Arabian Boxthorn (Lycium shawii), AWSAJ in Arabic

Before, I wrote as ‘Please help me in the identification of this climber shrub’ but I knew the answer. Thanks to my friend Saharan Shephard who replied to my query and provided the name with some details.

The shrub has weak stems (mostly many) and climbs on other trees. I found it in Alain Abu Dhabi. It is in the flowering stage now. It has small simple leaves, thorny stalks, and red cherries (though I found one). According to Wikipedia, it is found throughout the Arabian Peninsula.

Arabian boxthorn is a spreading, very spiny shrub growing 1 – 3 meters tall, exceptionally becoming a small tree up to 4.5 meters tall. The plant is harvested from the wild for local use as food and medicine. It is also grown as a hedge.

Here the Lycium flora is climbed on an Acacia tortillas tree. I found only one fruit, yellow berry. Inside the fruit is a few small seed-like tomatoes.
Beautiful flowers with olive-like leaves
The stalks are blackish in color

Some more details about the flora Lycium shawii

Lycium shawii is highly adapted to desert ecosystems. The thin-leaved, rigid bush grows up to 3 meters (9.8 feet) high, with a lot of branches and alternating spines that vary in size, and grow along the branches and on their tips. The leaves narrow towards their base. It produces small whitish-pink or purple flowers from Sep to Apr. The fruit is small red pea-sized (seedy berries), edible, and used as herbal medicine as well. The flora like to be the neighbor of Acacia tortillas and Prosopis cineraria to climb and thrive better.

Lycium shawii climbed on an Acacia tortillas tree
Lycium shawii climbed on an Acacia tortillas tree
The shrub has a weaker stem, can’t erect by itself
The thorny stalk of the Lycium shawii

Is it native or exotic?

Yes; It is native to the desert ecosystem of the Arabian Peninsula and some parts of Africa.

It can be used as hedging, fencing, and live wall, my exceptional idea of replacing exotic plants with native flora.

Native VS the Exotic Flora – Conserve Nature and Enrich Your Ecosystem

Haloxyllon and Leptadenia as a natural live wall
Haloxyllon and Leptadenia as a live wall in Hili Alain United Arab Emirates.

Appeal and Out of the box thinking

I strongly appeal to all the people and municipalities of the world, especially the Arabian Peninsula to adapt the best solution and conserve nature by using native flora/shrubs for hedging, fencing, wall beautifications, herbariums, botanical gardens, lawns, and other vegetation projects because of many reasons. The idea is equally good for all the regions of the world but here my main focus is on the desert flora and Arabian Peninsula.

The native biodiversity of the Arabian Peninsula

In the following gallery, different plants and insects of the region are provided. The list is very long but here few important are provided.

The reasons behind the idea

  • No need for watering as the native flora are highly drought tolerant and can survive years without rains.
  • The native flora can be plant in any type of soil as they are highly salt tolerant in nature
  • Mostly, the native flora do not need an fertilizer, pesticides, or mineral suppliments
  • They do not need intensive care, saving a thousands of hours of labor time
  • A strong support to the flora and fauna biodiversity of the region
  • The native flora are ecofriendly, perform far better than exotic plants and better survive in climatic extremes
  • Also, native flora provides habitat to the mini-wildlife of the region, like honeybees, whisps, beetles, reptiles, birds, and many others
  • The additional but very important role can be fodder production for the camels and other livestock. The stalk trimmed for beautification can be a very good camel feed. The municipility like Abu Dhabi can produce thousands of tons of fodder for camels annualy and can save a huge volume of import expences
  • The municipality can save up to million of liter water annually which can be use for other environmental support projects
  • The native flora can be use for the herbal medication as the traditional knowledge using the herbs is still very strong in different region
  • Such projects will be a great support for nature conservation

We can form miniature herbariums, living walls, live-fencing, and botanical garden in the cities with the native flora

It is really a great theme to use the native flora (highly tolerant to the drought conditions and saline soil textures) for different vegetation projects like herbarium, botanical garden, living walls, living fencing, landscaping, lawns, and other plantation projects. The native plants can fulfill all the purposes with a very low input system.

