Capparis (Capparis cartilaginea)

Capparis cartilaginea flower, opening
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Capparis fact file

Capparis description

GenusCapparis (1)

Capparis cartilaginea is a small, scrubby tree which grows by spreading or ‘scrambling’ over rocks. It has long, hairless stems which are typically bent and twisted, with white-grey or yellowish-green bark, coated in a waxy or powdery bloom. The oval-shaped leaves of Capparis cartilaginea are broad and fleshy, often ending in a hooked, yellowish-brown spine below the pointed tip. During the flowering period, Capparis cartilaginea produces large, attractive white flowers which possess many erect stamens and unequally shaped petals, two of which are fused and slightly hooded, fitting into a helmet-shaped sepal (2) (3) (4).

Height: 0.5 – 4 m (2)

Capparis biology

Capparis cartilaginea is a perennial species that usually flowers around February and March (5). It produces rounded, ribbed, red-coloured fruits packed with numerous small seeds, which are eaten and dispersed by birds (3) (4) (7).

The fruits of Capparis cartilaginea can be dried and pickled in vinegar, or preserved in salt to produce capers for consumption (8).


Capparis range

Capparis cartilaginea is found in north and east Africa, the Middle East and southwest Asia, including Afghanistan, Israel, Iran, Iraq, India, Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates (3) (4).


Capparis habitat

Capparis cartilaginea is a primarily coastal species, found among rocks on hillsides, cliffs and mountain slopes below 2,000 metres (3) (5) (6).


Capparis status

Capparis cartilaginea has yet to be classified by the IUCN.


Capparis conservation

There are no known threats to Capparis cartilaginea.

Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi is a principal sponsor of ARKive. EAD is working to protect and conserve the environment as well as promoting sustainable development in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi.

Find out more

There are no known conservation measures in place for Capparis cartilaginea.



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A plant that normally lives for more than two seasons. After an initial period, the plant produces flowers once a year.
A floral leaf (collectively comprising the calyx of the flower) that forms the protective outer layer of a flower bud.
The male reproductive organs of a flower. Each stamen is comprised of an anther (the pollen-producing organ) and a filament (stalk).


  1. IPNI (November, 2010)
  2. Elffers, J., Graham, R.A. and DeWolf, G.P. (1964) Capparidaceae. In: Flora of Tropical East Africa. Crown Agents for Oversea Governments and Administrations, London.
  3. Flora of Pakistan (November, 2010)
  4. Rivera, D., Friis, I., Inocencio, C., Obón, C., Alcaraz, F. and Reales, A. (2003) The typification of Capparis inermis Forssk., C. sinaica Veill. and C. cartilaginea Decne. (Capparaceae). Taxon, 52: 307-311.
  5. Fawzi, N.M. (2008) An Introduction in the Flora of the United Arab Emirates. Faculty of Science, Biology Department, National Herbarium, United Arab Emirates.
  6. African Plant Database (November, 2010)
  7. Wickens, G.E. (1979) The propagules of the terrestrial flora of the Aldabra archipelago, western Indian Ocean. Atoll Research Bulletin, 229: 1-40. 
  8. Rivera, D., Friis, I., Inocencio, C., Obón, C., Reales, A. and Alcaraz, F. (2002) Archaeobotany of capers (Capparis) (Capparaceae). Vegetation History and Archaeobotany, 11: 295-313.

Image credit

Capparis cartilaginea flower, opening  
Capparis cartilaginea flower, opening

© Mitsuko SHINGAI

Mitsuko Shingai


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