White weeping broom

White weeping broom / Retama raetam / رتم

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Status: Common

White weeping broom is an evergreen desert plant belongs to the Papilionaceae family. The plant is grey-green with slender, drooping branches; the young plants are wispy, with a single stem and strong taproot reaches about 3 m tall and may reach 6 m across; short trunk branching from the base; stems of young plants are covered with long soft hairs but become hairless with age; drooping branches. The leaves are alternate, entire, which are very small (about 6-7 mm.long), simple, subsessile and narrow (only 1 mm.wide), drop quickly and the plant remains leafless for most of the year. The flowers are 8-10 mm long, white and pea-like, appearing close to the stem in clusters of 3-15.

Flowering period: February, March. The fruit is an indehiscent pod with one seed of a dark colour12-15 mm long and 7-10 mm wide.

Ecology: Retama raetam grows on sandy soils (dune slope/dune base) and in dry conditions (rainfall around 100 mm.per year), it belongs to the Saharo-Arabian Chorotype.

Uses: It is used as an abortifacient, anthelmintic, antiseptic, purgative, sedative, and vulnerary. The flowers are an important source of fodder for dromedaries; when taken in excess this can lead to dangerous urinary problems. When eaten during drought this can lead to abortion, and gives a bitter taste to the milk. The plant is a valuable legume shrub producing good fuel wood. It is also used to stabilize sand dunes. The plant contains Flavonoids,quinolizidine alkaloid, The fruits of Retama raetam are considered toxic and thought to provoke hallucinations. Ingesting the plant to produce an abortion has sometimes led to poisoning and even death.

Distrbutions : The plant is native on maritime sands in the Mediterranean region and on sandy sites in the Sahara. In Palestine it distribute in the Mediterranean Woodlands and Shrublands, Semi-steppe shrublands, Shrub-steppes, Deserts and extreme deserts.

IUCN red list status: not evaluated

Local status: least concern