Desert Islands has a wide variety of resilient, desert tolerant plants that are able to withstand the harsh, arid environment. Many of these plants have transformed the island from an inhospitable environment to a place that attracts animals and migratory birds.

As part of the landscaping strategy, we ensure native plants and trees are given priority, and the most optimal modes of irrigation are employed, while minimising the current water usage.

This strategy will gradually be adopted into the nature-based tourism strategy of the island, and allow visitors insight into the natural management of the destination.

Umbrella Thorn Acacia

Acacia tortilis

Acacia tortilis is native to the savannah and east coast of Africa, but also occurs on Sir Bani Yas Island and the rest of the Middle East in extremely arid conditions.

The tree is usually small and wiry and carries highly aromatic white flowers in tight clusters. Seeds are produced in pods, which are flat and coiled into a spring shape.

The plant is known to tolerate high alkalinity, drought, high temperatures, sandy and stony soils, strongly sloped rooting surfaces and sand blasting which makes it perfect for Sir Bani Yas Island’s arid environment.

Gum from the tree is edible. Parts of the tree, including roots, shoots and pods, are also used in the UAE for a vast number of purposes including decorations, weapons, tools and medicines.

On Sir Bani Yas Island this tree is a favourite of the Mountain Gazelle’s and provides valuable shade for many other animals.


Prosopis cineraria

Prosopis cineraria are small, evergreen, thorny trees with slender branches and light bluish-green leaves.

Its roots penetrate deep into the sub soil water, helping the tree withstand the hottest winds and the driest seasons.

Rural communities encourage the growth of this plant in their pastures because the extensive root system stabilises shifting sand dunes, and is also useful as a windbreak and for shade. Its seeds are also ground and used to make bread.

There is a large Ghaf tree at the central Majlis of Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan on the island, which is tall and strong, and can still be viewed today from the salt dome hilltops on Sir Bani Yas Island. The pods of the Prosopis cineraria are a favourite food of the Blackbuck on Sir Bani Yas Island.

Gum Arabic tree

Acacia nilotica has a dark to black coloured trunk, exuding a reddish low quality gum.

The tree has thin, straight spines in pairs and bright golden-yellow flowers with hairy grey pods.

In Arabic culture this tree is used in traditional medicine, fencing and building.

This tree is a favourite of the Eland’s on Sir Bani Yas Island.


Boswellia sacra

This small deciduous tree, which was mentioned in the bible, is indigenous to South Eastern Arabia.

This tree often has one or more trunks. Its bark has the texture of paper and can be removed easily. Its tiny flowers are yellowish white and have five petals.

This tree has a long history in Arabic culture and the gum is often used for making incense. On Sir Bani Yas Island, a Frankincense tree has been planted at Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan’s central Majlis.

Toothbrush Tree

Salvadora persica

Salvadora persica is a small tree or shrub with a crooked trunk. Its bark is cracked and whitish in colour. The root bark of the tree is similar to sand and the inner surfaces are an even lighter shade of brown.

Salvadora persica is a popular chewing stick throughout the Indian subcontinent as well as the wider Muslim world. It has a pleasant fragrance and a warm, pungent taste. Many Muslims consider chewing it to be a practice recommended by the Prophet Mohammad.

It has also been used as a toothbrush for hundred of years. The broken branches resemble the brush and contain small amounts of fluoride which staves off tooth decay.

On Sir Bani Yas Island, this tree is a favourite of the rock hyrax and giraffes, who especially seek out its small red berries.

Grey Mangrove

Avicennia marina

In the United Arab Emirates, which is a country characterised by arid climate, mangrove shrubs and trees of the species Avicennia Marina (Gray Mangrove) occur naturally along several coastal areas and islands in the country, including Sir Bani Yas Island.

Grey Mangroves grow as a shrub and the leaves are thick with white or golden-yellow flowers. They have aerial roots that allow the plant to absorb oxygen while anchoring it in seawater.

Mangroves are extremely beneficial to coastal regions such as Sir Bani Yas Island because they create protected areas for fish to breed, remove carbon dioxide from the water and prevent erosion. Therefore, on Sir Bani Yas Island we plant one mangrove for every visitor to the island to offset the environmental impact of their visit.

Christ’s thorn

Ziziphus spina-christi

The Sider is a tropical evergreen tree with small brown edible fruits. It flowers from July to August and the seeds ripen from October to December. These flowers are small, white and highly scented.

This tree has been used in the UAE and the region for hundreds of years for its medicinal attributes. It was also mentioned in the Bible and the Qur´an. On Sir Bani Yas, this tree is a favourite of the Sand Gazelle.


Game Drive

There are 5000 animals on Sir Bani Yas Island: 6 larger mammal species, 7 smaller mammal species, 172 bird species, 13 reptile species including 3 harmless snake species, 4 cheetahs(3 being free-range), 6 striped hyenas, and 1 golden jackal.

Sir Bani Yas Island.
You discover it.
We conserve it.

Learn more about how we take responsibility.