Alain Municipality has taken great initiatives alread

In many places of the Alain city, you will notice a lot of native flora have been used for the city beautification, like Leptadenia, and other plants (many from the Jable Hafeeth origin), which is really a very environment-friendly act. I would especially suggest flora like Haloxyllon salicornicum and Zygophyllum qatarense for making fences and walls as they can climb on support and get strengthen their stems with time.

Some References for watching and reading

Exploring the desert penology

Conserve the nature with the change in ideas

A shift in the idea can bring a very big and positive change. Using the native flora will impact nature and the environment very positively.

Macro flower photography of the Tetraen qatarensis with beautiful wildlife

I love the desert ecosystem, a calm place with wide horizons and well-adapted bio-players sustaining life in challenging conditions. I always walk in the desert as an explorer and learn from nature on regular basis. My interest is mainly focused on the native flora and the inhabitants relying on such flora. As I walk, I document the deserts’ facts and share them with you people to read, learn and understand the hidden but interesting facts of life in the desert.

Lately, I’m much focusing on the very precious and highly adapted flora (Tetraena qatarensis synonym Zygophyllum qatarense), everything related to this beautiful shrub. Here are the links, you can read in detail about my work compiled on this precious flora.

In this article, I’m sharing some macro photography about the tiny wildlife serving and living in the Tetraena qatarensis. In the pictures, you will see beautiful flowers, flies, robber flies, and other tiny creatures. You will be able to see the close view of the complete flowers, stigma, pistil, and the maturing fruits of the shrub. With each image, there is some brief information that can help you understand the purpose of the picture.

For further reading, go to the links below

Please help – Taxonomic identification of the desert’s shrub

Desert exploration is my passion and hobby

I’m an extensive livestock expert by training (rangelands/desert ecology and forages with main focus on camels, especially dairying) and desert explorer by passion (ethnoecology, ethnobotany, traditional herbal knowledge, biodiversity, and climate change). I’m working in the beautiful country of the United Arab Emirates, which is enriched with the diversity of beauty, from the Oasis to the desert and skyscrapers to the beautiful beaches. I love this beautiful country as I have many opportunities to learn and explore the desert.

Calitropis Shrub in the desert in Alain
Calitropis Shrub in the desert in Alain , Abudhabi

I love to know the desert ecology and the ethnoecology of the region, search and identify the flora (food for livestock and other traditional purposes), document the available flora as fact sheets, collaborate with the research institutes to further investigate scientific facts as a hobby and passion. In my free time, I go to the desert, mostly walk barefoot and understand the facts about the penology, ecosystems, and their potential for livestock systems in a climate change context. I also collect the garbage/trash (mostly plastic bottles/cans) from the desert and through in the waste bins allocated by the municipality.

Sometimes, I really need help in taxonomic classification and nomenclature of the flora and fauna

Sometimes, I really get tired and stressed when unable to solve my academic question, the question from my academy – the desert. I have been coming through such a situation from time to time. I found this flora many times and knew that it is a great source of salts for the camel and the camels really love it. In Arabic it is called RIMRAM, the traditional practitioners recommend it feeding the camels before work or race. Here are the pictures in the gallery, please help me in identifying and supporting my research work as it is for the wellbeing of desert, livestock, and humanity. Though I have found some information from google I still need help to sort it out.

Here I found – My conception after review references from the internet

Botanical name: Heliotropium bacciferum, English: Helitrope, Turnsole, Arabic name: Ramram, الرمرام, Pashtu name: پتنګانو مور Mother of butterflies as it is flowing round the year.

The dancing wind and sand made a sculpture of crocodile in the Desert – The Desert’s Art

Walking and exploring the desert

It is always fun walking and exploring the treasures and beauties of the desert. I love to walk and explore in the desert. Desert is the ocean of the sand but there is no Shark and no Stingrays. You can find beautiful and unique flora, fauna, sand dunes, songs of the air blowing, and sometimes a desert storm. Desert is a paradise but you have to choose a good time/weather to roam in the paradise. We have 3 months to go in the desert and inhale long breaths in the open and wide horizons of the desert.

