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Introduction

The Kuwait Republic is located in the north east of the Arabian Peninsula on the western side of Western Asia. It is categorically in the North Western Shore of the Persian Gulf. It has a total area of 17820 km2. Most of the country is covered with the sandy Arabian Desert which is mainly hot and dry. It is a low lying country with the highest point being at 306 meters above sea level. Kuwait is comprised of nine islands with eight occupied and one uninhabited. The Flora of Kuwait is a unique one; the Carmel thorn trees are known for their height and are considered among the tallest species of the acacia family. They are also seen as unique for their ability to remain green all year round irrespective of the hot, scorching sun. The vegetation in this part of the world, is known to flourish during the rainy season when the grass is green all over the plains. The different types of grass make the land look overwhelmingly beautiful. They provide food for the livestock during this period. The flowers found in Kuwait are unique and are not found anywhere else in the world. The most popular is the Arfal which is considered a national symbol by the people of Kuwait. It is known for its beauty and medicinal value and has been used since the old times. Mushrooms found in the Kuwait deserts during the rainy season are popular for the notorious value as they are used as food. Several other plants are unique in their own ways. Some of Kuwait’s flower species of the orchid family compete well in the world market (United Nations Environment 2006).

The Desert Vegetation

The desert vegetation is comprised of plants of different families and characteristics. They are highly adapted to extreme weather conditions within their environment. The extremes include hot temperatures and long dry spells in hot deserts and extremely low temperatures and snowy conditions in the cold deserts. Different families exhibit different characteristics to help them survive in the deserts. Most of these characteristics are physically portrayed while others are genetically exhibited (Kassim and Barcelo 2009).

The desert vegetation is comprised of millions of plant species with different adaptation behaviors. They grow on different grounds ranging from rock surfaces to the sand covered ground.

Xerophyte

They are plants adapted to areas deficient of moisture like deserts and other arid areas. The plants have developed morphological and physiological adaptations to allow them survive in these areas.

Morphological Adaptations

These physical adaptations help the plants survive in the extreme climatic conditions. The plants exhibit reduced surface area by having small or no leave at all. The leaves are reduced to thorn like structures thus reducing the surface area exposed to direct sunlight. They also have few branches with tough surfaces to reduce the impact of the sun on the plant (Kassim and Barcelo 2009). Some plants in this family have developed hair like structures on their surfaces to reduce air flow thus reducing the level of transpiration. The tiny leaves on these plants are mostly shiny to reflect the sunlight. This helps reduce the concentration of sunlight on the surface of the plant thus reduced water loss.

Physiological Adaptations

The physiological adaptations are the internal adaptations of the plants that help them survive the desert conditions. The xerophytes are naturally succulent plants storing their water in their swollen parts. These parts may be the stems, the bulbs, trunks or roots. This ensures that the water has retained its own water for all of its physiological processes.  The opening of the stomata only at night in some of these plants ensures that the maximum amount of water is retained. They also secrete resins to cover their surfaces and prevent penetration of the strong sunlight. During the excessively dry periods, the plants shed off their leaves leaving them bare. This way, they reduce the level of transpiration. Examples of plants in this family are the Nerium oleander, Nerada procumbens and capparis spinosa (Daftari 1980).

Phraetophytes

They are plants with deep seated roots that help them get water from the rock crevices in the ground or from the water table. The roots are hard and tough to allow them to go through the tough rocks. The plants are green all year round due to the continued water supply.

Perennials

These are desert plants with long life cycles. They have life cycles extending one year. They grow all year round irrespective of the climatic conditions. They have characteristics allowing them to achieve this. They may be xerophytes or phraetophytes.

Annuals

They live for short periods, probably one year. They have a short life cycles running during the wet season only. Their seeds are viable for a long time and stay dormant in the soil until the conditions are fit for germination. They are usually soft and leafy.

Picture 1.7 Annual plants.

The Desert Plants Communities

The desert plays host to millions of plants of different families and adaptation to the hostile desert condition prevailing. The plants are highly adapted to ensure their continued existence.

Gravel Desert

These are deserts comprised mainly o gravel and rocks. They are home to different types of plants adapted for the region and its conditions.  An Example of plants in these kinds of deserts is the Haloxylon stalagmite. These plants are mainly found in the Doha area of West Kuwait. The plant is accredited with its ability to germinate and flourish in high saline environments. This adaptation allows it to colonize regions with such conditions. (Lindenmayer and Burgman 2005).

Plain Deserts

These are mainly striking deserts comprised of soils with basic structures. They are home to several plant families a superb example being the Rhanterium appeasement, Astragalus spinosis and the Francoeurica crispa. These plants are highly adapted to the desert conditions. They have small thorny leaves that help them reduce the surface area exposed to the sun. They also have scattered branches lignified with living fiber to control the water lose and retain their posture. The little leaves are always shed off during the dry season to reduce the rate of transpiration (Bloom 1994). During the wet season, these families of plants start and complete their life cycles. This ensures reproduction during the right season and remains dormant during the dry season. The seeds remain dormant but viable in the soil for this period. Some of the plants in this family have succulent stems.

Coastal Salt Marches

These are lands located between land and salty oceans. They are usually colonized by halophytic plants. The plants are mostly short shrubs, herbs and various grasses. They are common in the western coastal region of Kuwait. The most common plants on this region include the Aleuropus massauensis, Halopeplis perfoliata and the Zygophyllum coccineum. The plants are tolerant to high alkaline conditions in the soil (Davis 1986). This enables them survive in the coastal regions. They are also tolerant to different temperatures in their growing environments.  The seeds of plants in this family survive on shallow soils allowing them to take up the little moisture incase of light showers. These characteristics have enabled the plants survive in Kuwait.

Inland Salt marches

This are inland based marshy environments. The areas have no outlets and thus experience high salt concentration. Fe w plants are able to withstand these extreme conditions. Examples of such plants include the Seidlitzia romarinus, Salsola, Hammada elegans and the Zygophyllum decumbens. The seeds of these plants are able to germinate in ranging rainfall amounts. They are also tolerant to high salt concentrations in the soil making them able to grow in such conditions (Kostecki 1999).

Sand Dunes

These are hill like structures build of sand by wind or water. They are home to several plant species. Good examples of these plants are the panicum turgidum and the Halxlum persicum. These plants grow and spread their roots over the surface they are growing on. This prevents erosion thus the plants remain stable. They also grow clogged together thus reducing the rate of water loss from the roots and retain the moisture in the ground for a long time. These adaptations allow them survive the desert conditions (Lindenmayer and Burgman 2005).

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