|Pistacia atlantica Desf.|
Synonyms: P. terebinthus L.
Common names: Turpentine tree, terebinth tree (English); térébinthe, pistachier térébinthe (French); Tarpentinpistazie, Terpentinbaum (German); terebinto, pistacchio terebinto, corno frassano, scotano campestre, pistacchio giallo (Italian); botom (Arabic), other vernacular names: bel‘ās, ‘alk el-botom, ‘alk al-jabal (the resin of the tree); thamāra, (the fruits); habbet khadrā` (the fruits); ‘afas (the galls, often the leaves of Pistacia atlantica have galls, produced by Pemphigus utricularis Pass.).
Deciduous tree up to 7 m, with a dense, subglobose crown. Leaves impair-pinnate; leaflets 2-5 paired, ovate-oblong or lanceolate. Fruits paniculate, 5-8x5-6 mm
Dry hillsides, edge of field, up to 1,500 m.
Irano-Turanian, extended to North Africa.
Pistacia atlantica Desf. Upper right a leaf with a gall ('afas)
In the badia: Al-Khatīb: blood clots (together with Ferula assa-foetida); tonsillitis (in both cases he uses the resin, called ‘alk al-jabal, while the common name in the badia is ‘alk el-botom); psoriasis (oil from fruits).
Field data: lungs (resin boiled in water, to drink), eczema (resin boiled with dibs, new soap, to apply).
In literature: expectorant, sudorific, heart stimulant (fruits); sterility, colic, tonic, digestive, depilatory, gums strengthening, resolutive for furuncles (resin); expectorant, diuretic; asthma, chest diseases (galls); masticatory, to purify the breath (resin); stomach disorders (crushed nut of the fruit); cough, cold (external friction with oil from fruits); intestinal disorders (decoction of leaves and galls, in Morocco), antiseptic for wounds (resin). In Iraq, the seeds are used for tanning and for soap-making. In the past, this species was considered to grow only in North Africa, where it had been described, while, in the Middle East, it was not distinguished from Pistacia terebinthus L., to which it is really very close. A famous product from this tree was the "turpentine of Chio", which is in fact the resin, very well known for its therapeutic value, and exported even to Europe, especially during the nineteenth century. The resin is produced by particular cells which secrete it into special ducts crossing the cortical parenchyma. The leaves of Pistacia atlantica often have galls, which are rich in tannins and are used to tan skins, beside their therapeutic use.
Its use as forage has not been scientifically investigated.
Resin: soluble part (α-resin, C20H32O3), essential oil; fruit: essential and fat oils.
Notwithstanding its scientific name, this species has its primary origin not on the Atlantic Ocean, but in the Iranian Plateau, from where it migrated to reach North Africa to the East and Palestine to the South. Pistacia atlantica was a common tree in the past in the whole area, but since it was also almost the only tree it was super-exploited for its wood, and is now localized on some mountains such as Jebel Bel‘ās, which derives its name from the tree.
Bedevian, A. K. 1936. Illustrated Polyglottic Dictionary of Plant names. Cairo, Argus D Papazian Presses.
Ozenda, P. 1991. Flore et végétation du Sahara. Paris, Ed. du CNRS.
All pictures and drawings belong to the author.