Ancient Egyptian plants – papyrus and palm trees

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spiky green palm leaves with garlands of orange date clusters

Date palm

Palms and papyrus

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.

Egyptian environment
Egyptian animals
African environment
All our Ancient Egypt articles
All the Africa articles

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.

More about papyrus
History of dates
What is palm oil?

Importing wood to Egypt

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.

Early African boats

Papyrus plant

Papyrus plant

Food plants in ancient Egypt

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.

History of wheat
Where are chickpeas from?
What’s the Nile flood?

A field of yellow stems of wheat

A field of wheat growing

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).

History of beer

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

Bibliography and further reading about Egyptian plants:

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

By |2019-01-12T17:50:42+00:00June 13th, 2017|Africa, Egypt, Environment|10 Comments
Cite this page: Carr, K.E. Ancient Egyptian plants – papyrus and palm trees. Study Guides, June 13, 2017. Web. January 22, 2019.

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. Merry January 1, 2019 at 10:28 pm - Reply

    The picture above is not date palm trees, that is the picture of coconut trees which is is not grow on egypt

    • Karen Carr January 12, 2019 at 12:49 pm

      Thank you! I’m sorry about the mistake and will fix it promptly.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

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

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

  5. 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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