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 genusZygophyllum, the leaves of Zygophyllum qatarense have two leaflets and the flowers have four or five delicate petals (4).
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).
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).
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.
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