Electronic flora of Egyptian Western Desert – Bahariya Oasis and its nearest surroundings

By Petr Pokorný and Adéla Pokorná

Bír Šovíš
We have collected plants and made photographs of them during November 2006 and spring 2007 (April to May) in Bawiti and El-Hayez areas of Bahariya oasis. This electronic herbarium is not a complete representation of the plant species growing there. But yet still it illustrates the majority of the local flora.
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 where formed where artesian water reach the surface. Over a long history of human settlement the local biota was severely affected by humans. 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 oasis.

An overview of most important habitats occurring within Bahariya oasis you may find here.

Electronic herbarium with main ecological and biogeographical characteristics of individual plant species is here.

Acknowledgements: Our work was made possible thanks to the existence of useful literature sources, especially to excellent Flora of Egypt by Loutfy Boulos. From this monograph (see the reference below) we have adopted taxonomic nomenclature and extracted information about specie’s characteristic habitats (beyond our own experience), geographical distribution, and local Egyptian names.

Selected literature on the flora of Egypt (listed chronologically):

Maire, R. (1961-1987): Flore de L’Afrique du Nord, vols. 7-16. Le Chevalier, Paris.
Boulos, L. and El-Hadidi, M. N. (1967): Common weeds in Egypt. Dar Al-Maaref Press, Cairo.
Täckholm, V. (1974): Student’s flora of Egypt, ed. 2. Publ. Cairo Univ., Beirut.
Boulos, L. and El-Hadidi, M. N. (1994): The weed flora of Egypt. American Univ. Press, Cairo.
Boulos, L. (1999-2005): Flora of Egypt, vols. 1-4. Al Hadara Publishing, Cairo.
Springuel, I. (2006): The desert garden. A practical guide. American Univ. Press, Cairo.