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The Berber Tree of Life

The Berber Tree of Life

marocoArgania spinosa is locally known as the Tree of Life, because it helps to make life possible for many creatures in the semi-arid desert of south Morocco. It plays a vital role in maintaining the ecological balance and the economic situation of the population. The Argan tree (Argania Spinosa) is one of the few still living tree species from the tertiary era. The Argan Forest, hidden between the Atlas Mountains, the Western Sahara and the Atlantic Ocean, is endemic to South West Morocco. The forest supports more than 3 million Berbers by providing them with wood for heating, feed for livestock, and edible oil for cooking, cosmetic and medicinal purposes.

This holy, wild tree, which grows from seven to ten metres high, is considered a real Moroccan miracle due to its extraordinary characteristics and the amazing ability to adapt. It does not fear drought nor high temperatures up to 50°C. It lives from 150 to 200 years and if it dies, it can revive in seven years. Due to its strong root system, it is effective in preventing erosion, preserving fertility of the soil and limiting the advance of the desert. Its roots travel deep to find water and help to bind the soil. Tree root systems also facilitate water infiltration and aquifer replenishment.

tree-arganUnder and around the trees, flora and fauna thrive and in turn create an eco-diversity crucial to this region. Today, the Argan Region is around 820,000 hectares, or 70% of the wooded surface in South West Morocco. One hectare of argan trees can produce 800 kg of ripe fruit, which will later yield 40 kg of nuts. These 40 kg of nuts produce 18 litres of argan oil, which is extracted through cold pressing and considered real “fluid gold” possessing a thousand health benefits.

In 1998, Morocco’s Argan Forest was designated a UNESCO International Biosphere Reserve. In 1999 the Argan tree was added to the World Heritage list.

 

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