Spring – every year it returns like a miracle and Israel is carpeted with wildflowers. There are nearly 3,000 types of wild plants in this tiny land, a wonderful profusion and among the most abundant on earth. Israel boasts a wide variety of different ecological systems: deserts and marshes, high mountains, dense forests, open fields with wildflowers to suit each habitat.
We protect our wildflowers in Israel, particularly rare and endangered species. Nature reserves prohibit picking any flowers, even the most common, which helps them to propagate over wider areas. In turn, this brings the beautiful sunbirds who feast on their nectar.
The Song of Songs, which we read every Passover, is the most beautiful love poem in the world. King Solomon wrote it as a dialogue between a young shepherd and his beloved:
“Rise up, my love, my fair one and come away,For lo, the Winter is past,The rain is over and goneThe flowers appear on the earth,The time of singing is comeAnd the voice of the turtle is heard in the land.”
The flowers he refers to – “nitzanim” – still carpet the fields, shiny red poppies flaunting scarlet beauty in the grass. The turtle is a turtle dove.
In the Jerusalem Forest, delicate cyclamens bloom in the crevices between the rocks. Called “Solomon’s Crown” in Hebrew, they lift their pink, cream or lilac heads on slender stalks. Clumps of wild violets, the dew shimmering like diamonds, add their touch of magic.
We had good rains this winter, and they have left a bequest of green. The Sharon Valley is dotted with tulips and narcissus – “I am the Rose of Sharon, a lily of the valleys.” It is believed that King Solomon was referring to the magnificent black tulips of the Galilee.
In spring, even the weeds are beautiful – the milk vetch (Gadilan), which is just a common thistle, adds purple blooms to the roadside. The Rock Rose (labdanum) flowers abundantly in forest glades, and the orange ranunculus bursts into bloom. Like its velvety cousin, the anemone (kalaniyot), it is a protected wildflower in Israel.
The perfume of daffodils, which delighted our winter, is still wafting in the breeze, and the white, cream, yellow and blue noses of lupins are pushing through the soil. Oleanders are in bud, growing wild by the banks of the River Jordan and nearby streams in Galilee, promising a burst of Summer beauty, and the blue statica reminds us that we, too, have a Mediterranean coast like the famed Riviera.
This lovely sea plant flowers from spring until mid-summer, when its corolla drops off and only the sepal remains.
Who says Israel has almost no natural resources? When you see the splendor in the grass of the land’s spring glory, the wildflowers glowing like jewels, you’ll echo the poet’s words: “Had I but two loaves of bread, I would sell one of them and buy white hyacinths to feed my soul.” ■
Dvora Waysman is author of 14 books. Her latest novel is Searching for Sarah. firstname.lastname@example.org Blog: www.dvorawaysman.com