Atlantic Pistachio

Pistacia atlantica

بطم أطلسي

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Status: Scarce

Atlantic Pistachio tree is a deciduous, drought-tolerant tree in the Anacariaceae family that can be found from the Atlas Mountains in the west to central Asia in the east. It has been protected in the past as it was believed to be sacred.

At 5-20 meters in height and a diameter of 30 meters this is the largest of trees in Palestine. As it is shaped like a mushroom, it provides a lot of shade. The trunk thickens can reach 2.5 meters in diameter. The oldest known tree is 600 years old, although the thick trunk makes for an older impression.

The compound leaves have 3-5 pairs of pinnate leaflets with rounded tips and a single leaflet at the end of the winged central axis. Each entire leaflet is 2.5-7 cm. in length, dark green in color and shiny on the upper side. The tree adds color to the landscape as the leaves turn red in the summer before falling, and in the spring, the leaf buds are red as well. The coral-like galls add to the red coloring until they darken to a brown color. 

The flowers of this unisexual tree bloom before the leaves appear; generally male trees bloom before female trees. The flower is a small, simple cuplike calyx, structured for pollination by wind.

The male flowers, each with 3-6 anthers, are arranged in dense clusters that can almost reach 10 cm. The female flowers have a lobed calyx and are arranged in smaller clusters .

Flowering time: Atlantic Pistachio tree flowers in February-April. The fruit is a small fleshy, oily capsule 6-7 mm in diameter, blue when with seed, red when empty.

Ecology: It can be found in a wide variety of habitats. It is  a major component in the  Mediterranean forest-park areas, along with the Mt. Tabor oak. It can also be found in the more extreme habitats of the steppes,  the mountainous Irano-Turanic area, and the desert.

Common and medicinal uses: It is used as a rootstock for the Pistacia verda, the agriculturally grown genus. The roasted fruit are used as a spice.  The oil of the fruit has been used in households for light and medicinal purposes. Turpentine is produced from the resin for industry and medicine.

Distribution in Palestine: It has a wide distribution in Palestine including various habitats such as the upper Jordan Valley, the mountains the West Bank , and the Dead Sea valley.