Even amid the stark canyons of Sharaan Nature Reserve, an aromatic herb such as the pulicaria incisa sunflower can grow in the shade of acacia trees and surprise observers with its vibrant yellow blooms.

The Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU) understands that a landscape rife with flowers is a landscape that is thriving. As far back as 2019, its plan to restore biodiversity at AlUla's Cultural Oasis included flowers. The team was quick to realise that the oasis, which had fallen into decay, needed to be reorganised according to local tradition - with a three-layered ecosystem in which the palm canopy provided shade for fruit trees and the fruit trees provided shade for flowers and vegetables.

In all, AlUla is home to between 300 and 400 indigenous plant species. Its nursery and seed bank is nurturing some 60 of these species as part of AlUla’s ecological restoration, including flowering plants such as lavender, sweet Indian mallow and the purple-petalled fagonia. The programme reached an early milestone in November when the 100,000 th seedling was planted in Sharaan. Eventually, 10 million seedlings will be planted across the five nature reserves of AlUla and Khaybar.

Active measures such as these are vital in restoring AlUla’s flowerscape. Other times, you just have to stand back and let nature follow its own path. This was highlighted by research that an RCU team, led by Dr. Magdy El-Bana from the Wildlife and Natural Heritage department, presented in December 2022 at the annual meeting of the British Ecological Society in Edinburgh.
Planting in Sharaan
Dr. El-Bana’s team studied the overlap of cultural and natural heritage conservation. They determined that what is good for heritage sites is good for the plants that live at those sites. Focusing on Hegra, the UNESCO World Heritage Site that is a treasure trove of monumental Nabataean tombs, the researchers concluded that the tombs are “conservation islands” contributing to biodiversity, with flowering plants ranging from asters to amaranth and dogbane to fig-marigolds. They even found species inside the tombs that were not present in the surrounding area. The researchers accordingly suggested that the tombs might be used as a site for planting seedlings and also for collecting them to be planted elsewhere.

This synergy between cultural and natural heritage is a perfect example of what it means when the comprehensive regeneration of AlUla is talked about. And this approach is part of the reason why visitors are coming to AlUla in rising numbers as it blooms into a leading global destination for cultural and natural heritage.
Wildflowers of AlUla

Sharaan Nature Reserve

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