoraceae

Dodonaea angustifolia L.f.                                         Sapindaceae

Dracaena ombet Kotschy                                            Agavaceae

Duvalia spp.                                                                Asclepiadaceae

Ecbolium virde (Forssk.) Alston                                  Acanthaceae

Ehretia obtusifolia Hochst.                                         Boraginaceae

Ephedra aphylla Forssk.                                             Ephedraceae

Erodium glaucophyllum (L.) L’Her.                           Geraniaceae

Eulophia petersii (Rchb.f.)Rchb.f.                               Orchidaceae

Euphorbia ammak Schweinf.                                      Euphorbiaceae

Euphorbia cactus Ehrenb.                                           Euphorbiaceae

Euphorbia fractiflexa S. Carter & Wood                    Euphorbiaceae

Euroyps arabicus Steud.                                             Compositae

Ficus spp.                                                                    Moraceae

Gladiolus spp.                                                             Iridaceae

Gypsophila capillaris (Forssk.) C.Chr.                        Caryophyllaceae

Hibiscus deflersii Schweinf.                                         Malvaceae

Hibiscus vitifolius L.                                                   Malvaceae

Horwoodia dicksoniae Turill                                        Cruciferae

Hybanthus enneaspermus (Vent.) Muell.                     Violaceae        

Hypericum spp.                                                           Hypericaceae

Hyphaene thebaica (L.) Mart.                                     Palmae

Huernia spp.                                                                Asclepiadaceae

Imperata cylindrica (L.) Raeusch.                               Gramineae

Ipomoea obscura (L.) Ker-Gawl.                                Convolvulaceae

Ipomoea sinensis (Desr.)Choisy                                   Convolvulaceae

Iris postii Mouterde                                                     Iridaceae

Ixiolirion tataricum (Pall.) Herb.                                 Iridaceae

Jasminum grandiflorum L.                                         Oleaceae

Juncus rigidus Desf.                                                    Juncaceae

Juniperus spp.                                                             Cupressaceae

Klenia pendula (Forssk.) Sch.-Bip.                             Compositae

Leptadenia pyrotechnica (Forssk.) Decne                   Asclepiadaceae

Limonium axillare (Forssk.) Kuntze                            Plumbaginaceae

Limonium carnosum (Boiss.) Kuntze                           Plumbaginaceae

Limonium cylindrifolium (Forssk.) Verdc.                  Plumbaginaceae

Lonicera etrusca Santi                                                 Caprifoliaceae

Matthiola longipetala (Vent) DC.                               Cruciferae

Mesembryanthemum forsskalii Boiss.                        Aizoaceae

Moringa peregrina (Forssk.) Fiori                               Moringaceae

Nicotiana glauca R. Graham                                       Solanaceae

Nuxia oppositifolia Hochst.                                         Loganiaceae

Olea europaea L.                                                        Oleaceae

Oncoba spinosa L.                                                      Flacourtiaceae

Opuntia spp.                                                                Cactaceae

Pancratium spp.                                                          Amaryllidaceae

Pandanus odoratissimus L.                                         Pandanaceae

Pelargonium multibracteatum Hochst.                       Geraniaceae

Pennisetum setaceum (Forssk.) Chiov.                       Gramineae

Phragmites australis(Cav.) Trin. ex Steud.                  Gramineae

Plumbago zeylanica L.                                                Plumbaginaceae

Primula verticillata Forssk.                                        Primulaceae

Prunus korshinskyi Hand.-Mazz.                                Rosaceae

Rosa abyssinica Lindley                                               Rosaceae        

Rumex nervosus Vahl                                                  Polygonaceae

Rumex vesicarius L.                                                    Polygonaceae

Salix mucronata Tunb.                                                Salicaceae

Salvia spinosa L.                                                         Labiatae

Sansevieria  ehrenbergii schwinf. ex Bak.                   Agavaceae

Scabiosa palaestina L.                                                Dipsacaceae

Scadoxus multiflorus (Martyn) Raf.                             Amaryllidaceae

Schimpera arabica Hochst. & Steud.                          Cruciferae

Schouwia purpurea (Forssk.) Schweinf.                      Cruciferae

Scorzonera spp.                                                           Compositae

Senecio asirensis Boulous & Wood                             Compositae

Senecio hadiensis Forssk.                                            Compositae

Senna alexandrina Mill.                                              Caesalpiniaceae

Senra incana Cav.                                                       Malvaceae

Sulcolluma shadhabana (Lavr.) Plowes                      Asclepiadaceae

Tamarix spp.                                                               Tamaricaceae

Tephrosia nubica (Boiss.) Bak.                                   Papilionaceae  

Tephrosia purpurea (L.) Pers.                                     Papilionaceae

Trichodesma trichodesmoides (Bunge) Guerke           Boraginaceae

Tulipia biflora Pall.                                                      Liliaceae

Verbesina encelioides (Cav.) Benth. & Hook.             Compositae

Zilla spinosa (L.) Prantl                                               Cruciferae


E. Important Grazing plants


Acacia spp.                                                                  Leguminosae

Aeluropus littoralis (Gouan) Parl.                                Gramineae

Anabasis articulata (Forssk.) Moq.                            Chenopodiaceae

Avicennia marina (Forssk.) Vierh.                              Verbenaceae

Cenchrus ciliaris L.                                                     Gramineae

Centropodia forsskalii (Vahl) Cope                            Gramineae

Cornulaca arabica Botsch.                                         Chenopodiaceae

Deverra triradiata Hochst. ex Boiss                            Umbelliferae

Diptergium glaucum Decne.                                       Capparaceae

Halopyrum mucronatum (L.) Stapf                             Gramineae

Haloxylon salicornicum (Moq.)Bge.                           Chenopodiaceae

Hordium murinum L.                                                  Gramineae

Horwoodia dicksoniae Turrill                                      Cruciferae

Lasiurus scindicus Henr.                                             Gramineae

Lycium shawii                                                             Solanaceae

Panicum turgidum Forssk.                                          Gramineae

Pennisetum divisum (Gmel.) Henr.                              Gramineae

Rhanterium epapposum Oliv.                                      Compositae

Rostraria pumila (Desf.) Tzvelev                                 Gramineae

Salsola vermiculata L.                                                Chenopodiaceae

Sorghum halepense (L.) Pers.                                     Gramineae

Stipa capensis Thunb.                                                  Gramineae

Stipagrostis drarii (Tackh.) de Winter                         Gramineae

Stipagrostis plumosa (L.) Munro ex T. Anders.           Gramineae

Traganum nudatum Del.                                             Chenopodiaceae

Tribulus macropterus

    var. arabicus (Hosni) Thomas & Hemaid                   Zygophyllaceae

Zygophyllum hamiense

    var. mandavillei (Hadidi)Thomas & Chau.               Zygophyllaceae