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New records for the vascular flora of Jebel Hafit, Abu Dhabi Emirate.

According to Brown & Boer (2005), the UAE and adjacent areas of Oman are home to 678 vascular plant species, of which about 400 occur in Abu Dhabi Emirate. Jebel Hafit is the most prominent landscape feature in the Emirate and a hotspot of biodiversity. A number of authors have contributed to a better understanding of the flora of this location, including Stuart & Stuart (1998), Jongbloed et al. (2000, 2003) and Western (1989). In a fairly detailed study of Jebel Hafit, based on their own experience and summarising the results of others, Brown & Sakkir (2004) listed 160 vascular plant species. This figure represents 40 % of the species known for the Emirate, underlining the conservation value of this impressive inselberg. Since this publication, the authors have conducted regular surveys on Jebel Hafit, resulting in the discovery of 46 new native plant species (Table 1). Voucher specimens of some of the species have been deposited in the herbarium at the Environment Agency, Abu Dhabi, others are available as high-quality photographic images, and some are shown below.

Eleven of the new records for Jebel Hafit are grasses (Poaceae). Many people experience problems with the identification of members of this family, although some of the species listed are quite distinctive. However, it can be challenging to distinguish Schismus arabicus from S. barbatus, and without experience, determination requires precise measurement of the minute floral structures.

Quite a number of the newly recorded species are desert annuals. As a consequence, they can be absent for many years and only appear, or are more conspicuous, in particularly wet seasons. Such species include Astragalus eremophilus, Herniaria hirsuta, Hippocrepis constricta, Launaea spp., Lappula spinocarpos, Notoceras bicorne and Paronychia arabica as well as the delicate grasses Rostraria pumila, Schismus arabicus, S. barbatus and Tragus racemosus.

Some of the newly recorded species are known from the vicinity of Jebel Hafit, but appear to have been overlooked on the mountain, probably because they are either rare or very local there. Typical representatives of this group are Adiantum capillusveneris, Cyperus conglomeratus, Dyerophytum indicum, Pteropyrum scoparium and Zilla spinosa. Others are somewhat more remarkable because they have not been recorded from the vicinity, and are therefore of biogeographical interest. These include Dipcadi biflorum and Schweinfurthia imbricata.

A number of species listed in Table 1 have spread into the area due to increasing human encroachment, such as Erigeron bonariensis, Portulaca olereaca, Sonchus oleraceus, and Solanum nigrum, as well as the halophytes Bassia muricata, Cressa cretica, Salsola imbricata, and Suaeda aegyptiaca. This latter group benefits in particular from disturbed irrigated areas.

The semi-succulent dwarf shrub Tetraena qatarensis (= Zygophyllum q.) is a poorly understood complex of closely related species, and is interpreted here to include T mandavillei. This species occurs throughout much of the Emirate, where it is locally abundant, and has now been recorded at the base of Jebel Hafit. This species should not be confused with Tetraena migahidii, which is often lumped together with T. qatarensis even though it is a very distinct taxon (see Mandaville 1990). T. migahidii is locally common in rocky habitats on Jebel Hafit, especially at higher elevations, as reported by Brown & Sakkir (2004).

Launaea bornmuelleri (Hausskn. ex Bornm.) Bornm. is a new species for Jebel Hafit, but has not been included in the list, as it has been confused with the superficially similar L. spinosa in the past, a species that is now understood not to occur in the UAE or Oman at all (see Feulner 2011). L. bornmuelleri is widespread throughout the Hajar Mountains, also at higher elevations on Jebel Hafit. In the meantime, the identity of the Echinops species (referred to as "Echinops sp." in Jongbloed et al. (2003) and Brown & Sakkir (2004)) has been provisionally determined, and the species occurring in the area, including on Jebel Hafit, appears to be Echinops erinaceus Kit Tan, an endemic to the Hajar Mountains (see Feulner 2011).

Apart from the native species listed in this paper, some exotics have also gained a foothold on the mountain and are thriving, including the striking perennial Asclepias curassavica.


SAS would like to thank Dr. Majid Sultan Al Qassimi (Director, Terrestrial Biodiversity Management Sector, Environment Agency, Abu Dhabi) and Dr. Shaikha Salem Al Dhaheri (Executive Director, Biodiversity Management Sector, Environment Agency, Abu Dhabi) for their support.


Brown, G. & Boer, B. (2005). Terrestrial Plants. In: Hellyer, P & Aspinall S. (eds.), The Emirates-A Natural History. Trident Press, London. pp. 141-155.

