Western Desert Flora

Thanks to Vincent Brown for pointing out this website about the common flora of Egypt’s Western Desert:
http://westerndesertflora.geolab.cz/

Petr Pokorny and Adela Pokorna have put together a terrific resource about the common plants that can be found in the Western Desert and the oases. Here’s an extract from their introduction:

Western Desert is a harsh environment for plant growth. The hot summer (sometimes above 50°C) and the extreme daily temperature fluctuations in winter (from above 30°C in the day to below zero at night) contribute to this. Of course, rainwater is extremely rare item there. Heavier downpour may occur only once in decades. Nevertheless, when it does occur, the rainwater quickly penetrates the permeable sand to a depth beyond the root zone. The seeds of only few plants succeed in germinating under such conditions.

In large tectonic depressions, oases were formed where artesian water reach the surface. Over a long history of human settlement the local biota was severely affected by humans. Inside oases, land was transformed into cultivated fields and orchards. As the result, it is difficult to ascertain what natural vegetation had been there before human interference. After reaching the surface and irrigating agricultural land, the water drains to lowest level of the oasis floor, where it forms pools or lakes. Because of high evaporation, this water becomes highly saline. Wetlands and salt marches that form around pools and lakes are rich in vegetation and, together with cultivated fields and often stabilised sand dunes, are the main features of inhabited land.

In Egypt, about 700 plant species commonly occur. According to the most recent analysis (Boulos 1999 – 2005), the total number of vascular plant species in Egypt is 2075. Substantial part of this diversity is confined to wettest regions – Mediterranean, Sinai Peninsula, and Gebel Elba, a mountain range that supports Acacia woodland. While not counting its northern Mediterranean fringe, Western Desert is the poorest regions in the country in terms of plant diversity.

The photographs are excellent and if you are interested in the flora that you may come across in the Egyptian Desert this is an excellent resource.

Another great resource for both flora and fauna is Andras Zboray’s website, which has some excellent information and lots of photos:
http://www.fjexpeditions.com/frameset/florafauna.htm

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2 Responses to “Western Desert Flora”

  1. Andrew Grace Says:

    Hello and thanks for this excellent website. I am sorry my computer is broken and I am in a public library. My name is Andrew Grace and I live in Hastings UK. I have been writing an introduction to the biogeography of the bees of the Eastern Mediterranean and Near East for over two years and have been working in the field previously. I have finished my text and will self publish in the next few weeks. I am trying to get a few landscape floral habitat photographs to use for free in my book. I have Med habitats but need some semi-desert and steppe pictures. If you could help me please could you email me a couple of good illustrative pictures with credit details for use in the book.

  2. Andrea Byrnes Says:

    Hi Andrew

    Sorry for the late reply but I’ve been away for a week or so. I’ve taken lots of photos of the desert but very few with any floral photographs. I think you may have mixed me up with the owner of the website to which I linked. If you click on the link you can find their contact details and I am sure that they will be of more help than I can be. Best of luck with your project – it sounds fascinating.

    Best
    Andie

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