Succulent flora of Saudi Arabia.

Succulent plants are of great ecological significance particularly in arid and semi-arid parts of Saudi Arabia or the Arabian Peninsula in general. They store water in their stems, leaves or roots, a characteristic feature adopted by several plants to withstand high temperature and low precipitation. Succulent plants are usually seen in the eastern slops of southern Hijaz Mountains, along the Arabian Gulf and Red Sea coast, shallow depressions and dry lake beds containing high levels of dissolved minerals that are noxious to other plants. In Saudi Arabia, approximately, 290 species belonging to   23 families are generally recognized as succulent. Some of the families, representing succulent species are Aizoaceae, Aloaceae, Asclepiadaceae, Cactaceae, Chenopodiaceae, Crassulaceae, Dracaenaceae, Euphorbiaceae, Portulacaceae and Zygophyllaceae.


Some of succulent plants have ornamental value (Adenium arabicum, Duvalia spp., Huernia spp., Caralluma spp., Euphorbia spp.) while a few other species (e.g. Sansevieria- Dracaenaceae)are economically important in local fiber industry or are deeply associated with the culture of the country. In Saudi Arabia,  Asclepiadaceae is the largest family with over 27 species followed by Chenopodiaceae and Aloeaceae with 24 species each, majority of which are seen in the northwestern and southwestern regions. Aloe is the largest succulent genus in Saudi Arabia, containing about 24 species. The most popular among them are Aloe vera var. officinalis, Aloe sabaea, etc.. Species such as Aloe armatissima Lavr. & Colle, Aloe porphyrostachys Lavr. & Colle., Aloe shadensis Lavr. & Colle. and Aloe sheilae Lavr. are endemic to Saudi Arabia. 

Euphorbia species are generally regarded as poisonous and spiny, some of them are as tall as 5 meters. Genera such as Caralluma, Caudanthera, Borelluma, Duvalia, Heurnia etc. of Asclepiadaceae have 4-5-sided succulent stems and possess very attractive flowers seen either singly or in clusters.








Plant Communities

Checklist of species


Agavaceae contains only 2 genera, namely Dracaena and Sansevieria. The former (Dracaena ombet) is found in the high altitude areas while the latter, represented by two species (S. ehrenbergii and Sansevieria forskaliana) is usually seen in low lying areas. Members of Agavaceae are of considerable economic importance in the Arab World because of their fibrous leaves/stems which were widely used in making mats, baskets, hats, etc.  All three species have a scattered distribution in the south western region. Cactaceae, a New World family, is represented in Saudi Arabia by two exotic species, Opuntia dellenii and O. ficus-indica. Both species are now invaded into large tracts of the vegetation-rich areas of south western mountains. Crassulaceae is a relatively small family in Saudi Arabia. All members (4 genera and 16 species) of this family in Saudi Arabia are leaf succulents and are seen among the high altitude areas of Hijaz Mountains. Umblicus spp. and Sedum spp. are moist loving plants, usually found among Pteridophytes.

Portulacaceae is represented by 2 genera and six species of annual or perennial herbs. Members of this family are characteristic of 2-phyllous floral involucre (sometimes considered as sepals) with scales or hairs at the leaf bases. The most prominent among them is the widely distributed, edible plant, Portulaca oleracea which is found in almost all semi aquatic habitats of Saudi Arabia. In Zygophyllaceae, two genera are succulent. Among these Nitraria retusa is reported from the eastern province while the genus Zygophyllum (Tetreana) with six species have a wider distribution, commonly seen in saline habitats.

Succulent species of Chenopodiaceae are also important in arid regions, some of which are extremely fleshy while a few genera, for example, Salicornia and Halocnemum have articulated stems with no leaves. In genera like Salsola, Haloxylon, etc the leaves are scale-like and are distributed in the arid regions or in the coastal and inland sabkhas (Salty areas).