Brown, G. & Sakkir, S. (2004). The vascular plants of Abu Dhabi Emirate. Internal Research Report, Environmental Research and Wildlife Development Agency (now Environment Agency), Abu Dhabi.

Brown, G. & Sakkir, S. (2004). Flora and Vegetation of Jebel Hafit. In: Aspinall, S. & Hellyer, P (eds.), Jebel Hafit, a Natural History. Emirates Natural History Group / ADCO, Abu Dhabi. pp. 65-93.

ERWDA (2003). A report on the findings of a preliminary ecological and environmental survey of Jebel Hafit. Internal Research Report, Environmental Research and Wildlife Development Agency, Abu Dhabi, UAE.

Feulner, G.R. (2011). The flora of the Ru'us al-Jibal --The mountains of the Musandam Peninsula: An annotated checklist and selected observations. Tribulus 19: 4-153.

Jongbloed, M., Western, R.A. & Boer, B. (2000). Annotated checklist for the plants in the UAE. Zodiac Publishing.

Jongbloed, M., Feulner, G.R., Boer B. & Western, A.R. (2003). The Comprehensive Guide to the Wild Flowers of the United Arab Emirates. Environmental Research and Wildlife Development Agency, Abu Dhabi, UAE.

Mandaville, J.P (1990). Flora of Eastern Saudi Arabia. Kegan Paul International, London.

Stuart, C. & Stuart, T. (1998). Plants of Jebel Hafit. In: Hornby, R. (ed.): The Natural History, Geology and Archaeology of Jebel Hafit. Emirates Natural History Group, Abu Dhabi. pp. 83-92.

Western, A.R. (1989). The Flora of the United Arab Emirates. University of Al Ain, UAE.

Sabitha Sakkir

Terrestrial and Marine Biodiversity Sector, Environment Agency, P.O. Box 45553, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.


Gary Brown

Kuwait National Focal Point for Environmental Projects, P.O. Box 12770, 71658 Shamiya, Kuwait. email: gmarbrown @

Table 1. Species recorded new for Jebel Hafit (since
Brown & Sakkir 2004)

Pteridaceae (Ferns and fern allies)
Adiantum capillus-veneris L.

Asparagaceae (formerly Liliaceae)
Dipcadi biflorum Ghaz.

Cyperus conglomeratus Rottb.

Aeluropus lagopoides (L.) Trin.
Cenchrus setigerus Vahl.
Centropodia forsskaolii (Vahl) Cope
Cymbopogon schoenanthus (L.) Spreng.
Echinochloa colona (L.) Link
Enneapogon desvauxii P. Beauv.

Hyparrhenia hirta (L.) Stapf
Rostraria pumila (Desf.) Tzvelev
Schismus arabicus Nees
Schismus barbatus (L.) Thell.
Tragus racemosus (L.) All.

Aizoon canariense L.

Amaranthaceae (formerly Chenopodiaceae)
Bassia muricata (L.) Asch.
Salsola imbricata Forssk.
Suaeda aegyptiaca (Hasselq.) Zohary


Atractylis carduus (Forssk.) C. Chr.
Centaurea pseudosinaica Czerep.
Erigeron bonariensis L.
Launaea capitata (Spreng.) Dandy
Launaea mucronata (Forssk.) Muschl.
Launaea procumbens (Roxb.) Ram. & Raj.
Pluchea arabica (Boiss.) Qaiser & Lack
Sonchus oleraceus (L.) L.


Heliotropium digynum Asch. ex C. Chr.
Lappula spinocarpos (Forssk.) Asch. ex Kuntze

Notoceras bicorne (Aiton) Amo
Zilla spinosa (L.) Prantl

Herniaria hirsuta L.
Paronychia arabica (L.) DC.

Cressa cretica L.

Astragalus eremophilus Boiss.
Hippocrepis constricta Kunze
Medicago laciniata (L.) Mill.

Plantaginaceae (formerly Scrophulariaceae)
Schweinfurthia imbricata A. Miller

Dyerophytum indicum (Gib. ex Wig.) Kun.

Pteropyrum scoparium Jaub. & Spach

Portulaca olereaca L.

Solanum nigrum L.
Withania somnifera (L.) Dunal

Tamarix aphylla (L.) H. Karst.

Tetraena qatarensis (Hadidi) Beier & Thulin
Tribulus pentandrus Forssk.
Tribulus terrestris L.
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Author:Sakkir, Sabitha; Brown, Gary
Article Type:Report
Date:Jan 1, 2014
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