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Plants in the Wild: Two Hours in Israel

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Started by: Jon Evans

A very brief visit to an Israeli nature reserve in March

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Contribution from Jon Evans 17 September 2009, 21:30top / bottom of page

In early March this year I was lucky enough to visit Israel, escorting my mother, who is 87, to attend the wedding of her grand-daughter (it's a long story). I have only recently got around to sorting out the pictures from the trip. The busy family schedule did not admit of much botanising, but I was able to spend a couple of hours at Nachal Taninim, which is a small nature reserve near the coast just north of Caesarea, opposite the southern end of the Carmel Ridge. The name means something like Crocodile River in Hebrew, and it was once home to a disjunct population of crocodiles, but the last one was shot by a British Army officer over one hundred years ago.

Roman sluice gate

The reserve is an important archaeological site; it was once the location of a large Roman dam to supply water to Caesarea.

Roman sluice gate

I wasn't sure what sort of terrain, or flowers to expect. What I found was grassland with areas of limestone pavement and spiny shrubs. As we moved further around we found deep excavated ditches, drainage channels and reed-lined pools.

One immediately obvious feature of the landscape was frequent clumps of large fleshy leaves, presumably of Urginea maritima. Behind, you can see the southern end of the Carmel ridge.

Note that all plant identifications are tentative, made by searching the web, which is not always the most accurate of resources. I welcome any corrections.

Photography was difficult, with most flowers being found in inaccessible places along the rocky ditches, or in the middle of thorn bushes.

At this time of year, the whole reserve, particularly the limestone pavement and thorny scrub was carpeted with Cyclamen persicum. It was hard to find an undamaged specimen; the best were on the edge of ditches, protected by thorns, or growing out of pockets in the limestone.

Cyclamen persicum
Cyclamen persicum
Anemone coronaria

Also eye-catching, though less frequent, was the scarlet of Anemone coronaria, again often hidden by other plants or thorns.

Anemone coronaria
Adonis microcarpa

In amongst these was the smaller scarlet flower of Adonis microcarpa (?)

Adonis microcarpa
Chrysanthemum coronarium

Clashing with the scarlets was this small yellow chrysanthemum.

Chrysanthemum coronarium

Other smaller, less obvious plants included:

Ajuga chamaepitys
Ajuga chamaepitys
Anagallis arvensis (blue)
Anagallis arvensis (blue)
Anchusa aegyptica
Anchusa aegyptica
Echium angustifolium (?)

A lovely, miniature Viper's Bugloss

Echium angustifolium (?)
Fumaria capreolata
Fumaria capreolata
neapolitanum

There were many small white onions, probably Allium neapolitanum, always in bushes or other inaccessible locations.

neapolitanum
Leopoldia bicolor

Growing in pockets in the limestone paving we found this muscari, Leopoldia bicolor, which is apparently endemic to coastal Israel.

Leopoldia bicolor

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