Greek Botanist in Bid to Save Native Plants in the Deserts of Arabia

Greek Botanist Marina Tsaliki. Photo from Facebook

Greek botanist Marina Tsaliki is in a race against time to document the flora of Ras Al Khaimah, one of the seven emirates which constitute the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

She has been appointed by the landscape agency at Ras Al Khaimah Municipality’s Department of Public Works to survey the emirate’s flora in all its variety, from the mountain iris to the desert’s pungent “Red thumbs,” which attract flies with their odor.

The Greek botanist’s survey will provide a baseline as habitats become lost to industrialization and pushed to the brink of survival by a changing climate.

The project began last October with a one-week survey of Jebel Jais. The agency was so impressed with Tsaliki’s work that she was asked to expand her survey across the emirate.

Tsaliki can be found roaming wadis, marshes and dunes at least three to four days a week, all the way from sunrise to sunset.

“I sometimes just sit on a rock and look around. It is amazing what effort has been put into nature,” she is quoted as saying by the UAE daily newspaper The National.

The paper says that the plants she records flourish in one of the world’s most extreme climates. The emirate averages less than 14 centimeters (5.5 inches) of rain per year and summer temperatures can hit 50C (122 degrees F).

Because of such extremes, plants not only change from season to season but year to year. On rainy years, flowers which have lain dormant for years unfurl and cover the wadi basins.

Now in her second winter season of studying the botany of the region, Tsaliki has developed a keen eye for the remarkable, The National says.