Botanising Israel, an epic adventure of war and wildflowers, part 6

Israels national collection of Oncocyclus iris is held at Ramat hanadiv the burial place of Baron Edmond de Rothschild (1845-1934). Edmond was a major figure in the establishment of the modern state of Israel and through his support for the Jewish community based in British mandate Palestine he enabled a safe haven for Jews fleeing Russia (during the post revolutionary chaos called the Third Aliyah) and Europe prior to the  Second World War. A major land owner in British Mandate Palestine Rothschild firmly believed in creating a unified Arab/Jewish state and famously wrote to the League of Nations “the struggle to put an end to the wandering Jew, could not have as its result, the creation of the Wandering Arab.” Alas history has since played its hand.

The Iris at Ramat Hanadiv are mostly held in behind the scenes propagation facilities but as part of the project the centre has set up a display garden to showcase the different species of Oncocyclus from Israel and its neighbouring countries. We visited expecting to see some Iris and we really were not dissapointed!

Ramat Hanadiv

The propagation area at Ramat Hanadiv just full of Iris

Signage in the Iris garden in Israels 3 national languages.

Signage in the Iris garden in Israels 3 national languages.

Iris atropurpurea flowering in Ramat Hanadiv's iris garden

Iris atropurpurea flowering in Ramat Hanadiv’s iris garden

 

The Iris mariae flowering in Ramat Hanadiv made me wonder how my very own plant of it was faring back home in North Wales.

The Iris mariae flowering in Ramat Hanadiv made me wonder how my very own plant of it was faring back home in North Wales.

Iris hermona

Iris hermona

Iris atrofusca

Iris atrofusca

Iris samariae

Iris samariae

Iris mariae in the propagation area

Iris mariae in the propagation area

 

Iris atropurpurea

Iris atropurpurea

 

Ramat hanadiv isnt just about Iris. They hold exsitu populations of many of Israels threatened plant species. This is Lotus edulis (the pods of which are very tasty).

Ramat hanadiv isnt just about Iris. They hold exsitu populations of many of Israels threatened plant species. This is Lotus edulis (the pods of which are very tasty).

 

Sedum litoreum

Sedum litoreum

 

Salvia eigii

Salvia eigii

Reichardia intermedia

Reichardia intermedia

 

Cerinthe palaestina

Cerinthe palaestina one of my favorite Israeli native plant species

The Iris hermona flower that I was allowed to bring home and add to my herbarium

The Iris hermona flower that I was allowed to bring home and add to my herbarium

Ramat Hanadiv is an inspirational place to visit. A tranquil garden celebrating and remembering the life of an extraordinary man.

We would very much like to thank the team there for hosting us and giving us the time they did to show us the work they are doing to try and protect some of Israel’s extraordinary plant species.

Botanising Israel, an epic adventure of war and wildflowers, part 5

I never finished my series of blogs about my trip to Israel in March ’14. It’s not that I forgot or that I got bored of writing them. It’s because at the time, due to heightened levels of conflict in the Middle East, it just didn’t seem all that appropriate.

Having just returned from another trip to Israel I think it is time to revisit the series of blogs and bring you up to date with my botanical adventures in the Holy Land. So please indulge me and take a step back in time to the beginning of March 2014.

A trip into the Negev desert…

We took the opportunity the day after our visit to Jerusalem to go for a hike in the Negev desert an area that covers approximately 4,700 square miles and amounts to over half the land area in Israel. The desert and semi desert habitats hold a unique wealth of flora and we were pleased to track some of it down on our walk…..

Drimia maritima

The sparcity of vegitation in some areas of the desert is quite amazing and then as if from nowhere there is a Drimia maritima (syn. Urginea maritima)!

Drimia undulata

Another autumn flowering bulb; Drimia undulata

Ornithogalum trichophyllum

Ornithogalum trichophyllum i think!

Looking up Ein Prat

Looking up Ein Avdat

 

Erodium crassifolium

Erodium crassifolium

Glaucium grandiflorum

Glaucium grandiflorum

Cistanche tubulosa

Cistanche tubulosa a parasite of the white desert broom.

