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Argania spinosa - (L.) Skeels

Common Name Argan Tree, Spiny Argania, Morocco Ironwood
Family Sapotaceae
USDA hardiness 10-12
Known Hazards Plant has spines or sharp edges; use extreme caution when handling
Habitats Slopes of rough hills, seeming to thrive between the rocks on poor soil, at elevations up to 1,500 metres[ 303 ].
Range Northwest Africa - Algeria, Morocco, Western Sahara, Mauritania.
Edibility Rating    (4 of 5)
Other Uses    (3 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (2 of 5)
Care
Tender Moist Soil Full sun
Argania spinosa Argan Tree, Spiny Argania, Morocco Ironwood


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Argania spinosa Argan Tree, Spiny Argania, Morocco Ironwood
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Summary

Argan tree or Argania spinosa is a medium-sized, spiny evergreen tree commonly grown in Southwest Morocco for its highly valuable oil. It usually grows up to 10 m high with a trunk diameter of up to 100cm. It has small and oblong leaves that occur in clusters, small flowers that are yellow green in colour, and fruits that are hard and green. Argan seed oil is rich in vitamin E and can lower blood cholesterol levels, stimulate blood circulation, facilitate digestion, and strengthen the body’s natural defences. It can also be used in treating chicken pox and juvenile acne, and in removing stretch marks. The oil is also edible. It can be mixed with almonds and honey, or wheat germ and honey. Argan tree can be planted to prevent soil erosion due to its extensive root system. It also serves as wind breakers and is used for fencing. Its wood is very hard, heavy, and durable thus it is used in carpentry. It also makes a quality fuel and charcoal. Argan tree is drought-tolerant and frost-tolerant.


Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of cone
Argania spinosa is an evergreen Tree growing to 7 m (23ft) by 12 m (39ft).
It is hardy to zone (UK) 10. The flowers are pollinated by Bees, Butterflies.
It is noted for attracting wildlife.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and can grow in nutritionally poor soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers moist soil and can tolerate drought.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map

Synonyms

Argania sideroxylon Roem. & Schult. Sideroxylon argan (Retz.) Baill. Sideroxylon spinosum L. Verlang

Habitats

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Fruit  Leaves  Oil  Seed
Edible Uses: Oil

Edible portion: Nut - oil, Leaves, Fruit. An edible oil is obtained from the seed [ 418 ]. The white seeds contain up to 50% of a light brown oil[ 303 ]. This oil is an excellent source of vitamin E, and has a high nutritional value in the human diet. The locals mix oil with almonds and honey to make an almond butter; it also mixed with wheat germ and honey to make gruel[ 303 ]. The residue from the kernels, after oil extraction, is a thick chocolate-coloured paste called 'amlou' which is sweetened and served as a dip for bread at breakfast time in Berber households. Its flavour is similar to that of peanut butter [ 303 ]. The fruit are pressed for the oil which has an aroma and is used in cooking. The oil is cold pressed from the fruit. The oil is used like olive oil for cooking, frying and salad dressing.

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.


The oil from the seeds is rich in vitamin E and has properties which lower blood-cholesterol levels, stimulate circulation of the blood, facilitate digestion and strengthen the body's natural defences. It is used as a cure for chicken pox, to treat juvenile acne and help remove stretch marks on pregnant woman[ 303 ].

