The Gymnosperm Database


Distribution showing collection localities and inferred range. Basemap and collection localities redrafted from Freitag and Maier-Stolte (1989).


Ephedra aphylla growing in Wadi Degla, Egypt (29.9386°N, 31.3665°E) [Moshira Hassan, 2008].


Ephedra aphylla, same location, plant covered in mature cones [Moshira Hassan, 2008].


Ephedra aphylla same location, detail of mature cones [Moshira Hassan, 2008].


Ephedra aphylla same location, detail of mature cones [Moshira Hassan, 2008].


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Conservation status

Ephedra aphylla

Forssk. 1775

Common names

Taxonomic notes

Syn. Ephedra alte C. Meyer 1846 ((Danin and Hedge 1973, Freitag and Maier-Stolte 1989). The type material of E. alte was found to be a mixture of male E. aphylla and female E. foliata Boiss. ex C. Meyer.

First collected by Forsskål in 1763 at Rosetta in Egypt, no type material has survived, and a neotype, Bornmüller 1749 from Jaffa, Israel, 1897.05.12, was designated by Freitag and Maier-Stolte (1989).


Danin and Hedge (1973) present the following key to the four Ephedra species of the Sinai:


Shrubby decumbent plants up to 1 m high; scarious leaf sheath, at least of young shoots, 1-2 mm long, as long as the diameter of the subtended stem and longer than leaf rudiments.



Climbing or prostrate plants often with long lignified stems; if forming a shrub (after grazing), scarious sheath shorter than diameter of subtended stem, and shorter than leaves.



Bracts of fruiting involucre 10-12, membraneous, obovate, with erose margin never becoming fleshy, free to base, anthers 3-5, stalked. Plants of sandy plains, chalky or gravelly wadis from 100 to 1400 m [elevation].

E. alata


Bracts of fruiting involucre 6-8, becoming fleshy (but rarely developing in Sinai), adpressed with entire margin, pairs with connate base; anthers 6-10, sessile; female flowers mostly with one nutlet. Chasmophytes, growing in smooth-faced granite outcrops and hanging from granite cliffs; on highest peaks in narrow stony gorges from 1440 to 2600 m [elevation].

E. pachyclada


Fleshy ripe fruiting bracts red, free part of leaf mostly less than 3 mm long, flowering branchlets always from thicker stems with green bark; general colour green.

E. aphylla


Fleshy ripe fruiting bracts white to grey, free part of leaf 3-10(-30) mm long; flowering branchlets mostly from stems with grey-white bark; general colour grey-glaucous green.

E. foliata

In habit, it is somewhat peculiar. It is normally a shrub not over 1.4 m tall, but where it grows with taller vegetation, such as along irrigation ditches, it may grow into those plants as a scandent liana (Freitag and Maier-Stolte 1989).

Distribution and Ecology

Libya, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Jordan. West of Palestine, it is the only Ephedra within its range (Freitag and Maier-Stolte 1989). Range may be somewhat more extensive, but I have found references to its occurrence in these countries. E. aphylla grows, among other places, in the south Sinai in rocky gorges and in fissured rocks (Danin and Hedge 1973). It occurs in diverse habitats, though, such as on cliffs, along wadis, and with phreatophytes along irrigation ditches (Freitag and Maier-Stolte 1989). The type location was from Rosetta in Egypt (Danin and Hedge 1973).

Big tree



Ephedra spp. have not been used in dendrochronology.



See the photographs for the precise location of one occurrence, in Egypt.


Peter Forskål, a pupil of Linnaeus, was botanist on the Royal Danish Expedition to Egypt and the Yemen 1761-67. Forskål died of malaria in Yemen in July 1763, and his extensive collection of botanical and zoological specimens from Egypt and Saudi Arabia was sent back to Copenhagen. Niebuhr, the expedition cartographer, was the only survivor. The flora, posthumously published by Niebuhr, described for the first time a large number of Arabian plants.


Danin, A. and I.C. Hedge. 1973. Contributions to the flora of Sinai I: new and confused taxa. Notes from the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh 32:259-271.

Forsskål, P. 1775. Flora Aegyptiaco-arabica. Sive descriptiones plantarum, quas per aegyptum inferiorem et arabiam felicem. Hauniae, ex officia Möller. An antiquarian bookseller provided the following tidbits: Quarto. Pp. 32, cxxvi; (ii), 220. With one engraved map (tabula arabiae felicis). Half calf, with five raised bands and title printed in gilt on spine.

Freitag, H. and M. Maier-Stolte. 1989. The Ephedra-species of P. Forsskål: Identity and typification. Taxon 38(4):545-556.

See also

Flora of Israel Online, accessed 2008.06.19.

Hepper, F.N. and I. Friis. 1994. The plants of Pehr Forsskål's Flora Aegyptiaco-Arabica. Kew Publishing.

Last Modified 2017-12-29