Wild date palms

Wild date palms (Pheonix dactylifera) growing at Ein Akev

I didn’t think we could top all this amazing flora but then on our way home we stopped in at one of the Iris nature reserves and found Iris petrana in full flower!

Iris petrana

Iris petrana

Iris petrana

Iris petrana as far as the eye can see, until you see the army base on the horizon. I wonder if these plants would be here if it wasnt for the army presence all around them.

 

Gagea commutata

Gagea commutata growing hapily in the sand along side the iris

Gynandriris sisyrinchium

Gynandriris sisyrinchium out of focus but clearly showing the sand these plants were growing in.

Iris petrana

Iris petrana

 

More Iris petrana

More Iris petrana

iris petrana yellow

To top it all off we saw this Yellow Iris petrana. I couldnt believe my eyes!

It really does amaze me that such beautiful things can grow in such harsh conditions. Of course it is the adaptation to the environments they live in that makes them even more special.

To be continued……….

Botanising Israel, an epic adventure of war and wildflowers, part 4

From our base at En Gedi we headed to Jerusalem for a day, the friends we were in Israel with wanted to see the culture and sights of the worlds oldest city and we took the opportunity to visit Jerusalems Botanic Gardens in the hope of seeing some of those illusive Iris. We got there to find that the botanic garden had experienced the worst snow it had ever seen just a couple of months earlier and was in the process of a major clearup opperation. However the extreme weather hadn’t stopped the native plants from putting on a show.

the walls of Jerusalem are full of wildflowers

the walls of Jerusalem are full of wildflowers

Onosma orientalis growing out of the city walls

Onosma orientalis growing out of the city walls

devistation at Jerusalem Botanic gardens

devistation at Jerusalem Botanic gardens

The introduced Oxalis pescaprae putting on a show

The introduced Oxalis pescaprae putting on a show

 

Almost the first thing we saw on entering the gardens was a display containing native israeli wildflowers.

Iris atropurpurea on display just inside the garden entrance

Iris atropurpurea on display just inside the garden entrance

Iris mariae our very own Oncocyclus iris in flower at Jerusalem Botanic gardens

Iris mariae, our very own Oncocyclus iris, in flower at Jerusalem Botanic gardens

 

Tulipa sylvestris

Tulipa sylvestris

 

Astragalus cretaceus

Astragalus cretaceus

peaonia mascula

peaonia mascula not yet in flower.

Salvia bractiata an extinct native being planted out in the garden having been rescued from oblivion.

Salvia bractiata an extinct native being planted out in the garden having been rescued from oblivion.

Salvia bractiata conservation bed

Salvia bractiata conservation bed

a very small plant with a big heap of hope, Salvia bractiata

a very small plant with a big heap of hope, Salvia bractiata

Narcissus tazetta the Israeli native Narcissus species

Narcissus tazetta the Israeli native Narcissus species

scilla hyacinthoides

scilla hyacinthoides

Iris atropurpurea

Iris atropurpurea

JERUSALEM

JERUSALEM

To be continued………

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Botanising Israel, an epic adventure of war and wildflowers, part 3

We are lucky that one of Ben’s relatives has an appartment at a Kibbutz next to the dead sea. The kibbutz is called En-Gedi and happens to be the worlds only populated botanic garden. What an amazing place it is too. With water from the nearby spring the Kibbutz has florished into the perfect oasis in the desert, it concentrates on growing plants that need little water and so has collections from Africa, Australia, Desert areas of North and South America and most importantly the spiny dry forests of Madagascar.

The view from the apartment at En Gedi

The view from the apartment at En Gedi

The Kibbutz however was not what we had traveled all the way into the desert to see. It was the unique native flora that makes such a barren place its home and makes the most of the little rain it recieves each year.

and we found it..

First stop En Gedi nature reserve and spring.

on entering the nature reserve you are met by plants of Grewia villosa a very rare small desert tree.

on entering the nature reserve you are met by plants of Grewia villosa a very rare small desert tree.

 

Acacia raddiana

Acacia raddiana

Caparis decidua is another species found at Ein-Gedi.

