Almond (Eng), almendro (Spa), ametller (Cat), almendrondoa (Baq), amendoeira (Glg), amendoeira (Por).
DID YOU KNOW...? Bitter almonds contain amygdalin, a cyanide (hydrocyanic acid) precursor, a powerful poison that was used in Ancient Egypt to execute criminals.
A shrub or small tree that can be up to 8 m tall, generally with no thorns although these are sometimes present. The trunk usually is twisted, fissured and blackens with age. The leaves are deciduous, simple, alternate, lanceolate, and have a serrated or crenate margin. They are 4-12 cm long and 1,2-4 cm wide. The flowers bloom in winter, before the leaves appear, in numerous aromatic groups that are very attractive to insects. The fleshy part of the fruit is green and, when it dries, it peels off to uncover the seed, the almond.
The almond tree occurs in dry, even somewhat arid temperate climates, and prefers chalky soils. It suffers when there are late frosts, although it can grow without blooming or producing fruit. One Catalan saying goes along the lines of: “Almond tree, don't rush to bloom, there could be frost someday soon”. It grows from sea level to approximately 1000 m, although in the Sierra Nevada it reaches altitudes of 1400 m.
This species is native to central and southwestern Asia, and northern Africa. It was introduced on the Iberian Peninsula in ancient times, probably by the Phoenicians, and widely distributed by the Romans. It has become established in the wild in many places and is most abundant in Andalucía, the Balearic Islands and the eastern half of the peninsula.