Aizoon hispanicum
Delosperma harazianum

Mesembryanthemum forsskalii
Mesembryanthemum nodiflorurn

Sesuvium sesuvioides

Sesuvium verrucosum
Trianthema crystalliną

Trianthema portulacastrum

Trianthema sheilae

Triantheina triquetra
Zaleya pentandra


 Aloe abhaica
 Aloe armatissima
 Aloe brunneodentata

 Aloe castellorum
 Aloe cephalophora
 Aloe edentata
 Aloe fleurentiniorum
 Aloe hijazensis

Aloe niebuhriana

Aloe officinalis
Aloe parvicapsula
Aloe parvicoma
Aloe porpyrostachys
Aloe pseudorubroviolacea
Aloe qaharensis
Aloe rivierei
Aloe rubroviolacea
Aloe sabaea
Aloe shadensis
Aloe sheilae
Aloe vacillans
Aloe vulcanica
Aloe woodii

Aloe yemenica

Adenium obesum


Angolluma commutata ssp. sheilae

Angolluma deflersiana
Angolluma erernastrum
Angolluma wissmannii
Borealluma tuberculata
Caralluma subulata
Caudanthera sinaica
Caudanthera sinaica
ssp. baradii  

Crenulluma petraea
Cryptolluma edulis
Cylindrilluma solenophora
Desmidorchis penicillatus
Desmidorchis retrospiciens
Duvalia sulcata
Duvalia sulcata
var. semi-nuda
Duvalia velutina
Huernia arabica
sp. nov. aff. boleana
Huernia laevis
sp. aff. lodarensis
Huernia saudi-arabica
Monolluma quadrangula
Rhytidocaulon macrolobum
Rhytidocaulon macrolobum
ssp. minimum
Rhytidocaulon sheilae
Sulcolluma shadhbana

Sulcolluma shadhbana var. barhana



Opuntia ficus-indica

Opuntia dillenii


Sphaerocoma aucheri


Agathophora alopecuroides

Agathophora alopecuroides var. papillosa
Anabasis setifera
Arthrocnemum macrostachyum

Bienertia cycloptera
Halocharis sulphurea  
Halocnemum strobilaceum
Halopeplis perfoliata
Salicornia europaea
Salsola arabica  
Salsola cyclophylla
Salsola drummondii  
Salsola imbricata  
Salsola jordanicola  
Salsala kali
Salsola lachnantha
Salsola schweinfurthii
Seidlitzia rosmarinus
Sevada schimperi
Suaeda aegyptiaca
Suaeda maritima
Suaeda monoica
Suaeda vermiculata  
Traganum nudatum  

Kleinia odora
Kleinia pendula

Crassula alata
Crassula alata
ssp. pharnaceoides
Crassula alba
Crassula schimperi

Crassula tillaea
Kalanchoe alternans
Kalanchoe citrina
Kalanchoe crenata
Kalanchoe deficiens
var. glabra
Kalanchoe glaucescens

Kalanchoe laciniata

Kalanchoe lanceolata

Sedum caespitosum

Sedum hispanicum

Umbilicus horizontalis

Umbilicus rupestris


Cynomorium coccineum  


Sansevieria ehrenbergii  

Sansevieria forskaliana



Euphorbia agowensis
Euphorbia ammak  
Euphorbia balsamifera ssp. adenensis  
Euphorbia cactus  
Euphorbia fractiflexa
Euphorbia fruticosa

Euphorbia inarticulata

Euphorbia milii
Euphorbia parciramulosa
Euphorbia schimperi
Euphorbia triaculeata

Sebaea sp.
Swertia polynectaria
Swertia woodii


Hydnora johannis

Eulophia petersii


Cistanche phelypaea

Cistanche tubulosa
Cistanche tubulosa
var. albiflora

Cistanche violacea
Orobanche abyssinica
Orobanche aegyptiaca
Orobanche cernua
var. cernua
Orobanche cernua
var. desertorum
Orobanche cernua
var. latebracteata
Orobanche hypertomentosa
Orobanche minor
Orobanche oxyloba
var. oxyloba
Orobanche pubescens
sp. aff. purpurea
Orobanche ramosa


Adenia venenata

Limonium axillare
Limonium carnosum
Limonium cylindrifolium



Rumex vesicarius


Portulaca grandiflora

Portulaca kermesina

Portulaca oleracea
Portulaca pilosa

Portulaca quadrifida



Reaumuria hirtella


Cissus quadrangularis
Cissus rotundifolius


Nitraria retusa
Zygophyllum album
Zygophyllum boulosii
Zygophyllum coccineum
Zygophyllum decumbens
Zygophyllum hamiense
Zygophyllum mandavillei
Zygophyllum migahidii
Zygophyllum qatarense
Zygophyllum simplex



Designed and managed by Dr. Jacob Thomas Pandalayil, Dept. of Botany & Microbiology, King Saud University, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.