Caparis decidua is another species found at En-Gedi.

Unfortunately the trees of Caparis and Grewia have to live in cages. they are so rare that they have to be protected from grazing.

Unfortunately the trees of Caparis and Grewia have to live in cages. they are so rare that they have to be protected from grazing.

Rock hyrax (a small cousin of elephants) the main perpetrator of the grazing.

Rock hyrax (a small cousin of elephants) the main perpetrator of the grazing.

Capparis spinosa, another native caper, is however quite common in the desert.

Capparis spinosa, another native caper, is however quite common in the desert.

 

En Gedi spring, bringing life to the desert

En Gedi spring, bringing life to the desert

And in the middle of the desert there were ferns. Adiantum capillus-veneris clothed the sides of the water falls and anywhere that was remotely moist.

And in the middle of the desert there were ferns. Adiantum capillus-veneris clothed the sides of the water falls and anywhere that was remotely moist.

Initially seeming barren and devoid of life the desert is a special place quite the opposite of the initial image. It is full of life and far from barren, you just need to open your eyes a little wider to see it.

to be continued………

 

 

 

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……

 

 

 

Botanising Israel, an epic adventure of war and wildflowers, part 1

Back in February I watched with baited breath as the small blue green shoots of an Iris pushed their way through the gravel topping on their pot. The Iris in question wasn’t any old Iris, it was my only plant of a species called Iris mariae.

Iris mariae is one of the Oncocyclus group of Iris. Of the Iridaceae, Oncocyclus have possibly the most showy flowers in relation to the size of plant. They mostly come from southern Europe and the Middle East and due to overharvesting, for the cut flower industry/western horticulture, many have become critically endangered. This much is true of my Iris mariae. It is found only in the westernmost part of the Negev desert and a small area of north-eastern Sinai and is becoming increasingly rare. Inbreeding, poor ‘conservation’ land management, political unrest and the illegal trade for horticulture threaten it greatly ( the one I have comes from long time cultivated plants in the UK).

It worried me greatly that I was going to be leaving such a plant here in Britain whilst I went swanning off to Israel, but the purpose of my visit was greater than the needs of one plant. I was heading to Israel to visit some of my Iris’s wild relatives and to see what I could do, from here in the UK, to help them.

My partner Ben is an Israeli you see, and over the years I have come to love this little problematic country. About the same size as Wales, but long and narrow, Israel features a massive range of climate zones. From Alpine conditions (Mt Hermon has some permanent snow patches) through to extreme desert, and situated at the point where Africa meets Asia and Europe, Israel supports huge biodiversity. It has over 2800 species of plants which, when compared with Wales’ 400+ species, is a vast number for such a small country.

Many of its species of plants are annual or bulbous/tuberous geophytes and their flowering and subsequent setting of seed is entirely dependent on the countries winter rain. We were heading there in early March in the hope of seeing the spring flowers and in particular the Iris in flower.

First stop though was the Kibbutz which Ben is from and we arrived there to stories of ‘there’s been no rain this year’ and ‘you won’t see many flowers’. Certainly the reduced number of flowers was evident in the north. Onwards we went on our botanical exploration of Israel. We wanted to see as many of the habitats as possible, look at soil structures, which plants were found together and in particular the habitats that the Iris are found in.

I think it’s easier if I let the flowers themselves tell the rest of this story……

Salvia dominica with the Sea of Galilee behind.

Salvia dominica with the Sea of Galilee behind.

The first trip was to Ofir’s lookout, a strategic vantage point used as a gun emplacement in times of war that looks out over the Jordan valley.

Cyclamen grow in the cracks in the gun emplacements concrete!

Cyclamen grow in the cracks in the gun emplacements concrete!

Euphorbia heirosolymitana

Euphorbia heirosolymitana

Tulipa agenensis

Tulipa agenensis

Ephedra foeminia was tubling over the fences providing sanctury for many other plants.

Ephedra foeminia was tubling over the fences providing sanctury for many other plants.

