Dec 13, 2008

Hunting for Narcissus in the Jerusalem Mountains

There are trips that are arranged at the Jerusalem Botanical Gardens to go and look at wildflowers in their natural habitat and the purpose of this trip was to go and find Narcisssus up in the Jerusalem Mountains. So we hiked about a mile down the side of the mountain next to the old agricultural village of Matta. We did come across some Narcissus tazetta but they had already finished blooming. This is because it has been dry for a long time even though this is supposed to be the rainy season. If the rain had been here, the blooms would have lasted alot longer.

I was also told that you could always tell from a far enough distance where there is an old village (without being able to see the homes from afar......). It is because most of the trees of the Jerusalem Mountains are evergreen but the villages mostly planted deciduous trees around them for the shade that they provide in the hotter months. Here is the lovely tiny white Crocus hyemalis, the most common crocus in Israel, pushing it's way out of the forest floor. It is usually found growing in Mediterranean woodlands and shrub lands and is found in bloom anywhere from November to February.

The bloom itself is honey-scented and is insect pollinated.

Another bulb, or shall i say corm, that is out in full force is Cyclamen persicum.It is seen growing in so many different areas and happily reseeds itself in the smallest of places. Here it is growing in the crack of a rock.
Here at the bottom of the valley, a farmer has taken advantage of more farmable land. There was a 2 year old olive orchard that he was tending to.
While looking at the view, I was told to turn around and look at what was growing on a rocky outcrop. I was surprised to find a solitary bloom of an Iris. No other irises were found in the surrounding area.

Here is the lovely soft yellow bloom up close of Iris palaestina.

There was also Bellis sylvestris, called the Southern Daisy here, in bloom on the hillside. It is also commonly found in Mediterranean woodlands and shrub lands.
Though the blooms on most of the Bellis sylvestris were white there was a single bloom tinged with pink.

Just a little bit of the trees and shrubs of the mountainside.

Here is the large leafed Arum palaestinum, which has deep dark purple blooms in March and April.

Once we reached the bottom of the mountain we found a natural spring, which then made this area an obvious choice for the farmer to plant crops on.Though these palms aren't native, we came across a whole grove of them growing in straight lines. It turned out that there was a nursery that was run here on this land a long time ago and for some reason these were left behind.
Right next to the palm grove was this inconspicuous shrub that was about 4-5' high. I couldn't figure out the name because in Israel you have the latin name (which nobody knew), the common name (which changes depending on where you live) and the hebrew name (which everyone knew).I liked it's greenish yellow banana shaped flowers and

it's deep purple seeds.

In another area we came across the transparent seedpod of a Ricotia lunaria.

Here is the acorn of the Palestine Oak, Quercus callaprinos, which is one of the top 3 Oaks that grow in Israel. The other two Oaks are Quercus infectoria and Quercus ithaburensis. There is a mouse that eats some of this seed which helps the Oak to germinate faster. The mouse knows that the cap on the right end is the easiest way to get inside, by pulling it off and once the cap is off, the mouse has it's reward, but not the whole reward. Inside, the right half of the seed, closest to the cap, is sweet and then halfway through, the side on the left, the seed becomes bitter. The mouse eats the sweet part, and stops at the bitter end which contains the seed embryo, this then allows the remaining seed to be free to germinate.