It looks as if the wind would blow them away ...


Fritillaries always seem so very fragile to me.

They look like ethereal bells dancing on delicate stalks. And yet here they are growing wild and blooming in profusion. Quite amazing!

These flowers were photographed somewhere between Cochav Hayarden and Har Tavor, one glorious spring day.


Flowers that bloom in the summer

Flowers that bloom in the summer
Evening glory

And what's more - they bloom at night!

The newest part of the Herzliya to Holon promenade is now open and a couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of walking north of the Tel Aviv Port along the tayelet (promenade) at sunset.

The new bridge that sweeps over the inlet to the Reading power station is man-made but it is so aesthetically designed that it enhances the scene unfolding before us.

The sea-shore is a delight. Here there are no manicured sands touching a sedate sea-shore. Waves break against rocky kurkar promontories, sea-water is trapped in rock pools, bright green sea-weed clings to outcrops of rock, and sea-birds hunt for fish.
(See the photo below)

Since the building of the power station in 1936, this area sandwiched between the enormous buildings and the sea was virtually undisturbed. Plants that became extinct elsewhere have been newly re-discovered here. While the landscaping was being carried out these and hundreds of other plants were carefully uprooted and nurtured, and now they are being lovingly replanted in their natural habitat.

Alongside the paved tayelet the native plants will be carefully protected.

So as beautiful as it is today, the future promises even more!

The evening primrose Oenothera drummondii is a joy to see – not least because it is one of the few plants to flower in the fierce Israeli summer.

It gives even more delight when it blooms throughout the night. It’s Hebrew name, ner halayla, means candle of the night. This lovely flower was not mentioned in Bible times – but has flourished in Israel since the 19th century.

It seems it came from the Americas – perhaps a stubborn seed clung to a pioneer’s boot. Like those early pioneers it is a survivor, stubbornly growing in places no other flowers can. It tolerates the saltiness of the sea-shore, the aridness of the sand, and the spray of the waves.

Look closely at the flower to see an unusual feature – the cross shaped stigma.

The plant is fertilised by a moth, not surprising as its flowers open at night – and when I say open at night I mean a tightly closed bud will open within about 30 seconds! One plant can have between 20 and 30 flowers open over-night and they will simply fade away by noon next day, to be replaced the next night by as many more.

Growing with the evening primrose was the equally beautiful sea daffodil, pancratium maritimum, which in Hebrew is called Chavatzelet HaChof. Many people believe that this native plant is the Chavatzelet HaSharon mentioned in King Solomon’s Song of Songs. Chof being sea-shore and the Sharon Plain being along the coast this would fit. For some reason the chavatzelet was mis-translated as rose. The Hebrew word for bulb is batzal so this is likely to be the root of the name (no pun intended!)

The sea daffodil is sometimes called the sand lily - whatever its name, it is a beautiful flower whose delicate look belies its toughness as it to thrives in the arid waste-lands of the sea-shore.

The sea-shore at sunset

A fish supper fit for a king - or for a Great White Egret!

The Red Wave


The poppy, Papaver subpiriforme , Pereg in Hebrew, concludes the "red wave" that begins in early spring.

First we see the Crown Anemone, Anemone coronaria, Calanit . Then comes the desert tulip, Tulipa systola, Tzivoni Hamidbar and this is followed by the Asian buttercup, ranunculus asiaticus, Nurit.

Although Israel is a tiny country it has a surprisingly large range of temperature zones. This means that anemones in the north may only just be beginning while in the centre of the country the red buttercup is already taking over, the desert tulip is blooming and in the south you may see a poppy or two.

Whatever order you see them in, they always uplift the spirits!

Check out wild poppies growing in urban Tel Aviv at the end of March.

An anemone

An anemone

A poppy

A poppy
Crinkly petals help to identify this flower

Anemones come in many colours beside red

Anemones come in many colours beside red
- here are some beautiful lilac ones

Tuvia's iris

Tuvia's iris

The rarest of irises

In the last few weeks I have had the good fortune to visit both the Golan and the Negev. In both places, surprisingly enough, I saw wild irises in bloom.

In 1948 the ill-fated Lamed Hey were ambushed in the Ela valley as they tried to come to the aid of the besieged defenders of Gush Etzion. One of the 35 young heroes who gave his life that day was Tuvia Kushnir.

All his too short life he was a lover of flowers and had gone on many a field trip seeking them out. On one such trip, he wandered into Jordan and was arrested by the Jordanians, as they thought he was a spy. Who would believe that an Israeli would stray into Jordan looking for a flower? But they did, and he was released unharmed.

Tuvia discovered an iris that at first was thought to be the Irus Eretzisraeli or Iris palaestina but it turned out to be a much rarer relative, unique to Israel. This beautiful and rare flower is found in the wilds of the Negev desert north of Mitzpeh Ramon.

To my immense joy, I found and photographed one at Borot Lotz, not far from a desert cystern dug three thousand years ago by the Children of Israel.

The swamp iris

The swamp iris
What an intricate flower the Grant Duff's iris is.

Egg yolks

Egg yolks
Lovingly encircled

Monday, November 16, 2009

A delightful trip to the Birya forest

Over 40 intrepid souls set off this week on a trek to see the splendid "Chelmonit". We would walk 13 kms up, and luckily mostly down Mount Canaan, through the Birya forest, and along the woodland tracks down to Rosh Pinna in the hopes that this elusive yellow flower would be flowering.

The Hebrew name refers to the fact that the flowers look from a distance as if someone has smashed egg yolks on the ground! No leaves, barren earth all around,the Sternberger clusiana is a dramatic site to behold.

As you can see from the photos we succeeded in our quest - these lovely blooms were discovered just a kilometre from the end of our trek!