The view from Ofir's lookout towards the Kibbutz

The view from Ofir’s lookout towards the Kibbutz

 

Furula communis dominates the landscape

Furula communis dominates the landscape

Lupinus pilosus grew in drifts on the slope down to the Galilee

Lupinus pilosus grew in drifts on the slope down to the Galilee

Gagea commutta

Gagea commutta

Gynandriris sisyrinchium was our first contact with a Israeli Iris on this trip

Gynandriris sisyrinchium was our first contact with a Israeli Iris on this trip

We then moved on to visit a wonderfull waterfall and slightly different environment at a place called Wadi Gilabon

Acanthus siriacus put on a wonderful show as we left Ofir's lookout.

Acanthus siriacus put on a wonderful show as we left Ofir’s lookout.

Asphodeline lutea greeted us at the begining of the path to the wadi

Asphodeline lutea greeted us at the begining of the path to the wadi

And on the slope down into the wadi Styrax officinalis was in full flower

And on the slope down into the wadi Styrax officinalis was in full flower

Lamium moschatum

Lamium moschatum

Possibly Muscari neglectum?

Possibly Muscari neglectum?

Hyoscyamus aureus

Hyoscyamus aureus

The waterfall

The waterfall

Cerinthe palaestina

Cerinthe palaestina with its lovely spotty leaves

 

Silybum marianum wasn't yet in flower but a little later would dominate the roadsides and grasslands

Silybum marianum wasn’t yet in flower but a little later would dominate the roadsides and grasslands

The sun set as we were walking out from the wadi and tired we looked forward to the next days trip to the Gilboa iris nature reserve on Mount Barkan in the hope of seeing some of those endangered Oncocyclus. To be continued……..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Everybody’s Garden Could Become an Ark

As a child my idol was the late Gerald Durrell OBE, a man with a mission to save species from extinction through captive breeding. I wanted, and still (if I am honest) want, so desperately to follow in his footsteps. Yet, after a short period of time working in the zoo world, I realised that being a zoo keeper was both very hard work and, being before the time of the minimum wage, very poorly paid. My life moved on and via various twists and turns, I now find myself working as a plant propagator for one of Britain’s modern day plant hunters .

Recently I have found myself thinking about Gerald Durrell again. This time it’s not because of animals but because of plants. In a recent conversation I had on Twitter it dawned on me the number of species I have in my garden with unknown conservation status. The majority of them are categorised as ‘data deficient’ or simply haven’t been assessed by the IUCN at all. I have a few plants in the garden listed as Vulnerable or even Critically Endangered but it’s the ones that no one knows about that concern me most.

A small part of me hopes that this is because there are so many of them in the wild that they couldn’t possibly be in danger of extinction. Unfortunately, having seen my boss’s pictures of forest destruction in places, such as Vietnam, I am sure this isn’t the case.

This got me thinking.

The red data list is pretty complete for most vertebrates and even for invertebrates it is streets ahead. Yet plants take a back seat to the animals that people find cute, dangerous, awe inspiring or beautiful. Conservation of these animals through captive breeding has also, with a little help from Mr Durrell, advanced to the point of being able to reintroduce the animals bred in zoos to the wild. Botanic gardens are playing a big part in plant conservation but with funds running dry and gardens closing down the number of species they are able to work with is minute. They are only in a position to protect a very small proportion of the world’s endangered plant species and are little equipped financially to be sending scientists all over the world to assess the conservation status of the plants I am talking about. Last year saw the last ever degree in Botany in the UK come to an end, so the number of plant scientists and taxonomists is dropping. The national curriculum stops teaching any form of horticulture to children at age 7 so fewer and fewer children are becoming interested in plants. What hope do these plants really have? Well they do have a small chance….

In Britain we have a botanical heritage that is second to none. The number of species of plants we grow is massive and the knowledge held in the people that grow them immeasurable. The genetic resource we hold is so important yet its importance only counts if the people working at the conservation front line know it’s there.

