Hiking the sandy coastal strips near Dubai, you might just find the desert hyacinth. This parasitic plant blooms only after a significant rainfall and is tolerant of saline environments. The flowers are bright yellow and dappled with splashes of deep red. Since the plant lacks chlorophyll, it is incapable of photosynthesis and does not have any green foliage. It's one of seven parasitic plants found in the United Arab Emirates and prefers the roots of other desert shrubs as its host.
Another plant to be found while hiking or camping the coastal flats near Dubai is the red thumb. In an environment where drinkable water and food are rare commodities, the red thumb is a welcome, nourishing entity. One of the few consumable plants in the deserts of the United Arab Emirates, it has been harvested as both food and fluid for centuries. This is another example of parasitic flora in the UAE without greenery of any kind. This plant is quickly becoming a rare sight. Other common names are tarthuth and desert broomrape.
Biking in and around Dubai, watch for the tall shrub oleander. Oleander is poisonous if ingested and an irritant; flesh contact causes severe irritation and rash. Despite its poisonous qualities, oleander is highly favored and cultivated throughout Dubai as a beautiful and exotic plant. The flower petals have hues of pink, white and blue on a plant that grows up to 20 feet tall.
Rose of Sharon
You won't just find native plants and flowers while biking the streets of Dubai. The rose of Sharon thrives in the full sun and is resilient to drought. A non-native species popular in Dubai's recent greening program, a number of cultivars are grown throughout the city including "Diana," "Lady Stanley," "Ardens," "Lucy" and "Blushing Bride."
Spend some time hiking around the 500-acre complex at the Burj Dubai, the world's tallest structure and you'll note the three-lobed design at the base of the tower. This design was inspired by the spider lily's six petals. The current greening program in Dubai sparked widespread cultivation of this plant throughout the city. Six long, slender white petals share a white coronal membrane with the stamens to form large exotic flowers. The genus name of the spider lily, Hymenocallis, means delicate membrane in Greek.
The desert rose might be found among the native grasses and shrubs while hiking the shimmering white sands surrounding Dubai. Like its relative the oleander, the sap is poisonous. The blooms are red or white-tinged with pink and flowers begin appearing when it is only six inches tall. As a shrub, it grows to five feet in height with thick stems.