Carob, St John's bread, locust bean (Eng), algarrobo (Spa), garrofer (Cat), algarroba (Baq), alfarobeira (Glg), alfarobeira (Por).
“There are already many carob trees. […] In general they are very beautiful, having an attractive appearance, and sometimes one comes across specimens that have developed in a particularly picturesque way. ”
‘Spanish diary’, Alexander von Humboldt
This tree can be up to 10 m tall, with an irregular trunk, smooth greyish bark, and a deep, extensive root system. The leaves are rounded or oval with an entire margin. They are persistent, dark green and compound, with up to 5 pairs of leaflets arranged facing each other in twos (even-pinnate). The flowers are inconspicuous, although they have a strong smell, and develop directly from the trunk or side branches in clustered groups. There are female, male and hermaphroditic blooms, usually on different plants. The fruits are legumes, known as carobs or locust beans, and are slightly curved like a horn. They are up to 25 cm long and contain from 10 to 16 seeds.
This tree grows in dry, gentle, warm, frost-free climates, therefore generally close to the coast, up to an altitude of 600 m. It does not usually form forests, although it appears in stands and copses in some places. It is associated with plants that have similar ecological preferences, such as the European fan palm (Chamaerops humilis L.), mastic (Pistacia lentiscus L.), kermes oak (Quercus coccifera L.) and buckthorns (Ziziphus sp.), found in drier locations than those of holm oak forests. It is indifferent substrate type, needs a sunny aspect and will grow on stony soils and in arid ravines. It is sometimes surprising to see such a slender, green tree in a dry area where no other tree species grow, but this also shows how important it can be as a refuge for wildlife and how the development of its roots protects against erosion.
This tree is typical of the Mediterranean and the Middle East and is found in the coastal provinces of the Iberian Peninsula, from Catalonia to the Portuguese Algarve, penetrating a little up the Guadalquivir Valley. As it has been extensively cultivated by the Arabs since the 12th century, its original distribution is not known with certainty and some authors doubt that it is native to the peninsula, placing its origin in the area of Arabia, Syria and the Lebanon.