One example is the monkey puzzle tree, Araucaria araucana. It is listed as Endangered by the IUCN and its wild population is estimated to cover an area only a quater of the size of London. The monkey puzzle forests of Chile and Argentina are decreasing due to logging, more regular fires and over grazing. What’s more, the populations in the wild are fragmented and becoming increasingly isolated. However, here in the UK, we know the monkey puzzle as a comparatively common garden and parkland tree. They are often treated as landmarks and protected by tree preservation orders. There are at least 1000 monkey puzzles that I know of in the UK’s great gardens and parks. Who knows how many others there are in private gardens across the country? Each one is genetically different and many older plants were collected from the wild. Our British monkey puzzles must hold some importance for the future of the ones in the wild. The plants of known wild provenance could bare seed suitable to reintroduce and the others become a resource for scientists to better understand the species.

Monkey puzzle at Kew

You would think this Monkey Puzzle at Kew safe but, with funding cuts recently announced, is it really?

Wild Monkey Puzzles

Wild Monkey Puzzles

I also think of Gingko biloba, a tree with relatives that grew on this earth 260 million years ago. Once widespread across the northern hemisphere, its population diminished almost to the point of extinction. That was until about 1000 years ago, when a group of monks started cultivating this sacred tree and thus have protected it from fate. The Gingko has now become one of the most widely planted street trees in the world and its fortunes have changed due to those horticultural minded monks.

Aloe polyphylla

Aloe polyphylla an endangered species that hasn’t been assessed but is now ‘safe’ in cultivation.

Who knows when the genetic diversity we have in British gardens may be called upon? With so little knowledge of how the world’s plants are faring in the wild, who knows when one day that plant everybody thought must be really common, could become critically endangered in its native habitat?

Unfortunately, as I said, it is useless if no one knows the plants are there.

Luckily there is an organisation that is trying its best to help. Through its national collections and national collection holders, Plant Heritage knows where a small proportion of that valuable genetic information is. Many of the collection holders work closely with taxonomists, botanical institutions and scientists. This is to help understand some of the species in their care and to make plants available for conservation projects. What is more, Plant Heritage has recently launched the new ‘Plant Guardian’ scheme, where you don’t have to have a whole collection of plants to be able to help. You might only have one species, but by becoming a Plant Guardian you are letting people know where that valuable plant resource is, and that it is in safe hands. I recently applied to become a ‘Plant guardian’ for a species which I grow. Aristolochia cucurbitifolia is classed as Vulnerable by the IUCN and from what I understand very little is known about its wild population. I hope that one day plants that I have grown may be able to help restore its security as a wild species.

Aristolochia curcurbitifolia

Aristolochia cucurbitifolia, vulnerable in the wild and now safe in a garden ark..

Unfortunately, Plant Heritage’s remit is to help preserve the plants already in cultivation which I am pleased to say it does well. However what of those not yet here or those that no one knows about yet?

The fate of these plants is in the hands of the horticulturists, botanists and taxonomists of the future. The people, now just children, that, I am sorry to say, don’t have those botany degrees or horticultural apprenticeships to look to for guidance.

The world’s increasingly threatened wildlife needs a safe haven. Gerald Durrell once called the zoo he set up on Jersey his ‘stationary ark’ and it has become just that, with an onsite university and education programs all over the world it is also helping to educate the conservationists of the future. . It has led the way to most of the world’s zoos becoming safe havens for threatened animals.  We can do such a thing for plants too. By growing plants with known wild origin, in their natural form and letting the right people know they are there, by supporting our great Botanical gardens and the horticultural heritage we have in the UK  and by promoting horticulture and plant science as a career rather than ‘just a job’ we can make a real difference. Only that way will every garden become an Ark.

In search of a Ghost orchid, a letter from a botanist.

Recently I was absolutely astounded to see a picture on twitter of a plant that has evaded me for all of my 37 years of plant twitching. Whats more the fellow botanist and ecologist that had posted it was kind enough to tag me in the tweet that accompanied the picture.

