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Plant Life and Plant Genetic Resources in Egypt

Egypt has attracted the attention of explorers and botanists due to its unique position midway between Africa and Asia, with its long coasts of the Mediterranean Sea in the north (c. 970 km) and the Red Sea in the east (c. 1100 km). Egypt has diverse habitats with micro-climates that host many plant species and communities. Terrestrial and aquatic habitats include desert areas, mountains, plains, slopes, salt marshes, wetlands and fresh and marine waters.

Egypt Satellite Map

Floristically, Egypt comprises four floral zones:

  1. Mediterranean-Sahara regional transition zone (MS – XVIII) that comprises the region around the Mediterranean Sea, which represented in Egypt by the northern Mediterranean coast.
  2. Sahara-Sindian regional zone (SS – XVII), which encompasses the greater part of Egypt.
  3. Irano-Turanian regional center of endemism (IT), which includes the mountainous massive of Sinai and some enclave areas in the Eastern Desert (e.g. Galala Mountains).
  4. Sahel regional transition zone (Sa – XVI), which comprises the Gebel Elba mountainous region in the southeast of Egypt.
Phytochoria in North Africa and south west Asia (El-Hadidi and Hosni, 2002)

Egypt is situated in the south east of the Mediterranean Sea; her coast includes the delta of the River Nile which bifurcates north of Cairo into two branches that enter the Mediterranean at Rosetta and Damietta promontories. Egypt’s diverse flora contains over 2300 vascular plant species and subspecies, and approximately 190 species and subspecies of mosses and hepatics. This reflects the long Mediterranean and Red Sea coasts combined with Egypt’s position between Africa and Asia.

On the other hand, there is no checklist for the algal and agricultural flora in Egypt, but as a rough estimate the algal diversity approximates 1500 species; while the agrodiversity approximates 2100 species in addition to ca 1000 species of ornamental cultivated species. Thus, it must be a priority to concentrate our studies on the algal and agrodiversity in order to prepare accessible verified checklists for both groups of plants.

The preliminary red data list for the vascular plants of Egypt classifies nearly 450 species as threatened on a national level, although these are not necessarily threatened across the Mediterranean region. Plants of Egypt face threats by a combination of factors such as: over-collection, unsustainable agriculture practices, urbanization, pollution, land use changes, the spread of invasive alien species and climate change. Extinction and declines in plant diversity is due to many factors including the population growth, high rates of habitat modification and deforestation, overexploitation, spread of invasive alien species, pollution and climate change.


For more information:
Abdelwahab Afefe
Ecologist at National Biodiversity Central Department
National Focal Point at the Arab Network of Plant Genetic Resources, League of Arab States
Address: 30 Misr-Helwan Road, El-Maadi, Cairo, Egypt
Tel / Fax: 25280931