The Doum Palm of the Sahara Desert

Different species of palm trees grow all across the world in tropical climates. However, some palm trees thrive in the desert. The doum palm tree is a desert plant native to northern and western Africa and the Arabian peninsula. It grows in the Sahara, a large desert in North Africa that spans multiple countries. It also grows in countries such as Senegal, Kenya, Sudan, and Tanzania.

The doum palm has adaptations that enable it to survive in desert climates. Although it mainly grows in areas with groundwater, it can still flourish in places without much rain. One of the doum palm’s adaptations that make this possible is its trunk. Its trunk stores water for long periods of time, supporting the tree in times of drought. Another adaptation is the tree’s wide leaves, called fronds. The doum palm’s fronds are large, which allows it to take in large amounts of desert sunshine. Like all plant leaves, these fronds convert the energy from sunlight into sugars through the process of photosynthesis. Then, the palm uses these sugars for energy.

Different parts of the doum palm tree offer many uses to people who live near them. Some people use the palm fronds to make baskets, mats, and brooms. Other people weave the leaves together to create thatched roofs. The wood trunk of the palm is used for constructing houses and furniture. Even the roots are used to create fishing nets and ropes. The whole tree itself helps people too—by providing much-needed shade to people living in desert areas.

The doum palm also produces oval red-orange fruits that taste like gingerbread. These fruits are quite popular in some countries, like Nigeria. The Hausa, the largest ethnic group in Nigeria, call the fruit goruba. Many Nigerians eat the dried fruit as a healthy snack. This fruit is high in antioxidants and minerals. The tough outer skin of the fruit, called the rind, is used to make molasses and cake. People often make drinks from the fruit of the doum palm, too. These fresh and dried fruits are sold in many local markets across Northern Africa.

The doum palm offers food, shade, shelter and more to those living in dry, desert areas. It is one useful plant!