Zygophyllum (Zygophyllum qatarense)

Zygophyllum qatarense
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Zygophyllum fact file

Zygophyllum description

GenusZygophyllum (1)

Zygophyllum qatarense is a salt-tolerant plant of the Arabian Peninsula that grows as a rounded, dwarf shrub (2). In adaptation to retaining water in its saline environment, it has small compact leaves that are rather fleshy and succulent (3). As with other members of the genus Zygophyllum, the leaves of Zygophyllum qatarense have two leaflets and the flowers have four or five delicate petals (4).


Zygophyllum biology

Occupying salty, arid environments, Zygophyllum qatarense displays a remarkable number of unique adaptations to its challenging surroundings. When the salinity of its environment increases above a certain threshold level, it is able to shed its leaves and remain dormant for many years until the next rainfall occurs, which temporarily dilutes soil salinity, enabling the shrubs to grow new leaves and resume growth. It is also able to adapt to salt stress through seasonal changes in leaf structure and, as such, special leaves with adaptations to prevent water loss are produced at the start of the dry season, with these leaves being increasingly lost as the dry season progress so as to minimise additional water loss. Reproduction in Zygophyllum qatarense is also heavily influenced by salinity, and its seeds have thick coats that enable them to remain dormant during long periods of drought, before germinating after the first subsequent heavy rainfall (2).


Zygophyllum range

Zygophyllum qatarense occurs in coastal areas of the eastern part of the Arabian Peninsula.


Zygophyllum habitat

Dense shrubs of Zygophyllum qatarense often form a distinct vegetation community on salty, firm, coarse, stony soils around the margins of sabkha (coastal salt flats), especially in depressions where sand has accumulated (5). It also grows on calcareous soils of non-salty loam (a mixture of sand, silt and clay) and on slightly salty, sandy, clay margins in salt marshes (6). Zygophyllum qatarense is, however, intolerant of frequent inundation by salt water (5).


Zygophyllum status

Zygophyllum qatarense has yet to be classified by the IUCN.


Zygophyllum threats

There are no known threats to Zygophyllum qatarense.


Zygophyllum conservation

Zygophyllum qatarense 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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Containing free calcium carbonate, chalky.
A category used in taxonomy, which is below ‘family’ and above ‘species’. A genus tends to contain species that have characteristics in common. The genus forms the first part of a ‘binomial’ Latin species name; the second part is the specific name.
The beginning of growth, usually following a period of dormancy and in response to favourable conditions. For example, the sprouting of a seedling from a seed.


  1. GBIF (October, 2009)
  2. Hellyer, P. and Aspinall, S. (2005) The Emirates: A Natural History. Trident Press Limited, London.
  3. Zaman, S. and Padmesh, S. (2009) Leaf anatomical adaptations of selected Kuwait’s native desert plants. European Journal of Scientific Research, 37: 261-268.
  4. PlantZAfrica - Zygophyllum (January, 2011)
  5. Abu-Zinada, A.H., Barth, H-J., Krupp, F., Böer, B. and Al Abdessalaam, T.Z. (2008) Protecting the Gulf’s Marine Ecosystems from Pollution. Birkhäuser Verlag A G, Switzerland.
  6. Sayed, O.H. (1996) Adaptational responses of Zygophyllum qatarense Hadidi to stress conditions in a desert environment. Journal of Arid Environments, 32: 445-452.

Image credit

Zygophyllum qatarense  
Zygophyllum qatarense

© Salem Al Shekaili

Salem Al Shekaili
Abu Dhabi,
United Arab Emirates


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