The picture was of a Ghost orchid (Epipogium aphyllum) a plant that gains all of its nutrients by parasitising a fungus, a myco-heterotroph. I have been intrigued by these botanical anomalies (as have many others) all my life and the following account sent to me not long after the ‘tweet’ re-kindled my interest.
So I have posted the email sent to me by @daveyecology so you can read his amazing adventure in search of a GHOST.
(I have changed some bits to protect identities etc)

Hello again Robbie

It is pleasing that you have enjoyed the photographs of plants, and especially the Irises that I have been putting up on Twitter recently. I have practically run out of the Iris photographs I have now, but will carry on putting up nice things that I have found and photographed over the years. I thought you might be amused by the story of my seeing Epipogium aphyllum back in 1971; it was quite an experience. I have just checked my records and it was actually 1971 I saw the ghost orchid and not 1972, and it was on 22nd of August.

I had been told where it was by a botanist friend who lived quite close to the site. Another friend had already tried for it no less than twenty times when I decided to go and have a go one weekend. He said I was bound to find it, as he couldn’t go with me. I arrived at the site, and walked through the beech woodland, and received a hefty adrenal punch when there, on the ground amongst the beech leaves was a tiny Ghost Orchid. It was perhaps an inch high, and had just one flower. I marked the spot by arranging a triangle of branches leaning against trees around the site, and went off to telephone the chap who couldn’t go with me. On the way to the phone box, I found a second plant in a ditch by the road that descends through the wood. It was another about an inch tall with  single flower. Having made the phone call, I went back to the site, and was walking through the wood when I noticed another guy, festooned with cameras walking parallel to me. After a while he bucked up courage and walked across to me.

“Are you looking for what I think you are looking for?” He asked enigmatically.

“Maybe,” I replied evasively.

“Have you found it?” He asked. Because of the nature of the conversation so far I answered him,

“That depends who you know.” He gave me the name of the woman who had told me, so I decided to show him the one furthest from the road.

“Gosh, I see what you mean,” He spluttered when we had only gone a few yards. There in a leaf filled hollow were two magnificent plants. One was the one I put up yesterday on twitter, and the other was an equally fine two flowered plant. These were certainly not very near the little fellow I had found earlier. We sat down and took a series of photos. I had a Rolleiflex twin lens reflex as well as a Pentax Spotmatic recently acquired by the museum service I worked for. The photo I showed on Twitter was one I took using flash and a bit over exposed. The light levels were very low. Very carefully after we had finished taking the photos, we used a matchstick to cross pollinate the three flowered plant from the two flowered one. After applying considerable pressure, the pollinia sprang out from the floral column, and we achieved pollination. I would think an insect at least as heavy as a bumble-bee would be needed to achieve pollination. Perhaps that is why it is so rare.

A week later I returned to the site, and the three flowered plant was a dried husk having set and released its seed. Amazingly quick. Altogether five plants were found in that hollow during that week. I cannot remember how many plants were found altogether, but I found one at least half a mile away in a section of wood on the other side of the road. The friend who had failed twenty times duly visited the site and got his photographs. He actually found a twin flowered plant still beneath the leaves. The top flower was a bud, but the lower one had opened before it had emerged from the leaves.

In 1978, a botanical friend from Norfolk came to stay, and we were wondering what to do after we had spent the first day in the New Forest. I said it would be a long shot, but we might try for the ghost orchid. We found a single plant with one flower a few yards from the site of the one I had found in 1971 in the roadside ditch. That must have been about the last time it was seen, this time on August 14th.

I think it grows like a fungus, and there is probably much more plant under the leaves than ever appears above ground. Rumours of it turning up a year or two ago in a national nature reserve either in Shropshire or Herefordshire close to the Welsh border are evidently correct. I believe this is a site where it was also found many,  many years ago.

A plant I have seen that might interest you was seen from a cruise ship when my wife and I were involved in lecturing between the Caribbean and the Pacific while going through the Panama Canal. This is Equisetum myriochaetum which I believe is the biggest horsetail around these days. My photos aren’t too good as we didn’t get too close, but you are welcome to see them if you would like to.

It was in 2011 that my wife and I went to Israel, but it was in May so we didn’t see very many plants. One nice thing was a poppy, Papaver carmeli with dark centres in the Golan Heights which we saw as we looked across the border at Syria. Are you going to write a blog about your Israeli adventures with the Oncos? I look forward very much indeed to seeing it.

All the best

Simon

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