Potential Native Plants for Urban Landscapes in Qatar and the Gulf Countries


Gulf Countries have an arid/hyper arid climate with little precipitation, a low groundwater recharge rate and no reliable, perennial surface water resources. The total consumption of ground water resources in these countries exceeds with times its natural recharge capacity. However, urbanization expansion and the need for green landscapes in most of the Gulf cities increase the demand on the irrigation water, which puts great stress on the limited water resources in the Gulf Countries. One way for the sustainable use of the limited water resources is using native desert plants in landscaping the cities.


The aim of this project was to consider innovative approaches to reduce the demand for freshwater resources in urban landscapes in Qatar and other GCC countries. The specific objectives were to select the potential native plants that could be used for urban landscape, establish the best way for their propagation under lab, nursery, and urban conditions, and to assess their performance (e.g., growth, reproduction, and phenology) under different conditions of the urban environments.


Seeds were collected from about 220 species based on their appearance, tolerance to drought, salinity, texture to fit as ornamental plants. The seeds were collected from Qatar, UAE, and Oman.

 Priority was given for species that have wide ecological amplitudes (i.e., can tolerate wide range of environmental factors) and hence would be more successful under the new conditions in of the urban environment. Seed cleaned, stored at the defined storage condition, germinated under different temperatures and light conditions. The germination experiments were conducted for 202 species out of the 220 collected species. Some of the collected species were either with little amount to do germination or the seeds were not viable. Only 110 species showed satisfactory germination (a minimum of 15%) without any treatments. However, the other species showed very poor germination. The species there had little germinated were treated with different levels of sulfuric acids, different dormcy regulating substances, water soaking.


During the project, we grew 96 plants species (85 propagated from seedlings + 11 from cuts). All the plants were grown well under the native soil of Qatar, but the performance depended on the water treatment to another. Many of the plants grown well under the wet conditions, compared to dry conditions. However, the reverse was true for other plants. These indicate that some plants can be used in greening the cities with very little amount of water. Even the plants that were grown well under the wet conditions could save around 70% of the amount of the water that is used by regular irrigation system used in the all parks in Qatar (Personal communication with both Al-Nakheel Maintenance Dept and Ministry of Municipality and Urban Planning). According to the amount of water used for the ornamental plants with the regular irrigation practice, native plants used about 70% less water, even in the wet treatment, compared with the water used by ornamental plants. In addition, we used only the native calcareous soil of Qatar in our experiment.

As a major outcome, The Encyclopedia of Native & Non-Native Plants in Eastern Arabia was developed as  a first-of-its-kind publication that provides a comprehensive guide on cultivating plants in Eastern Arabia from Kuwait to the coast of Oman on Arabian Gulf. Comprising six volumes and 3500+ pages, it features a thorough listing of more than 800 plant species arranged along with descriptive details such as lifespans, adaptability, cultivation and forms.

It compiles the applications of each plant listed. With economic, medicinal, landscaping, and environmental uses consolidated in one place, the book serves as a reference tool for professionals dealing in diverse sectors such as agriculture, health, medicine, engineering and architecture, to name a few. The encyclopedia has been developed by the Gulf Organisation for Research & Development in collaboration with Qatar Ministry of Municipality.

 Potential Native Plants for Urban Landscapes in Qatar and the Gulf Countries: Propagation and Adaptation under Nursery and Urban Conditions.
Project ID

NPRP Cycle 5
[NPRP 5 - 260 - 1 – 053 ]

End Users

All parties responsible for urban landscaping such as municipalities, urban planners and landscape companies.


Ongoing through GORD internal funding