Ancient Egyptian plants – papyrus and palm trees

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Date palms

Date palms

The plants that grew in ancient Egypt were very different from plants that grow in America or Britain. The lotus and the papyrus plants, for instance, were (and are) very common in Egypt. Papyrus is a kind of reed which grows in wetlands along the banks of the Nile River. Date palms grew all over Egypt, and other palms that people used to make palm oil -.

There were not very many trees in ancient Egypt, because there isn’t enough water in Egypt to support big trees. When the Egyptians needed wood, they had to buy it from Lebanon, further north, and sail it south to Egypt on boats.

Papyrus plant

Papyrus plant

There were also plants which are more familiar in the United States like wheat, barley, lentils, chickpeas, and figs. Egypt was especially famous for producing huge amounts of wheat, thanks to the Nile flood every year.

Egyptian people made some of their wheat into beer; Egypt is the only Mediterranean country where people mainly drank beer instead of wine (though beer was also popular in Mesopotamia).

Learn by doing: eating dates and figs
More about Egyptian animals
More about dates
More about the Egyptian environment

Bibliography and further reading about Egyptian plants:

More about the Egyptian environment
More about ancient Egypt
More about the African environment home

By |2017-06-13T12:32:17+00:00June 13th, 2017|Africa, Egypt, Environment|8 Comments
Cite this page: Carr, K.E. Ancient Egyptian plants – papyrus and palm trees. Study Guides, June 13, 2017. Web. November 13, 2018.

About the Author:

Dr. Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram, Pinterest, or Facebook, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.


  1. Samantha February 27, 2018 at 7:50 pm - Reply

    Are these two plants the main plants?

    • Karen Carr February 27, 2018 at 10:22 pm

      No, there are thousands of different plants that grow in Egypt. Papyrus reeds and palm trees are important because there are a lot of them in Egypt and not so many outside of Egypt, and because papyrus is what you use to make the paper that Egyptians used.

  2. Amuli February 3, 2018 at 2:34 pm - Reply

    Egypt is a country on the continent of Africa, and definitely NOT ‘Mediterranean country’.

    • Karen Carr February 3, 2018 at 5:15 pm

      Egypt is both. Like Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya, Egypt is an African country that is also a Mediterranean country, because it borders on the Mediterranean Sea.

  3. isabelle December 5, 2017 at 2:25 pm - Reply

    how did vegetation help then that’s what i want to know

  4. isabelle December 5, 2017 at 2:23 pm - Reply

    i want to no how it helped them not what plants they grew

    • Karen Carr December 5, 2017 at 3:02 pm

      Hi Isabelle! Maybe these pages would be more what you are looking for: the history of wheat and barley, dates and olive oil and palm oil. Or just read our article on Egyptian food?

    • Karen Carr December 5, 2017 at 3:03 pm

      Oh, and also check out our page about papyrus! Good luck with your project, and feel free to write again if you have more questions.

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