Nature's annual floral display

As Netanya’s wildflowers bloom, visitors to the Argaman Iris Reserve and Winter Pond Park can enjoy cycling, picnicking, hiking – and spectacular views.

The Winter Pond 521 (photo credit: Maurice Picow)
The Winter Pond 521
(photo credit: Maurice Picow)
Tu Bishvat may be over, but the season for enjoying Israel’s wildflowers and nature sites is just beginning.
A good example are locations in and near Netanya, where the popular Argaman Iris Reserve and Winter Pond Park are attracting visitors from all over the country.
Mother Nature is just beginning to put on her annual flower and nature show, one of the stars of which is the wild purple Argaman iris.
The Iris Reserve, located on Ben- Gurion Boulevard in Netanya’s southern sector, is next to the Ramat Poleg and Ir Yamim neighborhoods. The reserve also contains other types of wildflowers, such as the fragile blue Dyer’s bugloss, the hedge-like white broom and the common yellow daisylike spring groundsel. Other species include the red anemone.
The reserve is well marked with signs designating the various flowers and plants found there. Walking paths are provided, as well as benches to sit on. A picnic area at the reserve’s entrance is available for those who bring a snack or a picnic lunch.
Alon Rothschild, the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel’s environmental manager for the Central and Sharon regions, says that the spring groundsels are actually invaders and have to be cleared out periodically to keep them from crowding out other species. “They look pretty, but if left alone they will soon take over here,” he says.
The star performers of the Argaman Iris Reserve are the irises themselves, now blooming in all their glory.
The Winter Pond Park across the road from the Iris Reserve has many of the same flowers, including the Argaman Irises. Others include a kind of wild garlic and the white, lily-like sea daffodil.
For bike riders, the Winter Pond Park has well-marked bicycle paths, and children can spend hours playing on the generous assortment of playground equipment provided by the Netanya Municipality. A large picnic and grill area is also available for family and group outings.
The Winter Pond has ample water due to the recent winter rains. An assortment of wildfowl can be seen there, including several species of ducks and other waterfowl, ravens, grackles and other tree-dwelling birds, including the green ring-necked parakeet.
This bird, a non-native species, is now common in many parts of Israel and is considered a pest in some areas.
Frogs and other amphibians live in the pond, and even during the daytime, the croaking of the frogs can be quite noisy. The pond is surrounded by giant eucalyptus trees that were planted by the British during the Mandate period to help drain what was then a large swampy area that attracted millions of mosquitoes during warmer months. The mosquito problem still occurs to this day, but for the tree-dwelling birds, these trees are home.
The philosophy for developing the Winter Pond Park has to do with giving area residents a place to enjoy being in a natural setting. “Netanya has over 210,000 residents, most of whom are apartment dwellers. They need places like the Winter Pond to go to and enjoy as a diversion from their urban neighborhoods,” says Sarah Gazit, the Netanya Municipality’s architect for parks and green zones.
Ramat Poleg, besides having Netanya’s only true “drive-in beachfront,” contains the Poleg Stream Nature Reserve; the only official Israel Nature and Parks Authority nature reserve in Netanya. Stretching beyond the nearby Wingate Sports Institute, it also contains a number of wildflowers.
A visit to these areas should also include the nearby Sha’ar Poleg Nature Reserve. It is a must for those who enjoy hiking; and it now contains some very beautiful wildflowers, including the red anemones and the delicate cyclamens. For wildflower lovers, these cyclamens alone are well worth a visit.
The reserve also has a small lake, which is used during the warmer months as a venue for weddings and other events.
Nearby Kibbutz Yakum also has its own winter pond. When it contains water, it hosts a variety of waterfowl, such as a large number of migrating cormorants and storks. Ample numbers of wildflowers, especially the spring groundsels, can now be found everywhere in Yakum, as well as blossoming fruit trees. Visitors to Yakum’s winter pond should be prepared to get a bit muddy, as the ground is still quite wet from the recent rains. The Yakum area at the entrance to the nature reserve is also a favorite location for weekend bicycle riders.
There’s still plenty of time to enjoy these natural sites and their wildflowers.