More than 10,000 plant specieshave been identified in Iran.The natural vegetation has beendevastated and used for cultivatingcrops or feeding cattle. Naturalforests in the Alborz mountainsconsist of various trees likebeech, oak, deciduous andconifers. There are areas in higherelevations in Zagros Mountainsconsisting of oak. Wild fruits also grow in both Alborz and Zagros mountains including almond,pear, pomegranate, and walnut.In the more arid central parts, wild pistachio and other resistant trees grow in areas that have not been breached by human activities. Tamarisk and other salt-tolerant bushes grow along the margins of the Dasht-e Kavir. A wide variety of native mammals, reptiles, birds, and insects live in Iran including wolves, foxes, bears, mountain goats, red mountain sheep, rabbits, and gerbils. Some species are migratory birds that spend part of the year in other countries.
Deserts of Iran
Iran is situated in a high-altitude plateau surrounded by connected ranges of mountains. The well-known deserts are: 1) Dasht-e Kavir, and 2) Kavir-e-Lut. They are both the most arid and hottest areas of their kinds in the world.
Mountains of Iran
The whole area of Iran can be divided in to four parts: 1/2 mountains as one part, and 1/4 deserts and 1/4 fertile plains as the other part. There are two major ranges of mountains called Alborz and Zagros. Alborz have been extended all the way from Āzerbāijān to Afghanistan passing through the southern part of the Caspian Sea. Zagros have covered a region from Āzerbāijān to the west and SE of the country. These two ranges are like walls blocking meteorological phenomena from entering central Iran. In addition to these ranges, there are mountainous regions in central and eastern Iran.
Sea & Gulf
Iran is mainly a semi-arid country where some parts have more water than others scattered in different parts although the north and south.
With an area of 232,850km, Persian Gulf is situated at the south of Iran. It is almost 900 km long from the Strait of Hormoz to Arvand Roud, the border river between Iran and Iraq. The countries all around the Persian Gulf are Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.
The Persian Gulf is one of the warmest waters in the Middle East. During summer, the temperature of the water in this gulf amounts to 65 C. Storms rarely happen there. During winter, the salt rate gets to 48/1000 that is relatively high. Rocky or coral areas suitable for pearls lie at the bottom of the Persian Gulf.
Oman Sea, situated at the south of Iran, connects the Persian Gulf to the Indian Ocean. The Oman Sea is surrounded by Iran and Pakistan at the north, Deccan peninsula at the east and Arabia peninsula at the west with an approximate area of 903,000 km.
Iran has got small ports at its shorelines with the Oman Sea like Chābahāar, Gavater and Jask. Since antiquity, the Strait of Hormoz and the Oman Sea have always been strategic waterways.
The Caspian Sea is the largest inland water in the world with an area of approximately 371,000 km, 28 m below sea level, which is situated at the north of Iran. Its neighboring countries are, Turkmenistan on the SE, Kazakhstan on the NE and north, Russia on the NW and Āzerbaijan on the SW.
The Iranian shorelines are approximately 992km from the East to the West. There are geographic areas made at the Iranian shorelines because of the changes in the level of the sea, like Miankaleh Peninsula, Ashuradeh Island Hossein Qoli Bay, Gorgan Bay and Anzali Bay.
There are permanent and temporary lakes in Iran depending on the amount of water in different seasons:
Located at the NW of Iran, Lake Urmia has an area of 60,000km. Due to sludgy and therapeutic qualities, this permanent lake attracts many people each summer. The salt rate of this lake is very high (3/5 of the Dead Sea) and has %23 minerals. So, no fish or animal could live there.
Located at the West of Iran, Zarivar Lake is a permanent pond with various kinds of fish and birds. Water evaporation has helped the environs of the lake to grow.
Occupying an approximate area of 2,400km, the seasonal Qom Lake is located at the south of Tehran. The area and shape of the lake is varied due to the water coming from salty rivers and rainfall.
It is a seasonal shallow lake in Fars province located at the NW of a town called Neyriz. It is connected, at its north, to another temporary lake called “Tashk Lake” and contains salty water.
While it is full of water, Haamoun Lake has an area of 3,200km at SE of Iran, Sistan and Baluchestan province. The only river entering this seasonal lake is called Hirmand.
This seasonal lake is situated near Shiraz, at its SE. Salt is exploited in a factory at its shore to be used in industries, as the water is very much salty.
This fresh water lake called Parishaan is located at the SW of Shiraz in Karun Plain. Fish farming is also carried out in this lake.
Shour Gel Lake
This temporary lake is located at the north of Arak, Markazi province. From time to time, it gets dried or filled depending on the variable amount of annual rainfall.
Other Minor Lakes
There are also some other smaller lakes scattered all across Iran. Some of which are in high altitudes and referred to as lakes by local people. “Valasht lake” near Kelar-dasht in the Caspian region, “Sabalan lake” at the top of Mount Sabalan are such examples.
Native Plant Species
Zagros Field Elm and Persian Ironwood are two plants that can only be found within the borders of Iran. More than 10,000 plant species have been identified in Iran, a country which boasts of a rich flora base. Iran’s distinct geographical locations have enabled a variety of plants to thrive, from the high elevations of Zagros and Alborz to the semi-arid and arid parts.
