The country of Morocco provides a variety of habitats for plant life, from the Alpine region of the lofty Atlas Mountains to the arid Sahara Desert. Its flora ranges from common weeds to endangered endemics. Some plant species bear beautiful flowers. Others, like the egusi melon, bear edible fruits.
The flora of Morocco includes trees that tolerate the relatively light rainfall that characterizes Mediterranean climate. In northern Morocco a tree called Berber thuya flourishes in coastal areas and low hilly regions. A small cork oak forest thrives in northwestern Morocco. Other Moroccan trees are the cypress, juniper and the holm oak. Even the cedar of Lebanon rears its noble head in Morocco.
A maquis is a dense bushy area. In Morocco a maquis contains small trees like the wild olives, acacia, and carob. Many are evergreens, like the mastic bush or the sarsaparilla vine. A fan palm called Chamaerops humilis also occurs, but as its name implies, it does not grow very tall.
Northern Morocco also contains another type of region called a garrigue. A garrigue plays host to scrubby plants like sage and French lavender, as well as species with beautiful flowers, such as, the rockrose. Here and elsewhere in Morocco you will also find a native grass called "esparto grass."
Onobrychis cornuta, an attractive plant with violet flowers, occurs in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco. This plant is a member of the pea family, as is the medicinal Astralagus, which dwells in the same general area. Higher up the slope another member of the pea family called Vicia canescens finds its ecological niche. The Atlas Mountains also plays host to Chenopodium album, which American farmers know by the name "lamb's quarters."
As you travel southward in Morocco, the climate becomes increasingly more arid until you reach the Sahara Desert in the southwest. The cactus is not native to the Sahara, but Moroccans cultivate it commercially. Instead of cacti Morocco has succulent euphorbias that grow as big as trees. Cistanche violacea, a parasitic desert plant, has very beautiful flowers. The saltbush and sagebrush are two plants that occur both in Morocco and in arid regions of the United States.
Moroccan flora includes colorful orchids of the genera Ophrys and Dactylorhiza. Silene vespertina, an attractive member of the pink family, is the Moroccan catchfly. Other colorful flowers are irises, alyssums, and Isatis tinctoria, commonly called the woad.
Many endemic plants reside in Morocco. A plant is endemic if its range is restricted to a single circumscribed area. The argan is a thorny endemic tree that lives in the arid south while Ptilostemon leptophyllus is a composite that resides in the north. The Atlas Mountains are especially rich in endemics.
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