Known as the “Tree of Life” to the Berbers for the many health benefits it brings, this spiny tree (argania spinosa) grows wild and exclusively in the south-west of Morocco in the Souss Plain, where there are 21 million trees covering almost 800,000 hectares.
As a rare and endangered species, the argan forest was declared an International Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 1999.
The argan tree can reach a height of between 8 and 10 metres and some have been known to live as long as 200 years. The root system extends to a considerable depth, which helps to protect against soil erosion and hold back the encroachment by the Sahara Desert.
The tree bears hermaphrodite flowers which appear in May or June and are greenish yellow, or sometimes white. These are followed by the fruit. The fruit is an oval berry, the size and shape of a large olive, which contains a nut with one or two seeds.
A tree can produce up to 8 kg of fruit per year, i.e. an average of 128,000 tonnes per year for all the Moroccan argan trees.