Plant diversity in Saudi Arabia

Southwestern Tihama, Saudi Arabia

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Southwestern Tihama is an approximately 800 km long coastal zone stretching from Jeddah in the north to Yemen border in south. It is narrow in the north and wide in the south. Topographically the region divided into a narrow shoreline, sand dunes, open plains, wadis and hillocks.


Shore line is more or less fringed with many inlets and creeks mostly holding patches of Avicennia marina population. Shallow waters in these fringes (between 1 m to 300 m away from the sea-shore) are also home to a number of sea-grasses, some of them are found in relatively deeper waters (Enhalus acoroides and Thalassia hemprichii) while others are found in shallow waters (Cymodoca rotundata, Halodule australis, Halophila ovalis, H. stipulaceae). Narrow salt pans (Sabkhas) adjacent to the shoreline is a more or less continuous and holding a scattered vegetation, dominated by Suaeda vermiculata, Zygophyllum coccineum,  Halopeplis perfoliata, Sporobolus spicatus, Aeluropus lagopoides, Cressa cretica, Tamarix nilotica, Zygophyllum simplex, Desmostachya bipinnata, Cyperus conglomeratus, etc. Northern part (Al-Birk, Quinfudah, Al-Lith) of the southern Tihama is narrow due to the projection of the crystalline basement to the west, at places, particularly in Qahama area, it reaches to the sea shore. Most of the coastal sides in this part of Tihama are steep. Vegetation in these areas are very significant. However, the plains composed of stones and pebbles are dominated by Limonium axillare, Panicum turgidum, Leptadenia pyrotechnica and Pennisetum divisum whereas in areas with more saline soil, the vegetation is dominated by Suaeda monoica, Halopeplis perfoliata and Salsola spinescens


Dunes and plains constitute some of the major land-forms in Tihama. Sand Dunes in the area are formed by the deposition of silt brought in by the flash floods and subsequent piling up of sand by wind. Major vegetation components of small dunes and plains are Acacia tortilis, A. ehrenbergiana, Suaeda monoica, Leptadenia pyrotechnica, Salvadora persica, Panicum turgidum, Pennisetum divisum, and Tephrosia purpurea whereas on deep sands, the vegetation is dominated by Odyssea mucronata, Capparis decidua, Dipterygium glaucum, Cadaba rotundifolia, Halopyrum mucronatum and Indigofera argentea.  Dense thickets of Salvadora persica intermixed with Acacia ehrenbergiana are also common along the less mobile undulating sand dunes. These sand dunes and adjacent plains also hold a number of ephemerals during spring, dominated mainly by Zygophyllum simplex.



Major wadis originating from the escarpments dissect through the dune formations and end in the Red Sea. Over 20 wadis cut through the plains of Tihama coast and end in Red Sea. Among these wadis, Itwed, Baysh, Dhamad, Jazan and Khulab are considered important. These wadis account for a mean annual run off rate of 7.4m3/Sec. Wadis are generally dry for the whole year or for successive years. However, occasional spates develop during rainy days. At the point of origin of the wadis, vegetation is dominated by Acacia ehrenbergiana, Salvadora persica, Delonix elata, Tamarindus indica, Berchemia discolor, Imperata cylindrica, etc. while its adjacent areas and open plains are dominated by Hyphaene thebaica, Dobera glabra and Acacia spp. along with succulents like Caralluma retrospiciens, Sansevieria and Aloe officinalis. Along the wadi beds where there are stagnant waters the vegetation is dominated by semi aquatic plants such as Typha domingensis, Cyperus laevigatus, Phyla nodiflora, Bacopa monnieri, Eclipta alba, etc and aquatic plants such as Potamogeton nodosus, Najas gramminae, Marselia aegytiaca, etc.



Eastern edge of Tihama region is characterized by hillocks, most of which rise from 150 to 250 m. Topography of these hillocks varies from rocky boulders to gravels with shallow runnels. Vegetation is sparse and scattered on the gentle slopes of the hills, mainly dominated by Acacia tortilis along with associated species such as Adenium obesum, Anisotes trisulcus, Acacia asak, Commiphora opobalsamum, Lycium shawii, Hibiscus micranthus, etc. Foot-hills and neighbouring plains are covered by gravels, pebbles and stones. Vegetation on these plains are also sparse, mainly inhabited by Dobera glabra, Caralluma retrospiciens, Aloe officinalis and Senna alexandrina. Climbers such as Pentropis spiralis, Ceropegia spp. and Cissus spp. are common in the plains, often seen festooned on Acacias. Most noticeable plant in this zone is the branched palm tree, Hyphaene thebaica interspersed with occasional trees like Maerua crassifolia and Ziziphus spina-christi.


