Abstract Fifteen biological trace elements essential to plants, man and animals: silver, gold, cobalt, copper, chromium, nickel, lead, iron, magnesium, manganese, potassium, sodium, strontium, zinc and calcium, were estimated and analysed in some wild plants from near the shores of the High Dam Lake and the adjacent desert at Aswan (Egypt). These plants are: Panicum coloratum, Astragalus vogehi, Echinochloa colonum, Glinus lotoides, Tamarix nilotica, Fagonia indica, Salsola imbricata and Aerva javanica. The element content of the analysed plants can be classified into three groups viz. major, minor and trace based on the conventional classification of 1–5·8% as major, 1–650 p.p.m. as minor and 1–900 p.p.b. as trace. The results show Ca as major element in all plants, with Fe, Mg, Mn, Na, Sr and Zn as minor, while the remainder are present in trace amounts. It was observed that Glinus lotoides contained higher concentrations of Ag, Au, Co, Cu, Ni, Pb, Fe and Sr than the others while Echinochloa colonum contained higher concentrations of Cr, Fe, K and Mn than the others. The present study gives a new picture about the ion antagonism in these plants and also their uses as therapeutic agents for man and in the treatment of mineral deficiency in animals. flame atomic absorption spectroscopy was used to detect the limits of the elements; the method was sensitive to 3 p.p.b.