Harmal (Rhazya stricta)

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Harmal being fed upon by oleander hawk moth caterpillar
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Harmal fact file

Harmal description

KingdomPlantae
PhylumTracheophyta
ClassMagnoliopsida
OrderGentianales
FamilyApocynaceae
GenusRhazya (1)

Rhazya stricta is an evergreen dwarf shrub of the Apocianaceae family, which contains around 1,300 herbs, shrubs and trees, many of which have important medicinal and economical value (1) (2). Growing in deserts and arid valleys, the appearance of Rhazya stricta depends upon its habitat. The shrub is stunted and yellowish-green where the soil is formed of coarse materials and rainfall is low, but is bigger and dark green where the soil is fine and water is in abundance (3). The leaves are highly variable in shape, but are often narrowly oval. The flowers are arranged into a flattened cluster and are borne on short stalks, with the round petals being bluish-green on the outside of the flower and white on the inside. The cylindrical, long fruit pods encase narrowly-winged, flattened, brown seeds (4).

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Harmal biology

A little-studied species, very little is known about the biology of Rhazya stricta. However, it is known to often grow in pure, dense stands, where it is typically the dominant species in the floral community (3). A perennial species, it tends to expand horizontally rather than vertically whilst growing (2).

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Harmal range

Rhazya stricta is widely distributed around the coastlines of the Arabian peninsula, ranging into Iran, southern Afghanistan and Pakistan (3) (5).

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Harmal habitat

Rhazya stricta occurs in deserts and dry valleys (known as wadis) (3).

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Harmal status

Rhazya stricta has not yet been classified on the IUCN Red List.

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Harmal threats

Although the threats to Rhazya stricta have not yet been fully assessed, it is known to be harvested due to its medical properties and it is used to treat fevers, allergies and stomach problems (4). It is also protected from heavy livestock grazing by its poisonous properties, and the overgrazing of other shrubs actually increases the rate at which Rhazya stricta spreads (1).

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Harmal conservation

Rhazya stricta has not been the target of any known conservation measures.

Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi is a principal sponsor of ARKive. EAD is working to protect and conserve the environment as well as promoting sustainable development in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi.
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Find out more

For more information on the conservation of plants, see:

To find out more about conservation in the United Arab Emirates, see:

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Authentication

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:
arkive@wildscreen.org.uk

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Glossary

Evergreen
A plant which retains leaves all year round. This is in contrast to deciduous plants, which completely lose their leaves for part of the year.
Perennial
A plant that normally lives for more than two seasons. After an initial period, the plant produces flowers once a year.
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References

  1. King Saud University (January, 2011)
    http://faculty.ksu.edu.sa/
  2. Emad El-deen, H.M. (2005) Population ecology of Rhazya stricta Decne. in Western Saudi Arabia. International Journal of Agriculture and Biology, 7: 932-938.
  3. Zahran, M.A. (2010) Climate - Vegetation: Afro-Asian Mediterranean and Red Sea Coastal Lands. Springer Dordrecht Heidelberg, London.
  4. Health Authority – Abu Dhabi - Rhazya stricta (January, 2011)
    http://www.haad.ae/
  5. Ghazanfar, S.A. and Fisher, M. (1998) Vegetation of the Arabian Peninsula. Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht, the Netherlands.
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Image credit

Harmal being fed upon by oleander hawk moth caterpillar  
Harmal being fed upon by oleander hawk moth caterpillar

© Drew Gardner

Dr Drew Gardner
asgardner@gmail.com
http://www.flickr.com/photos/drewgardner/

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