Flora of Southern Tihama consists of 346 species of higher plants in 68 families. Poaceae is the largest family followed by Leguminosae, Euphorbiaceae and Asteraceae.

Floristic components of the Southern Tihama



Anisotes trisulcus

Barleria bispinosa

Barleria hochstetteri

Barleria prionites

Blepharis ciliaris

Hypoestes forsskaolii

Ruellia patula



Aizon canariense

Zaleya pentandra

Trianthema crystallina

Trianthema portulacastrum

Trianthema triquetra

Trianthema sheilae

Zaleya pentandra



Aloe officinalis 



Achyranthes aspera

Aerva javanica

Aerva lanata

Amaranthus graecizans

Amaranthus hybridus

Amaranthus lividus

Amaranthus sparganiocephalus

Amaranthus spinosus

Amaranthus viridis

Celosia trigyna

Digera muricata

Pupalia lappacea



Combretum molle



Adenium obesum



Calotropis procera

Caralluma retrospiciens

Caralluma subulata

Ceropegia aristolochioides

Ceropegia tihamana

Cetropegia variegata

Duvalia velutina

Glossonema boveanum

Leptadenia pyrotechnica

Pentatropis nivalis



Hyphaene thebaica

Phoenix caespitosa

Phoenix dactylifera



Aristolochia bracteolata



Arnebia hispidissima

Echium rauwfolii

Heliotropium ararbainense

Heliotropium bacciferum

Heliotropium digynum

Heliotropium europaeum

Heliotropium longiflorum

Heliotropium pterocarpum

Heliotropium zeylanicum

Trichodesma africanum


Farsetia longisiliqua

Farsetia stylosa

Morettia phileana

Schouwia purpurea

Sisymbrium erysimoides

Sisymbrium irio



Asphodelus fistulosus



Commiphora Kataf

Commiphora myrrha

Commiphora opoblasamum



Opuntia dellenii

Opuntia ficus-indica


Campanula edulis



Cadaba glandulosa

Cadaba longifolia

Capparis decidua

Cadaba rotundifolia

Capparis spinosa

Cleome brachycarpa

Cleome gynandra

Cleome viscosa

Dipterygium glaucum

Gynandropsis gynandra

Maerua crassifolia

Maerua oblongifolia



Chenopodium album

Chenopodium fasiculosum

Cornulaca ehrenbergii

Suaeda aegyptiaca

Suaeda monoica

Suaeda vermiculata

Halopeplis perfoliata

Salsola spinescens



Commelina africana

Commelina albicans  

Commelina forsskalei  


Centaurea schimperi

Conyza bonariensis

Conyza dioscorides

Echinops sp.

