Feb 25, 2009

Israel, toda and shalom

Oh Israel, you have not been easy but I have come to respect and adore you. You didn't expose yourself immediatedly but waited to show me your treasures such as your wild tulips. 

Tulipa agenensisI was always in awe of your wonderful landscapes and with how breathtaking and different they were, the coast, the desert, the mountains and the Dead Sea.  How incredible they all are.

The tiny Adonis aestivalis, holding its own in the wild. Your plants are strong, just like your people.  I made some amazing friends there and appreciate and adore the bond we have created.

 Here is a native cactus in the Asclepidaceae family growing next to some rocks. I have had a hard time identifying you but you still try to keep your secrets.

 I adored these treasures that you keep hiding, like your little wild areas showing your white colored cliffs of limestone.
The desert landscape is something I have never encountered and am still in shock by how immense and incredible it can be.

And how you bathe yourself in sunlight, changing colors with each passing moment.
 The Dead Sea areas were fascinating and how plants have adaped to living in your wadis, with the view they constantly have of the Jordan mountains.  I am so jealous. 
The botanical name is Anastatica hierochuntica. Rose of Jericho.  This plant goes dormant for years if need be and once the rains come, it comes alive, slowly opening up all the way with hopes of blooming to set seed and continue on. 
Here you have an established plant community of them which was in decline for awhile but are starting to return.

I was able to see your desert broomrape in the desert come alive with it's yellow blooms.
Cistanche tubulosa, even though you are a parasite, your still wonderful to see.

The light shows you the subtle colors and tones of your plants, all surviving in such harsh conditions.  They make me feel so humble. 

I won't forget how tiny and humbled I was by your desert.
I'll miss your olive trees and your stunning natural landscapes with Chrysanthemum coronarium.
Iris atropurpurea clump growing in the wild. Never did I think I would have this opportunity to see such amazing plants growing in their natural habitat.   Iris atropurpurea, dark and lovely.

Or to get the chance to see wild garlic,  such as Allium tel-avivense.

I was fortunate to see your spring wildflowers such as this field full of Chrysanthemum coronarium.

Thank you, Israel, for an amazing 6 months here, it wouldn't have been possible without the British Friends Scholarship at the Jerusalem Botanical Gardens.  I am very fortunate and happy to have received the scholarship.   It is sad to leave you but life and new experiences beckon me.  I leave you know to spend a week in England, a week in Spain, and then on to Holland. I'll miss you and the wonderful friends I have made there, but I promise you, I will be back......Now,  I will be studying on a private estate in Holland for the next few months...... I'll keep you posted....

Feb 24, 2009

Mt. Carmel, all the sweetness without the cavities.

With my time coming quickly to an end here in Israel, I realized the north was an area that I had not had the chance to explore yet. Two other students and I decided to do a 2 day hike over Mt. Carmel (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Carmel ) while following the Israel trail. This is a trail that can take you from the north all the way down to the south, or vice versa. We took a bus that dropped us off in Yagur, where we planned to hike through Mt. Carmel, where some of the wildflowers were to be in full effect, all the way to the Mediterranean sea to Atalit.
Upon stepping onto the trail, we were greeted immediately by what we had come to see, Israel's wild flowers.
Like children in a candy store we became giggly and excited when we saw what treasures laid before our eyes.
Here is the protected wild flower Anemone coronaria.This was the view of our decent onto Mt. Carmel.

Gagea commutata, a bulbous perennial plant of the lily family.
Here is a Trifolium species that we saw often and had some wonderful markings. The markings reminded me of a cross between butterfly wings and a leopard frog.
Caves dotted the mountainside that looked to be both exciting and scary at the same time.

Arisarum vulgare, a rhizomatus perennial plant of the arum family. It is found in wet and shaded places in both central and northern Israel.

We chanced upon some large euphorbia shrubs, Euphorbia hierosolymitana. They were cascading down the mountain and they were about 6' high. From looking at the shrub up close, we imagined them to be about
12-15 years old.
It's blooms up close.
Here they were with wild tulips(!) growing underneath them,
and next to a patch of Allium orientale.
And how exciting it is to come across a wild tulip, when all I have ever seen in my life are the cultivated ones we are all used to seeing. Here, with it's delicate bloom not yet opened is Tulipa agenensis, also known as the Mountain tulip.Here was an opened bloom. It is a perennial bulbous plant found in the mountains in the Mediterranean region of Israel.

A lovely little beetle feeding is an interesting sight in nature, but never a welcome sight in the garden.

