The Carob tree, Il-Ħarruba, is probably not a true native of our islands, but was probably introduced in ancient times in view of its usefulness. Today it is still exploited, mainly to make Carob julep and for fodder. It is quite commonly found across the Maltese Islands and is one of the dominant species of our maquis.
This evergreen tree grows to about 10m and its thick rough brown trunk is capable of supporting sturdy branches. The tree is dioecious, that is, it may be either a male or female tree. The flowers on a male tree produce a strong odour and are yellowish-red, whilst the female’s flowers are light green and these form pods or locust beans.
Of interest is the fact that in past times the Carob seeds were used as a measure to weigh gold and precious stones, since the weight of the seeds varies so little. In fact, the term ‘carat’ derives from this practice.
Although the Carob tree is a predominant feature of the Maltese landscape, it still needs to be conserved. In fact, it is protected under national legislation and one should not prune, fell or uproot this tree without obtaining the necessary permits from the competent authorities. MEPA is also helping to safeguard this tree through the designation of Special Areas of Conservation, where one can find some of the oldest Carob trees on the island.