Origin of argan oil
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The argan tree (Lat. Argania spinosa) is one of the oldest trees in the world and the only place in the world where it still grows is in Southwest Morocco, between Essaouira und Agadir. From its fruits, Morocco’s liquid gold, the argan oil is extracted. Around 25 million years ago, the argan tree developed into a specialist for desert-like, dry regions. Its life expectancy is in the mid-200 years. However, examples have already been found that are up to 400-years-old.
Today, only 20 million trees are still left in Southwest Morocco, on an area of only 8000 square metres. Beyond this, the argan tree has died out worldwide. Trials to establish the tree in other countries have remained unsuccessful. Scientists believe that the unique combination of Atlantic climate, desert and soil climate are what the argan trees need to survive.
Due to this fact, this last region with existing argan trees was declared by UNESCO as a “biosphere reserve” in 1998 and elevated to a World Cultural Heritage Site. Every tree belongs to the state. Private individuals, even in Berber families, are only granted rights of use. It is strictly prohibited to shake or cut down argan trees.
The argan tree grows up to 10 metres high and has a crown of up to 14 metres. In the search for water, the roots can drill up to 30 metres into the sandy soil. Its water requirement is very low, fog and dew are often sufficient for survival. Long thorns protect the tree from being eaten by animals. Only goats have learned how to climb onto the tree and eat the leaves and fruits, which are, of course, tastier than the dry desert grass.
For the local Berbers, the argan tree is, in fact, a tree of life.
It supplies the families with virtually everything that they need:
fallen wood as fuel, fruits as food for the animals and the argan
oil as a high-quality food and for traditional applications.