Panoramicview of the desert in Abudhabi
Panoramic view of the desert in Abudhabi

Walking in humps and necks of the camels

In the desert, nature roams, nothing is managed or organized by human beings. The blow of the air, both the intensity and the direction decides the shapes of the dunes and the sands. You will feel like walking among the humps and necks of the camels as some dunes really look like the humps and the others like the neck of the camels. Nature has designed the camel in tune with the desert’s landscape. The colors and shapes of the sand dunes are much similar to the camels and vise versa.

The resemblance of the camels with the desert landscape

The nature’s engineering with the DNA to survive in aridity

Nature is wise and perfect, had learned to cope with climatic conditions under challenging conditions. The leaf, small fibrous hair, special barks, unique roots, and strong stress physiology make the desert flora and fauna fittest. Calitropis is one of the eccentric flora of the desert – surviving the arid conditions with smiles and flowers. The healthier and fresh shine of the leaves and flowers attract the attention of the desert’s travelers, especially when the visitor is an explorer.

Many people know Calitropis a cause of poison, unedible and useless but to me, it is an asset of biodiversity, a treasure of healing molecules, and food for some animals like goats, deers, desert rodents, and some beetles and other insects. The flowers are a rich source of nectar both for the sunbirds and the bees along with other insects.

The bunches of flowers- an attraction in the desert

Zygophyllum qatarense – A guarantee for sustainable greenery in the desert and food for the animals

Zygo is not only resilient, surviving aridity and salts but also responded very positively to the microflora in the livestock’s saliva, especially camels. The flora browzed by the camels is more healthy and shiny than those who grew tall and safe from the grazing. The Zygo is very much in a symbiotic relationship with the animals/livestock, attracting livestock (defecating and urinating around the flora) for soil fertility and igniting responsive physiology to keep itself healthy and stronger. I have found a unique fact always that the camels defecate and urinate around this flora, maybe eating Zygo stimulates camels’ GIT.

Close view of Zygophyllum qatarense browse by the camels
Camels are hunting the desert icecream, – Zygophyllum qatarense

In the picture below you can clearly differentiate the difference between the browsed and protected parts of the Zygophyllum qatarense.

Comparason of the browsed and protected Zygophyllum qatarense
Comparison of the browsed and protected Zygophyllum qatarense

The camel and the Zygophyllum have learned to live in a symbiotic relationship in the desert

Zygophyllum qatarense provides not only food for livestock and wild animals but also provides life support to birds and insects. It is a source of water, food, and minerals, especially salts. As discussed in the above paragraph, there is a strong and positive symbiotic relationship between the camels and Zygos.

Browsed heavily by camels but very healthy and shiny
Zygophyllum Browsed heavily by camels but very healthy and shiny

Crocodile in the desert – Ecoshaping the sand dunes

Citrullus or Gourd melon always makes a fence against the flowing/moving sands and the dunes. It is really amazing, exploring the worth of the desert melon.

Crocodile in the desert - Making shapes
Crocodile in the desert – Designed as a sleeping beast

Desert biodiversity, ranging from flora to fauna, and the detritivores and micro-organisms are unique and important, playing pivotal roles as biotic players of the desert ecosystems. I have been exploring the role of Zygophyllum qatarense in the desert for many years and share interesting facts from time to time.

Citrulus halting the flow of the sands
Citrullus play a physical role as well, fixing the sand dunes in the desert

Sometimes, it makes very amazing structures with a blend of flora and sand. Later other types of flora grow there and the rodents and other wildlife make their home in the Citrullus to get protection from hyper-aridity and the desert storm. Though I have no references and no proof I’m quite sure that the rodents and rats feel protected from the eagles’ eyes in the Citrullus neighborhood. The Eagles can’t prey on the rodents in the Citrullus wine (as rodents make a home there and eat the seeds of flora) also dump the seeds in their burrows and help some of them to germinate again, a very unique symbiotic relationship.