The lovely peach colored bloom of Lathyrus blepharicarpos, or Ciliate Vetchling. This is an annual and is found in Mediterranean woodlands and shrub lands.

During some parts of the hike we entered some dense woodland. In these areas we would always see the beautifully smooth bark of Arbutus andrachne, or the Eastern Strawberry tree.
Here was another surprise.....
Orchis papilionacea, also known as the Butterfly orchid. It is a perennial bulbous plant that is found in forests and fallow land in the Mediterranean region. Terrestrial orchids are quickly becoming a new plant obsession of mine.oh Mother nature, always a show off. Syrian speedwell, Veronica syriaca is an annual plant that grows in fields and fallow land in central and northern Israel. The main feature of this flower is its division into blue and white petals.

Anemone coronaria stealing the show from Cyclamen persicum.Contemplating staying in that spot for the rest of my life....More splendour in the grass, with a purple Anemone coronaria. You can almost hear this one singing it's praises to the sun...
After camping out the night before, where there were howling jackals coming up to our campsite, it was a nice way to wake up to a foggy view of the the valley below.
The tips of some mountains were peaking through the foggy morning.
I couldn't believe how dotted the countryside was with the red blooms of the Anemones.
We stumbled into this valley where we were surrounded by open fields full of red Anemones, a few cows wandering about, no one else but us and complete silence.
Then there was a noise on the mountainside while in this peaceful little slice of heaven. In the distance I could make out a herd of goats being prodded along by their herder. The sound was a mix of bleating, goat bells and arabic giving them direction.

Coming around the bend of the previous meadow, the magic of the Anemones only became more intense. The fields before us opened up revealing the lay of the land and the flora it had to offer. It's moments like these that I realize how wonderful the world is, with nature taking top stage over everything else. This is my memory of what Israel represents.

I just couldn't get enough, and wanted to stay here forever
and ever.
I made sure I only stepped on stones to get this shot, no wild flowers were harmed for this photo.And as if by magic, the goat herd I had listened to and seen in the distance crossed right through our path. Some were the size of small ponies and were incredibly beautiful with their long coat and large horns with there bells clanging with each hurried step. And then it all went silent again as we descended up into the hills again.
Where we chanced upon more Tulipa agenensis, and it's colorful inner markings.
A Mediterranean spur-thighed tortoise was crossing the path we were hiking on. It was nice to have a better image of Israeli wildlife, besides the bloodthirsty howling image of jackals that I had in my mind from the previous nights encounter at our camp.. This tortoise is more my speed.

Each Anemone coronaria seemed to have a different personality from the next one. Couldn't you imagine this one as a friendly clown handing you a balloon at the circus?
We were lucky to see this flower Gladiolus italicus, Field sword-lily, because it was the only one in bloom and no others were seen in the area. It is a cormous perennial plant of the lily family and it grows in fields and fallow land. I read that they suffer from modern deep ploughing, which I would imagine would just shred up the corm to bits. A happy encouter none the less.
Once the woods started to open up we could see the Mediterranean on the horizon. The almond trees, Amygdalis communis, in Israel are in bloom now.

The hike was just unrelentless in presenting some of the amazing wild flowers Israel has to offer. A clump of Gynandiris sisyrinchium was found near the almond tree. The common name is Afternoon iris because every flower lives only for a few hours, from noon until evening.

The lovely colorings of the bloom.
Another cave on the mountainside, seen above a field ablaze with Chrysanthemum coronarium.

Chrysanthemum coronarium
And here is Echium judaeum, Judean Viper's-bugloss. How could a plant that looks like a "party", a street festival in the countryside, have such an evil sounding common name. Viper's-bugloss...... hiss..... ooh watch out. Pennisetum orientale has naturalized itself into a wild flower meadow of Chrysanthemum coronarium. A wild bit to take inspiration from.
More Pennisetum orientale backlit by the warm February sun. One can't be too greedy, but I would've loved to have seen this globe thistle, Echinops adenocaulus in bloom. It has blue florets which start blooming in May in northern Israel.
One can never tire of seeing palm silhouettes.
It was a fantastic 2 days, hiking and seeing all that I did.Orchids, Aroids, Anemones, Gladiolus, Gynandiris, Pennisetum, Euphorbias, Tulips, and many others that I didn't expect to see. Here you can see Haifa in the top left of the photo, which is Israel's third largest city. I couldn't think of a better way to end the weekend than to take a well needed dip into the cold Mediterranean sea...