30 March 2021

Arta – Jubail

Whilst birding the Jubail area recently I came across an Arta Calligonum comosum. This plant is a virtually leafless perennial shrub up to 2.5m tall, with a branched stem which is dark and rough often with peeling bark and older branches white with swollen nodes. Leaves if present are minute, 3-5mm long, falling off quickly. Flowers are many, five white sepals with greenish central stripe, no petals, with bright red anthers, on short stalks from leaf nodes, sometimes clustered. Flowers from December to April. Fruit is showy, bristly nut covered with rusty red or white furry hairs, becoming dirty yellow in maturity. It prefers sand plains, dunes and roadsides where it is common and widespread. This species is an excellent desert sand binder, cultivated and used for windbreaks around desert plantations; used as firewood, as it burns smokeless; dried leaves and stems are chewed to treat toothache, young shoots collected as salad greens or powdered to add to milk as a tonic or flavouring, fruits are edible.