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Other Uses

Oil

Other uses rating: Medium (3/5). Agroforestry Uses: Argania spinosa shields thin soils from erosion, especially in overgrazed lands. Its deep roots help to bind the soil, facilitate water infiltration and replenish ground water, thus helping to stabilise environmental conditions[ 303 , 418 ]. The tree provides valuable shade for humans and livestock as well protecting pasture grasses from the extreme evapotranspiration that would result from direct exposure to sunlight[ 303 ]. Argan woodlands form a green belt that functions as a buffer against desert advancement in southern Morocco[ 303 ]. The plant is used for fencing and windbreaks Other Uses An oil obtained from the seed is used for lighting and to make soap[ 418 ]. The wood is very hard, heavy and durable. It is very resistant to damage from wood-eating organisms[ 303 ]. It is used in carpentry, for making agricultural implements and building poles[ 418 ]. The wood is a goof fuel and makes a very good charcoal[ 303 , 418 ]. The seed shells are also burnt as a fuel[ 303 ]. Suitable for xeriscaping

Special Uses

Cultivation details

Management: Standard  New Crop  Staple Crop: Oil

A plant of very arid areas, mainly in the subtropical areas of northwest Africa, but just entering the tropics in Mauritania, where it is found at elevations up to 1,500 metre[ 418 ]. It grows best in areas where annual daytime temperatures are within the range 20 - 30c, but can tolerate 10 - 35c[ 418 ]. Mature plants can be killed by temperatures of -2c or lower, but new growth is severely damaged at 0?c[ 418 ]. It prefers a mean annual rainfall in the range 200 - 300mm, but tolerates 100 - 400mm[ 418 ]. Requires a sunny position[ 418 ]. Succeeds in a wide range of soils, including very poor, dry soils[ 418 ]. The tree is well suited to calcareous soils, sandy deposits and relatively poor semi desert soils conditions but not drifting sands or water-logged soils[ 303 ]. Prefers a pH in the range 6.5 - 7.5, tolerating 6 - 8[ 418 ]. Established plants are very drought tolerant - they can shed their foliage and remain in a state of dormancy for several years during prolonged droughts[ 418 ]. Trees may start to bear when 5 - 6 years old from seed, and reach maximum production at the age of 60 years[ 418 ]. Average fruit yield may be about 8 kg per tree[ 418 ]. A long-lived species, with trees living for 200 - 400 years[ 418 ]. Trees respond very well to coppicing[ 303 ].

Carbon Farming

  • Management: Standard  Plants grow to their standard height. Harvest fruit, seeds, or other products. Non-Destructive management systems.
  • New Crop  Most new crops were important wild plants until recently, although some are the result of hybridization. They have been developed in the last few, decades. What they have in common is that they are currently cultivated by farmers. Examples include baobab, argan, and buffalo gourd.
  • Staple Crop: Oil  (0-15 percent protein, 16+ percent oil). Some of these are consumed whole while others are exclusively pressed for oil. Annuals include canola, poppyseed, maize, cottonseed, sunflower, peanut. Perennials include high-oil fruits, seeds, and nuts, such as olive, coconut, avocado, oil palm, shea, pecan, and macadamia. Some perennial oil crops are consumed whole as fruits and nuts, while others are exclusively pressed for oil (and some are used fresh and for oil).

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Plants For A Future have a number of books available in paperback and digital form. Book titles include Edible Plants, Edible Perennials, Edible Trees, and Woodland Gardening. Our new book to be released soon is Edible Shrubs.

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Propagation

Seed

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Argan tree or Argania spinosa

Found In

Countries where the plant has been found are listed here if the information is available

Found In: Africa, Algeria, Australia, Canary Islands, East Africa, Egypt, Haiti, Israel, Kenya, Libya, Mediterranean, Morocco, North Africa, Spain, Sudan.

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

None Known

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status : This taxon has not yet been assessed.

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther
Sparganium americanumBur-Reed, American bur-reedPerennial1.0 0-0  LMHSNWeWa10 
Sparganium androcladumBranching Bur-ReedPerennial1.2 -  LMHSNWeWa10 
Sparganium erectumBur Reed, Simplestem bur-reedPerennial1.0 4-8  LMHFSNWeWa210
Sparganium longifolium Perennial0.0 -  LMHSNWeWa10 

 

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Author

(L.) Skeels

Botanical References

Links / References

For a list of references used on this page please go here
A special thanks to Ken Fern for some of the information used on this page.

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