Plant Life in Morocco- Molly Mansfield

Of all my weird interests in life, the one that has gotten the most out of control is definitely my obsession with plants. After purchasing my first succulent plant (corpuscularia lehmanii) for $1.99 at CVS my senior year of high school, I became fascinated with desert plants and their resilience. Since then, I’ve acquired about 50 different plants, and have swiftly run out of room for them all, hanging them in shower caddies on my dorm room wall and leaving nearly half of them with my grandmother while I am at school in the winter. Naturally, I was beyond excited to see so many beautiful plants in Morocco. Of course, I was immediately struck by the many cacti and succulent plants, but also have come to appreciate all the other abundant plant life in Morocco.

Plants are extremely common in living spaces in Morocco. The exteriors of buildings are often unassuming but are lavishly decorated within. Some buildings, namely riads, or large houses, have courtyard gardens, often filled with fruit trees or other plant life. These usually surround a fountain in the center of the courtyard. Below is a photo of the Alif Riad, a space for students to study and meet for clubs. Rooms with study space and other purposes surround the courtyard.

The Alif Riad courtyard

Similarly, the school where we take our classes hosts a large and lush garden space where students spend most of their time outside of class. It is clear that including plant life into living and working spaces is an important aspect in Moroccan culture.


The ALC/Alif garden

While some of these plants are native to their current homes, others have traveled far to call their current gardens home. For example, when staying at a riad in Meknes, I noticed an aeonium plant, a small genus native only to the Canary Islands, Madeira Islands, and small portions of East Africa. Like the plants I had brought into my home, this plant was not native to the area but was sought after for its decorative beauty (however, unlike my plants in Virginia, this one was thriving in the Moroccan climate).

An aeonium plant in a riad in Meknes

Beyond the cultivated gardens in the city of Fez, we were also fortunate enough to see the diverse plant life along the roads of Morocco on our many road trips across the country. Along the way to Chefchaouen, Meknes, and the Sahara Desert, we passed through dense forests, agricultural fields, abundant desert agaves, and stretches of land with no plants to be seen.

The different types of plants reflected the diverse conditions throughout Morocco and I enjoyed the opportunity to witness all the different landscapes in the country. Often when people (myself included) imagine North Africa, images of large trees and rolling fields are not those that come to mind. Viewing Morocco’s plant life as we traveled throughout the country has been a reminder of the different aspects of this beautiful country.

Moroccan forest seen on the drive to the Sahara Desert

Crop fields in Morocco

When driving to Chefchaouen, we passed rows upon rows of trees, perhaps argan or olive, as well as other crops like wheat and sunflowers. These called to mind all of the products that I had seen on the streets of Fes Medina, such as bottles of argan oil, arrays of

spices, and fresh fruits and vegetables.

One of my biggest goals for my plants at home has been to get them to flower, something that they haven’t done yet given their conditions being quite different than their native environment. This is certainly no problem for the succulents in Morocco, and we passed hundreds of giant agave plants with flower stalks towering overhead.


Large agave plants with tall flower stalks

The most striking moment of all was when we reached our final hotel stop before journeying to the Sahara Desert. My friends and I had ventured out to stand by the hotel gate and gaze at the rolling sand dunes ahead of us when I noticed a beautiful bush of small succulent plants. We were in the middle of nowhere, only a few hundred meters away from the sand of the Sahara, in 110 degree weather, and somehow the plant’s small leaves remained full of water so that it could thrive in a place that our group could barely stand for a few hours. Soon afterwards, after an hour and a half on camels, not having seen a large plant for miles and miles, we came to the Sahara camp where we spent the night and were surprised to find it framed by huge trees.

Desert succulent near the Sahara

The Sahara camp and surrounding trees


Although on this trip we’ve seen so many different and beautiful aspects of Morocco- architecture, history, animals, landforms- these plants all stuck out to me as reminders of Morocco’s varied industries, landscapes, and traditions and the beauty in each of them.



2 comments to Plant Life in Morocco- Molly Mansfield

  • ماكس

    Glad you’re getting your plant fix in Morocco and that you’re learning about the ecological diversity of North Africa. One of the most interesting things I found in Jordan was people’s relationship with the desert flora. Bedouins, in particular have a deep knowledge and appreciation for plants in the desert, which can often be harsh, barren, and otherwise unforgiving, as you know. Our tour guides showed us how to make soap by using a desert plant, similar to this video: , and they have dozens of other medicinal uses for other plants.. Im curious to hear if you saw anything like this in the Sahara, as I’d love to learn more about it.

  • Di

    I read your post with interest. Having no green thumb myself, I found the pictures of the plants in and by the desert the most amazing. The pictures of fields with low trees and hills beyond remind me of Greece. There certainly is a wide array of ecosystems in Morocco!

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