Rare 100-year-old tree discovered in eastern Abu Dhabi

The tree's delicate branches were once used to apply eyeliner

Environment Agency Abu Dhabi discovers the first 100-year old sarh tree in Abu Dhabi. Courtesy: Environment Agency Abu Dhabi
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A rare, 100-year-old sarh tree was discovered in Abu Dhabi.

The sarh (Maerua crassifolia) is the first tree of its kind to be identified in the emirate. Previously, the species had only been seen in Ras Al Khaimah.

It was found east of Al Ain near the Oman border as part of a project by the Environment Agency Abu Dhabi that will preserve and grow indigenous trees.

The area’s rocky outcrop is difficult to access, and may have provided protection for the tree. The tree was found on private land and identified by a member of the community who contacted the agency.

Local residents believed the sarh to be more than a century old and they once used its delicate branches to apply kohl eyeliner.

In traditional medicine, sahr leaves are boiled to treat colic and crushed into powder to use as a poultice for bone fractures.

The agency is preparing a study on conserving the species, its Secretary General Dr Shaikha Al Dhaheri said.

“We will also work with scientific research centres in local universities to attempt to multiply the number of trees through the use of its existing tissue and accordingly measure the success of the project,” she said.

“In the event of success in the multiplication of the tree, rehabilitation operations will be carried out within selected sites of its natural habitats.”

It will be the fourth tree species to be included in the agency’s seeding programme.

“It’s a rare discovery and it’s the first time for the environment agency has recorded it,” said Ahmed Al Hashmi, the agency’s acting director of terrestrial and marine biodiversity. “Now we will give this site more protection and focus on how to cultivate this species in our nursery.”

The sarh grows up to nine metres high and has small oval leaves. Its dense branches flower in January and February and produce small, prickly fruits that ripen in March and April.

It can be found across Africa and in Jordan, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Oman and Yemen.