Autumn comes to Canada-Ayalon Park: The trees are changing colors, the leaves are falling, and the animals are busy preparing for winter.
An autumn visit to Canada Ayalon Park is an opportunity to see how nature is getting ready for the cold season: the trees are changing color and their leaves are falling, the insects are storing food, and visitors are taking advantage of the pleasant weather and the recent Sukkot holiday to go for a enjoyable study tour, part of KKL-JNF's Sukkot activities.
Families from all over Israel joined the tour through the park, which was led by Dr. Anat Madmoni, an expert on forestry. As they walked, they met a variety of flora and fauna, which are common to this time of transition. This was a special opportunity to get a peek at some of the enchanted corners of this large park, which spreads out over 7,000 dunams north of the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway. In addition to the rich foliage and a number of different animal species, the park has fascinating historical sites from the Roman period: an aqueduct, a Roman bathhouse, burial caves, refuge tunnels, a Crusader fortress and the remains of churches. Visitors may also enjoy fruit tree plantations and springs, water cisterns and ancient oil presses, hiking trails and bicycle paths, picnic areas and a small lake that was recently restored.
The children and the parents that participated on the walk were presented with a challenging task: to identify the various trees according to their leaves. Among others, cedar, almond, terebinth, carob, fig, olive, pine, grape, date, willow, plane, pomegranate and prickly pears were identified.
Participants were treated to excellent explanations of the differences between deciduous trees and evergreens, and they also discovered why trees shed their leaves. It turns out that due to the cold, a membrane that disconnects the leaf from the branch is formed which causes the leaf to fall. In cold countries, this phenomenon is more pronounced, but even in Israel, there are many types of trees whose leaves fall in the winter.
And why does the leaf's color change before it falls? Chlorophyll, which is the green pigment, breaks apart due to the cold, causing another color that is in the leaf, carotene, which is yellowish orange, to appear (this is the same pigment there is in carrots).
Antocyanides, which are red-colored pigments (which can be seen, for example, in apples and plums,), appear during the cold season, since they contain antioxidants, which are useful in contending with the stress caused by the drop in temperature. This is also the reason why the leaves of a tree change to red when the tree has a disease.
Both the young and the older participants were riveted by the explanations, asked questions and demonstrated a degree of knowledge that would not shame an expert botanist.
From one of the park's hills, there is a beautiful view in the direction of the city of Modi'in. Near the bottom of the hill there is a huge reservoir that irrigates local fields, one of the two hundred reservoirs built by KKL-JNF throughout Israel. In a country in which even winter does not promise enough rainfall, recycling effluents often means the difference between a flowering field and dry, abandoned land.
The group's next task was to find the first autumn flowers that were in full bloom. One of the more curious children went off the path and found the first autumn crocus, way after everyone else already lost hope of ever finding one. Most of the autumn crocuses have not yet bloomed in this region, because the temperatures have been relatively high this year, and it hasn't been cold enough yet. The solitary autumn crocus, pink and beautiful, was discovered in bloom on a rock that stored some of the small amount of rainwater that already fell this season. It will soon be possible to find squills, yellow autumn crocuses and other autumn flowers here.
Animals don't go out very much during the heat, but it was still possible to see ants busy storing food as winter approaches. The participants made an experiment: they put some food by one of the ant nests, and when they came back, they found that the industrious ants has already thanked them for the fresh produce and had already stored the seeds deep in their nest.
Besides the ants, there are also different types of snails, hiding under their shells and patiently waiting for the rains. Someone visiting the park at night will find a variety of types of animals here: foxes, jackals, porcupines, wild pigs, deer, mongooses and rabbits.
Eli and Edna of Modi'in had joined the tour together with their two daughters. "We like to go out to nature during the different seasons and to see how the plants are developing. Wherever we go out, there are always surprises. Our family is very familiar with the region and with its flora, but still, we learned quite a few new things today."
Dr. Anat Madmoni summed it up: "It's exciting to see how the children are interested and learn. I also guide groups of grown-ups, but the truth is that it's much more touching with children, because they're not embarrassed to get excited about everything nature has to offer."
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