They were well worth the wait!

We Israelis love our wild flowers and will travel long distances to see them. A delightful tradition has grown up around the Sternbergia. Perhaps someone noticed that the delicate flower was being trampled by the very enthusiasts who had set out to view it, and so he or she decided to protect it! Now you can often find the flowers surrounded by a ring of stones. Look in the picture above and you'll see the circle.

By the way, the Sternbergia has its own defences. The winter months are not the optimum time for being pollinated. So it has two clients! Honey bees collect nectar and pollen from the shorter inner whorl of stamens. The hover flies visit the outer appendages and the longer stamen whorl.

Our Sternbergia is a genus of the Amaryllidaceae family. Although it looks a bit like a crocus, it is more closely related to the narcissus.

A lovely white flower. Is THIS a crocus?

This time it seems the answer is yes. They are called karcom chorpi in Hebrew which translates as wintery crocus. The fancy Latin name is crocus hyemalis. Hyemalis is Latin for winter.

I found these lovely flowers growing happily out from a grassy tuft high up on the mountain. They were obviously delighted with the heavy rains we had just a couple of weeks ago and made their appearance soon after.

Ain't nature amazing?

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Naked ladies

I have just returned from a delightful hike in the Carmel mountains. Even on this October day the sun had not lost its power. The scent of pine resin was in the air.

Luckily a good deal of our climb was in the shade of the local oaks and pine trees that adorn these slopes, so we were saved from dehydration. That and the HEAVY bottles of water that we carried.

Stopping for breath, and to enjoy the view I was delighted to spot this tiny and incredibly delicate looking flower growing out of what would seem to be the most inhospitable soil imaginable. In a crevice in the lime-stone rock, pushing up through the fallen pine needles. No leaves, just a single perfect flower. You can see where the popular name naked lady comes from.

Wrongly called a crocus so often that another one of its names is “false autumn crocus”. It is actually a member of the lily family. It’s fancy Latin name is colchicum decaisnei. In Hebrew it is called stavanit bakira – stav is Hebrew for autumn so this roughly means little autumn one! Bakira is the season of the first rains – quite a mouthful.

There is no true autumn in Israel. Although there are many trees that do quietly lose their leaves, there is no glorious show of autumnal colours so common in Europe and North America. Indeed the Bible speaks of only two seasons, summer and winter, so this lovely description is very apt. We hope!

Medicinal value: the dried corm or dried seeds contain colchicine which possess emetic, diuretic, and cathartic action, and are used to treat gout.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Autumn is officially here!

The white squill says so! This majestic plant is everywhere! By the sea, in the hills and as can be seen in my picture, in Tel Aviv. Those speeding down the Namir Road may not be aware of it but the squill is merrily flowering behind the shrubbery that lines the road.

Actually summer seems reluctant to let go as temperatures which had dropped to a pleasant 28 soared again yesterday to the upper 30s, but we are getting there.
Interestingly in Bible times there were only two seasons, summer and winter. Guess when you are a farmer that is all you are interested in.

Urginia maritima, the sea squill, is known in Hebrew as Chatzav (ch as in Loch). The root of the word means hewing, or digging down through rock. The word for a quarry is machtzavah.

While today we just enjoy the sight of this stately flower, in olden days the squill had a more pragmatic function. Clearing a field for agricultural purposes was always a difficult task. Rocks and unwanted indigenous plants would have to be combatted.

Not surprisingly in a land where water is a precious commodity, the rains falling briefly and unreliably only in the winter period means that for plants to survive they have to put their roots deep into the earth, or develop some other survival techniques. The squill goes deeper than many. When digging it out, if any part of the bulb is left it regenerates.

Thus, when the squill made its end of summer appearance it would clearly delineate the borders of the cultivated fields. Obviously no farmer could sneakily plant a row of these stately plants in an attempt to enlarge his portion! By the way, there is a clear edict in the Bible forbidding tampering with your neighbour’s boundaries (Deuteronomy 19:14) so clearly this is not only a modern problem.

The toxic compounds in the squill can cause blistering of the skin after handling the plant. This effect would certainly discourage malicious individuals from uprooting the plant to obscure property lines. However, with forward planning it could be planted for future use as a border. Presumably by someone wearing gloves.

The Talmud (Baba Batra 55a) describes this as a common practice, and states that Joshua planted it to delineate the borders of the tribes of Israel after the apportionment of the land (Baba Batra 56a).

Pity they didn’t use it instead of the Green Line (made by a green crayon on a crude map) in 1948! Could have saved us a lot of heart-ache.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

And G-d said "Let the earth put forth vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind, upon the earth.

And it was so ... And G-d saw that it was good."

Genesis/ Bereshit 1:11:12

Since Eve persuaded Adam to take the first bite of the forbidden fruit, man's destiny has been tied up with the earth!

And think about it ladies. G-d chastised Adam for his wrong-doing and what did he say?

"She made me do it."

Now my destiny is tied up with getting this book finished.

Then I have to get it published.

Then the hardest of all, I have to get people to buy it.

So watch this space, and now and then I will update you on how things are going!

Have a great day.

Don't forget to stop and smell the flowers.

What a delight it has been searching for and photographing our wonderful wild flowers. 2700 species in Israel so I have hardly scratched the surface.

I am not an expert photographer but my amazing digital camera makes me seem like one.

Now the work begins: to complete a text that does credit to the breathtaking beauty of these wonderful works of nature.

The glorious Poleg irises

The glorious Poleg irises
This area of the Netanya cliffs is slated to disappear beneath a housing development. But the area alongside will be saved. And willing volunteers are lovingly digging up and replanting the iris rhizomes in the protected place.