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Plant story - helping to conserve Moringa peregrina, a very useful tree

The Millennium Seed Bank Partnership has conserved the endangered yusor tree (Moringa peregrina). It's found in remote mountains in Jordan's southern rift valley.

Finding the yusor tree

Running deep into the arid mountains of Jordan's southern rift valley, Wadi Feynan forms the western gateway to the spectacular Dana Nature Reserve. Here, in this remote and ancient landscape, just one-and-half hours drive from the seaside town of Aqaba, some magnificent trees are standing in the typical arid zone conditions of a harsh edaphic and dry environment. Upon getting close to the trees during our expedition in June 2005, a native Bedouin came towards our car; he was wondering about the reason of our presence in his area. So we started telling him our work and our interest to know all about the area in terms of flora, and indeed to know about those two huge trees with these long pods hanging to reach our heads in some of the places. He was very glad to tell us that it is called yusor tree and they would use the seeds as they got dry. They boil them to extract a sort of oil that is used by locals in their diets.

A tree under threat

The trees are truly endangered as they are surrounded by tents of the local Bedouin who would use every green pit of plants for their goats, besides they would use any source of wood available to get warm in winter as well as to cook their meals. We made a deal with this man to collect seeds after they got ripe, as some of the fruits were hanging high up the trees. Returning to the site in late summer we managed to get a nice lot of seeds, which is now safely stored in the cold storage of the gene banks of both NCARE and Kew's Millennium Seed Bank.

Actually many people in the country rely on the indigenous medicinal plants for their health needs. The depletion of natural wild medicinal flora is considered a continuous threat. For "Moringa species" Al-Kahtani (1995) reported that some M. peregrina products were higher in phytic acid and lower in chlorogenic acid than soy bean. Tannin was low in all samples of Moringa species. In vitro protein digestibility was slightly lower for M. peregrina than for that of soybean. Al-Kahtani and Abou-Arab (1993) reported that the young seeds of M. peregrina are eaten like peas and the mature seeds are fried or roasted like groundnuts. Moringa peregrina flour contained more oil than soybean flour, whereas protein isolates had higher protein and lower carbohydrate levels than those of soybeans. Potassium and sodium were the predominant minerals in M. peregrina flour. This data may provide a good indication of the possibility of utilising this endemic species in a larger scale.

Story by Khaled Abulaila, NCARE, Baqa’a, Jordan | More plant stories

References

  • Al-Kahtani,H.A. (1995) Some antinutritional factors in Moringa peregrina (Al-Yassar or Al-Ban) and soybean products. Journal of Food Science 60: 2, 395-398.
  • Al-Kahtani, H.A., Abou-Arab, A.A. (1993) Comparison of physical, chemical, and functional properties of Moringa peregrina (Al-Yassar or Al-Ban) and soybean proteins. Cereal Chemistry 70(6): 619-626.

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