Eclipta alba

Launaea intybacea

Launaea mucronata

Launaea nudicaulis

Launaea procumbens

Onopordon ambiguum

Parthenium hysterophorus

Pluchea dioscoridis

Pulicaria petiolaris

Pulicaria somalensis

Pulicaria undulata

Reichardia tingitana

Sonchus oleraceus

Tridax procumbens

Verbesina enceolioides

Xanthium  strumarium


Convolvulus glomeratus

Convolvulus prostrates

Cressa cretica

Ipomoea carnea ssp. fistulosa

Operculina turpethum

Seddera virgata



Citrullus colocynthis

Coccinea grandis

Cucumis prophetarum

Momordica balsamina



Cymodocea rotundata

Cymodocea serrulata

Halodule uninervis



Cyperus alternifolius ssp. flabelliformis

Cyperus articulatus

Cyperus conglomeratus

Cyperus laevigatus

Cyperus rubicundus

Cyperus rotundifolius

Schoenus nigricans



Sansevieria ehrenbergii



Acalypha fruticosa

Acalypha indica

Andrachene aspera

Chrozophora oblongifolia

Clutia lanceolata

Croton bonplandianus

Euphorbia cactus

Euphorbia chamaesyce

Euphorbia cuneata

Euphorbia granulata

Euphorbia hirta

Euphorbia indica

Euphorbia schimperiana

Jatropha curcas

Jatropha glauca

Jatropha pelargonifolia

Phyllanthus maderaspatensis

Ricinus communis



Enicostemma axillare


Geranium trilophum

Pelargonium multiflorum


Halophila ovalis

Thalassia hemprichii


Hypericum hircinum



Ocimum americanum

Ocimum forsskolei

Otostegia fruticosa ssp. schimperi

Teucrium oliverianum


Acacia  melifera

Acacia abyssinica 

Acacia asak

Acacia ehrenbergiana

Acacia etbaica 

Acacia gerrardii

Acacia laeta 

Acacia oerfota

Acacia seyal

Crotalaria microphylla

Crotalaria senegalensis

Cyamopsis tetragonoloba

Indigofera argentea

Indigofera articulata

Indigofera colutea

Indigofera oblongifolia

Indigofera spinosa

Loganychium farctum

Lotus arabicus

Pithecellobium dulce

Prosopis juliflora

Rhynchosia pulverulenta

Senna alexandrina

Senna italica

Senna occidentalis

Sesbania leptocarpa

Tephrosia nubica

Tephrosia purpurea

Tephrosia purpurea ssp. apollinea

Tephrosia Uniflora

Vicia sativa

Vigna aconitifolia

Vigna amabensis



Nuxia oppositifolia



Loranthus curviflorus



Lawsonia inermis



Caucanthus edulis 



Abutilon bidentatum

Abutilon fruticosum  

Abutilon hirtum   

Abutilon pannosum  

Althaea ludwigii  

Hibiscus micranthus

Malva parviflora

Senra incana  

Sida ovata



Azadirachta indica

Melia azaderach



Cocculus pendulus



Corbichonia decumbens

Glinus lotoides

Mollugo cerviana



Ficus vasta



Boerhavia diffusa

Commicarpus grandiflorus

Commicarpus plumbagineus


Jasminum grandiflorum ssp. floribundum



Eulophia petersii



Orobanche cernua



Oxalis corniculata



Pandanus odoratissimus 



Argemone ochroleuca



Pedalium murex

Sesamum alatum

Sesamum indicum



Limoniium axillare  

Limonium cylindrifolium



Aeluropus lagopoides

Aeluropus massauensis

Aristida adscensionis

Aristida funiculata

Aristida mutabilis

Brachiaria deflexa

Brachiaria leersioides

Cenchrus ciliaris

Cenchrus echinatus

Cenchrus setigerus

Chloris barbata

Chloris virgata

Chrysopogon plumulosus

Cynodon dactylon

Dactyloctenium aegyptium

Dactyloctenium aristatum

Dactyloctenium scindicum

Desmostachya bipinnata

Dichanthium annulatum

Dichanthium foveolatum

Digitaria velutina

Echinochloa colona

Echinochloa pyramidalis

Enneapogon lophotichus

Enneapogon schimperanus

Eleusine africana

Eragrostis barrelieri

Eragrostis ciliaris

Eragrostis papposa

Eriochloa fatmensis

Halopyrum mucronatum

Hyparrhenia hirta

Lasiurus scindicus

Leptochloa fusca

Melinis repens

Ochthochloa compressa

Odyssea mucronata

Panicum antidotale

Panicum coloratum

Panicum turgidum

Paspalidium desertorum

Pennisetum setaceum

Pennisetum villosum

Phragmites australis

Piptatherum olciformis

Poa sinaica

Saccharum spontaneum

Schoenefeldia gracilis

Setaria ciliaris

Setaria verticillata

Sorghum bicolor

Sporobolus consimilis

Sporobolus ioclados

Sporobolus spicatus

Stipagrostis hirtigluma

Stipagrostis plumosa

Stipagrostis plumosa

Tetrapogon cenchriformis

Tetrapogon tenellus

Tetrapogon villosus

Themeda triandra

Tragus berteronianus

Tragus racemosus

Tricholaena teneriffae



Polygala erioptera


Rumex vesicarius



Portulaca oleracea

Portulaca quadrifida



Potamogeton nodosus



Anagalis arvensis



Cheilanthus coriacea

Marselia aegyptiaca



Ochradenus baccatus

Reseda decursiva

Reseda muricata



Ziziphus spina-christi



Rhizophora mucronata  



Dobera glabra 

Salvadora persica



Bacopa monnieri

Craterostigma pumilum

Schweinfurthia pterosperma

Scoparia dulcis

Striga hermonthica

Verbascum nubicum



Datura ferox

Datura innoxia

Dataura stramonium

Physalis acuminata

Physalis peruviana

Solanum albicaule

Solanum dubium

Solanum glabrata var. sepicula

Solanum incanum

Solanum sepicula

Solanum surattense

Solanum villosum

Withania somnifera



Tamarix aphylla

Tamarix macrocarpa

Tamarix nilotica



Corchorus depressus

Corchorus olitorius

Corchorus trilocularis



Typha domingensis

Typha elephatiana



Forsskaolea tenacissima



Avicennia marina

Chascanum marrubifolium

Phyla nodiflora



Cissus quadrangularis

Cissus rotundifolius



Fagonia bruguieri

Fagonia indica

Tribulus parvispinus

Tribulus pentandrus

Tribulus terrestris

Tribulus terrestris var. inermis

Zygophyllum album

Zygophyllum coccineum

Zygophyllum hamiense

Zygophyllum simplex


Written and maintained by Dr. Jacob Thomas, Dept. of Botany & Microbiology, King Saud University, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.