Tetraclinis, arar, araar, sictus tree, sandarac tree (Eng); araar, sabina de Cartagena (Spa); xiprer quadrivalve (Cat).
DID YOU KNOW...? The resin of this tree, known as sandarac, was used by the Ancient Egyptians to embalm their dead.
This evergreen tree can reach 15 m in height. The trunk is straight, with striated brown or ash-grey bark, and can reach almost a metre wide in exceptional specimens. In adult individuals, the crown is usually wide and irregular. The twigs have a delicate appearance, they are somewhat flattened and stick out in all directions, giving them a jointed, or articulated appearance, as its Latin name suggests. The small leaves are shaped like elongated scales, similar to those of cypress trees. This species blooms in autumn or winter and has male and female cones on the same plant. The male cones have pollen-carrying scales, and the females comprise 4 parts (valves). These ripen in the summer of the following year, and inside are 3 or 4 seeds that have double wings to aid their dispersal by wind.
In its natural habitat, this species grows in very dry, semi-arid and sunny locations with a mild climate, forming very open forests or mixing with other species of similar ecology. In spite of the fragile appearance of its foliage, it is a robust and undemanding plant when it comes to soil type, although it usually prefers well-drained limey substrates with little clay. The naturalised specimens on Gran Canaria prefer the shallow, stony soils of ravine bottoms or hillsides.
This tree is restricted to the islands of Malta and Cyprus, southern Spain and northern Africa. In the Canaries it is cultivated fairly frequently and, according to the taxonomists at the ‛Viera and Clavijo' botanical gardens, it may be established in the wild on the island of Gran Canaria. In addition, the biologist and expert on invasive species, Marcos Salas, has indicated the presence of some specimens in Barranco de Guiniguada (Gran Canaria).