Its not everyday that you get to meet both the plant and the man it was named after. This is exactly what happened the day we ventured up onto the Hermon mountain on the Israeli border with Syria. Whilst the summit sits on the border between Syria and Lebanon at over 2800m in altitude the area we visited was one of the satellite peaks at 2236m. With no fenced borders and a high military presence we really had to watch we didn’t stray into a area we shouldn’t.
This rocky mountain range, in the north of Israel/ west of Syria, is home to a unique flora as it falls into the alpine zone. We were a little late to see Iris westii (and besides we would have needed special permits from the army to visit it) and the native Eremurus were also over but the botanical treats abounded.
Glaucium leiocarpum in the carpark near the ski lift at Israels only ski resort!
stunted and windswept Juniperus drupacea trees at over 2000m altitude
The incredible view from the top.
Cool enough for roses to grow.
Terrific Taraxacum species (haven’t a clue which though)
There where many spiny specimens up there too. (Thanks Ori Fragman-Sapir of Jerusalem Botanic Gardens for the identification of Cousinia hermonis)
Yep those white spots over there in Syria are snow!
We just couldn’t get away from the army presence and felt like our every move was being watched (which it probably was).
Poppies and Verbascum damascenum a Chelsea Flower show mix if ever I saw one!
Its not often you find broomrapes so to find this one, Orobanche cohenii, was quite special.
Rosularia libonotica was growing in every crack in the rock alongside the Scutellaria utriculata
Seed heads of the endemic Bellevalia hermonis
The Bellevalia grew in the greenest areas; the hollows where the snow melted last. (that’s Ben in the pic)
I was amazed to find my 4th species of Aristolochia on the trip; Aristolochia scabridula.
Next to bare patches of ground made by the cows we found a group of local botanists intently looking at the patches and I had to ask why…….
…..it seems that this cushion form of Alyssum only grows in these patches and whilst it keys out as a much taller species, Alyssum szovotsii, that grows nearby it seems to be remarkably different in many ways.
One of the botanists turned out to be Simon Cohen after whom Orobanche cohenii is named
It was these botanists that led us to see the highlight plant of our trip Astragalus ehrenbergii.
A very small population up a tiny path that you would never notice unless you knew where it was.
Only found here in Israel on the Hermon Mountain and in a small area of Turkey its two populations have become divided by aridity.
This increadibly beautiful species is now protected……
……by its proximity to the army road leading to the border with Syria.