The argan tree (Argania Spinosa “iron tree”) is emblematic to southern morocco and grows in the red-ocre earth characteristic of the heart of the desert. A genuine source of life, it offers its shade and foliage to man and livestock. It is from its wood and its plump fruits that argan oil is extracted, a genuine ancestral beauty secret of Moroccan women.
The argan is thorny and always green. An adult tree reaches 8 to 10 meters high and can live 150 to 200 years, thanks to its powerful root system. It maintains soil’s fertility by protecting it from hydride and wind erosions which threaten a large part of morocco with desertification.
In 1999, Unesco classified the argan as world patrimony. A 830 000 hectare zone of south-western Morocco between Agadir and Essaouira was designated a biosphere reserve, because it is the only place in the world where the argan tree grows.
Humerous attempts to transplant the argan have failed. There is only one explanation for this; if the argan tree grows so well, often rejecting other tree species, it is because it is perfectly adapted to its ecosystem. The arid earth and sunny climate suit the argan perfectly. The argan tree needs only a little rain. Fortunately, since it only rains 30-50 days a year on the Agadir coast, and even less south of Souss (15-30 days a year).
Dew and ocean mist brought by cold currents from the Canary Islands provide the argan forest with a hygrometric supplement. However, in order to survive the argan uses a very developed root system which draws water up to 20-25 meters under the earth. In fact, the argan roots represent 5 times their aerial part (trunk and branches). The argan leaves are small, oval, persistent, and tough. Flowering is in August, spring or autumn, depending on climatic conditions. Its hermaphrodite flowers are a greenish yellow. The fruit is an ovoid drupe which reaches maturity between May and September.
The argan fruit appears after the autumn rains. It ripens in spring and falls to the grounding June and July, at the beginning of summer. The fruits are under the trees to dry. Argan plots are nevertheless fenced to prevent goats from eating the fruits. In august the fruits’ pulp is separated from the pits. These are then crushed with a granite stone in order to extract the seeds.
The argan fruit resembles an olive, except it is larger and rounder. The nut it contains is very hard, and we find up to three seeds inside, from which the argan oil is extracted. The gathering principles resemble those of the olive. 7 argan trees in full production are needed to obtain 1 liter of argan oil. Argan oil is so precious; it is named the desert gold.