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Introduction to the Glossary of Ornamental Tree and Shrub Species of Andalusia

Expiración García and J. Esteban Hernández Bermejo

Introduction | Browse the glossary

The objective of this glossary is to facilitate the most specific and accurate identification possible of the trees and shrubs that were known on the Iberian peninsula during the period of Muslim rule. Many of them were cultivated species, some indigenous and others introduced, but the list also mentions species that were discovered through trade and imported.

The catalogue draws upon several publications coauthored by the present authors together with Julia Ma. Carabaza Bravo and Alfonso Jiménez Ramirez, especially Árboles y arbustos de al-Andalus (Madrid: Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, 2004).

The study is based on data provided by Andalusian agricultural treatises (a total of eight), together with the first agricultural calendar written in al-Andalus, the Calendar of Córdoba. Complementing these works is perhaps the richest and most interesting botanical work, 'Umdat al-tabīb (‘Umda), which has allowed us to identify species about which the other agronomic treatises were ambiguous or silent.

The calendar and agricultural and botanical treatises that served as the bases for the preparation of this glossary are listed with their acronyms below:

It is convenient to previously clarify the concept of species which this glossary has organized in all its references. Each of their names appears as a heading directly derived from the Arabic word used for the botanical species. Based on this, its taxonomic classification is identified from the perspective of modern plant systematics, seeking its correspondence with the scientifically recognizable botanical species. Finally, this taxonomic identification is transposed into the popular names of the English language, followed by their respective names in modern Castillian Spanish.

References used for each species include the following fields:

  • The Arabic term (spelled in Arabic script and romanized) for the plant in question. Please note that this site uses the ALA-LC romanization tables for the transliteration of technical vocabulary. Proper names, including those of people, places, and gardens, use a simplified scheme.
  • Andalusian authors and works which mention the species, identified by the acronyms listed in the table above.
  • Complete taxonomic characterization: English and Spanish name, scientific name and author, synonyms and family.
  • A brief commentary dealing with the difficulties of a botanical, agronomical, and linguistic nature, which have arisen throughout the preparation of this work. At times, it alludes to emphasized uses or other significant aspects indicated by the authors that facilitate the correct identification of the species (logically, the intermediate phases of the discussion have been omitted). On occasions, the diagnostic elements found in the texts make it possible to verify, profile, and, sometimes, seriously question the identification of the species that would proceed from simple translation. In other cases, they only allow us to note several possibilities, without being able to make a clear identification. This commentary also indicates what could and could not have been cultivated due to ecology and climate of al-Andalus.

We must note that this catalogue only contains the species mentioned by the agronomists (those which they cultivated or which were known for their consumption or by means of reading other earlier texts); many more species were possibly known, judging from a study of the contributions from botanists and pharmacologists of that time.

Finally, we must clarify that the species selected as trees in this work correspond more specifically to the botanical concept of phanerophyte, which means, those species whose perennating buds are located above one meter from the ground. For this reason, in addition to the specific trees, it includes arborescent shrubs and palm trees. Lastly, once again using the concept of phanerophyte, we have taken the liberty of including herbaceous plants, such as reeds and banana trees.

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