Botanising Israel, an epic adventure of war and wildflowers, part 2

“Ye mountains of Gilboa, let there be no dew nor rain upon you, neither fields of choice fruits; for there the shield of the mighty was vilely cast away, the shield of Saul, not anointed with oil” (II Samuel 1:21)

Bordering on the West Bank, the Gilboa mountains form a ridge that runs from the South East to the North West. They are home to two nature reserves set up in 1970 and 2005 to protect the endangered wildflowers of Israel and in particular Irus Ha-Gilboa, a purple Oncocyclus iris (Iris haynei).

The nature reserves themselves are very popular with locals who come to picnic and walk but are beset by a problem. Due to their protected status the traditional grazing of the meadows had been removed and as such the smaller plants such as the Iris were being out competed by larger plants. Recently the Israeli nature and parks authority started grazing the land again but it will be some time until balance is restored.

On a previous visit to the nature reserves we had missed the iris in flower by just a week or so. We headed back on this trip to see if we were in luck.

Ferula communis dominates the view down into the West Bank and dominates the vegitation. traditionally this species would have been grazed out allowing for smaller species to grow.

Ferula communis dominates the view down into the West Bank and dominates the vegitation. traditionally this species would have been grazed out allowing for smaller species to grow.

We saw this plant of Iris haynei and really thought that this year we may be to early to see the iris flowering.

We saw this plant of Iris haynei and really thought that this year we may be too early to see the iris flowering.

Mandragora autumnalis, the Mandrake, a shapeshifting member of the Solanaceae that can take the form of a man.

Mandragora autumnalis, the Mandrake, a shapeshifting member of the Solanaceae that can take the form of a man.

Tulipa agenensis growing in profusion amongst the limestone rocks

Tulipa agenensis growing in profusion amongst the limestone rocks

 

Echium angustifolium i think!

Echium angustifolium i think!

 

Looking rather battered on the side of a path we saw our first flower of Iris haynei and gained hope!

Looking rather battered on the side of a path we saw our first flower of Iris haynei and gained hope!

 

We saw the first orchids of our trip, Orchis collina.

We saw the first orchids of our trip, Orchis collina.

rock strewn hilside we spied this.... Can you see it?

And then amongst the rock strewn hilside we spied this…. Can you see it?

A perfect Iris haynei in full flower!

A perfect Iris haynei in full flower!

So after a good evenings plant hunting we had achieved our goal we headed back to the kibbutz with hope for the rest of our trip and planned our next days journey south into the Negev desert.

To be continued……