Persian Ironwood (Parrotia persica)
Most of the tree specimens are concentrated in the Alborz Mountains. Persian Ironwood (Parrotia persica) is a deciduous tree. The tree is part of the witch-hazel family and green leaves turn to yellow, crimson, pink, maroon and purple in the fall and during the winter the peels reveal a new bark of silver, green, and cream-colored mosaic.
In late winter and early spring, red petal-less flowers appear. The tree grows to 30 centimeters, and its leaves appear slightly lopsided. Persian Ironwood thrives in well drained and acidic soils and direct sunlight. Due to its small population range, the tree is listed as critically endangered.
Dwarf Eelgrass (Zostera noltii)
The Dwarf Eelgrass (Zostera noltii) is a seagrass specie distributed along the shallow waters of the Black, Mediterranean, Caspian, and Aral Seas, as well as certain regions of Eastern Atlantic Ocean coastlines. The tree grows in low salinity and brackish waters such as lagoons or meadows.
The grass-like flowering plant has a rhizome with nodes, where the leaves and roots for anchor grow. The leaves and rhizome are buoyant with white and smooth seeds. The plant is listed as Least Concern although it is affected by invasive species, sedimentation and developments along the coast. No specific conservation plans exist for the Dwarf Eelgrass in Iran.
Wayfarer Tree (Viburnum lantana)
The Wayfarer Tree (Viburnum lantana) is indigenous to Iran as well neighboring countries in southwestern Asia. The tree is a perennial shrub with multiple stems rising to 8 to 15 feet to form a dense, rounded shrub. The 2- to 5-inch-long leaves face opposite of one another, and are characterized by a dark green color on the upper surface and a pale underside.
The tree is between 4 and 5 meters tall, and it has creamy white flowers. The tree develops flowers in May, which turn red and eventually black fruit. The tree thrives in alkaline soils and it is not under any significant environmental threats due to its broad habitat range.
Schrenck’s Tulip (Tulipa schrenkii)
The Schrenck’s Tulip (Tulipa schrenkii) plant is species of Tulip in the Family Liliaceae. The plant has a wide habitat range, from Iran to Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Siberia, and Russia. The plant particularly thrives in semi-desert conditions and steppe.
The flowers of the plant exhibit an appealing variety in coloration, from red, light red, pink, white or yellow. The plant has a characteristic dark brown tulip and a 15- to 30-centimeter-long stem, which can be hairy. The Schrenck’s Tulip is under no immediate threat in Iran.
Conservation of Iranian Flora
Other native plants in Iran include the Zagros Field Elm (Ulmus minor ‘Boissieri’), the Apple of Sodom (Calotropis procera), the Jag, or North Indian Rosewood, (Dalbergia sissoo), Miss Willmott’s Ghost (Eryngium giganteum), and the Fall Daffodil (Sternbergia lutea). The native plants of Iran require greater conservation efforts by Iranians and their government to ensure that their populations are environmentally sustained.
Native Animal Species
Iran’s wildlife comprises several animal species, including bears, gazelles, wild pigs, wolves, jackals, panthers, Eurasian lynx and hawksbill turtles. Hawksbill turtles are one of the rare and indigenous members of Iranian wildlife. Other domestic animals include sheep, goats, horses, water buffalo, donkeys and camels. Also pheasant, partridge, stork, eagle and falcon are native to Iran. Some of Iran’s most important rare wildlife species are listed below:
Hawksbill Sea Turtle
The hawksbill sea turtle belongs to the family Cheloniidae. Its appearance is similar to that of other marine turtles. It has a generally flat body, protective carapace and flipper-like arms adapted for swimming in the open ocean. The imbricated turtle is easily distinguished from other sea turtles by its sharp, curving beak with prominent tomium, and the saw-like appearance of its shell margins. Hawksbill shells slightly change colors, depending on water temperature. While this turtle lives part of its life in the open ocean,it spends more time in shallow lagoons and coral reefs.
The Caspian horse is a breed native to northern Iran. Although its original height probably ranges near 91 cm, it is termed a horse rather than a pony because, it has much in common with horses. It is believed to be one of the oldest horse or pony breeds in the world, which descended from small Mesopotamian equines that, in competition with larger animals, had faded from attention by 7th century CE.
The Asiatic cheetah is known as Iranian cheetah, as the world’s last survivors in Iran. The Asiatic cheetah is a critically endangered subspecies of the cheetah, with some occasional sightings in Baluchistan of Pakistan. It lives mainly in Iran’s central desert in fragmented habitats.
The animal was driven to extinction in other parts of southwest Asia from Arabia to India and Afghanistan. As of 2013, only 20 cheetahs were identified in Iran, but some areas remain to be surveyed; the total population may be 50 to 100. The Asiatic cheetah was separated from its African relative between 32,000 and 67,000 years. Along with the Eurasian lynx and the Persian leopard, it is one of the three remaining species of large cats in Iran today.