Tag Archives: Wildflowers

Wildflowers, before the rain

One of the things about taking a tour of Israel is that you get to see a lot in a small amount of space. Because Israel is located on the land bridge that connects Europe, Asia and Africa it has some of the best features of each. Although it only extends from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River in the Great African Rift Valley and from the Red Sea to mountains in the north it has a diversity of climates and habitats. These unique conditions are the main cause for the rich diversity of Israeli flora, more than 2500 species (compared to 1500 in the British Isles for example which is 10 times the size).

The Sea Squill (Urginea maritima, חצב מצוי) is a perennial of the lily family with a large poisonous bulb. The squill is one of ten species of plants called geophytes which bloom before the rains in Israel, in the driest part of the year and are a harbinger of winter. You’ll probably find the tall spikes of squill flowering by mid September. I saw some in Jerusalem while running along the tayelet, at the Museum HaTeva (Nature museum) and while hiking in the cliffs above Qumran.

 

You also won’t see the bright yellow Sternbergia (Sternbergia clusiana, חלמונית, from the same root as yolk of an egg) until just before the first autumn rains – don’t confuse them with the saffron and crocus that come after the first rains. Sternbergia belong to the daffodil family. This image was captured in November in the Yatir forest near Arad. On a hike we found Sternbergia growing in the wadi below Maale Rehavam near Herodium. I was touring in Ramat HaNegev and learned that there are Sternbergia in bloom in the wadi behind the Nahal Boker family farm. Moshe Zohar who lives there told me that this is the southern most point that they grow. I learned from a colleague who did a tour in the Golan that there are Sternbergia blooming below Har Hozek (conceivably the most northern point). If you are interested in touring Israel including hikes to see and/or photograph wildflowers please contact me.

You can check out these two excellent websites, that give you a lot of information about wildflowers in Israel:

http://www.wildflowers.co.il/english/

http://www.flowersinisrael.com/

Gamla, in the Golan

On a recent guiding trip we visited Gamla (from the Hebrew for camel/gamal), city in the Golan where there was fierce fighting between the Jews and Romans under Vespasian during the Great Revolt in 66CE, during which the city was destroyed and 9,000 people lost their lives. Today Griffin vultures make their home in the canyon and soar overhead. The flowers in the foreground are cyclamen (Hebrew rakefet).
 

I guided for an extended family of 8 (both sets of grandparents, parents and children, 11 and 13) for 5 days.
“A million thanks for being a great guide. Your high energy but mellow demeanor was perfect for our group and your deep historical knowledge kept it all interesting and in context for us.”
Here’s a copy of our itinerary:
Tuesday – Galil
  • aquaduct at Caesarea
  • Tsippori, Jewish village, mosaics, did not participate in Roman Revolt
  • Hamat Tiberia, hot springs and mosaic floor of 4th C synagogue

Wednesday – Golan

  • Gamla, Jewish town that fought and was destroyed by Vespasian
  • wind turbines providing alternative energy to Golan
  • Mount Bental, Israeli bunkers, 1973
  • lunch at Witch and Milkman mountaintop restaurant at Nimrod
  • Birkat Ram, crater lake, extinct volcano
Thursday – Rift valley to Jerusalem
  • Island of Peace, Rutenberg hydroelectric plant (1927-1948 )
  • Old Gesher
  • Belvoir Crusader castle “nest of eagles and dwelling place of the moon”
  • Judean desert, Wadi Qelt
  • Western Wall tunnel
Friday – Old City
  • American Colony (hotel where they were staying)
  • Hurva synagogue
  • Cardo and Madaba map
  • Herodion Quarter
Sunday – Around Jerusalem
  • Jerusalem envelope – the separation wall
  • water system, Armon HaNatziv
  • Peace Forest, Ramat Rahel
  • Herodium
  • Yad Vashem
  • Mahane Yehuda