Flowering after the Heat

The Israeli autumn is the budding season of most of the plants that regenerate and germinate with the onset of the rains after the intense summer heat. Bar Shemesh, an expert botanist, who has discovered 4 rare species of plants at Ramat Hanadiv in recent months, tells us which plants flower in late summer and early autumn and explains how he conducts his work

בוטניקה- בר שמש- געדת החורש
Teucrium lamiifolium. This plant is considered rare

During the summer, when everything is dry and not very attractive, some people wander around looking at the ground; they search and they find! Four species of rare plants were discovered by the botanist, Bar Shemesh, from Binyamina, while wandering around Ramat Hanadiv; they were added to our very respectable species list, which includes a quarter of all plant species in Israel.

Bar, how did it happen?

‘I was walking with my son in the woodland around the vulture trail and I saw a plant that I had never seen at Ramat Hanadiv – Teucrium lamiifolium. This plant is considered rare; it usually grows in more humid woodlands, mainly in the Upper Galilee and the northern Carmel. Its flowering peaked in May–June. Right next to it I saw another humid woodland plant, Crucianella latifolia, which I identified by its dry inflorescences. In the spring I saw, in the same area, Vicia galilaea – an endemic (exclusive) species to Israel and its neighbouring countries as far as Turkey, very similar to the broad bean, which is also considered rare.

‘During another hike next to Ein Zur, in a rocky and drier area, I found Medicago constricta – a small spiny plant that grows mainly in the Galilee and on the kurkar (sandstone) hills of the coastal plain. This species is considered very rare and is in danger of extinction.’

Wow, and what did you do with all those discoveries?

‘I took photos and sent them to the research division of Ramat Hanadiv; indeed, they had not seen the Vicia or the Medicago here before. The Teucrium and the Crucianella had been seen in the past, but had not been recorded in recent years.’


Four species of rare plants were discovered by the botanist, Bar Shemesh, from Binyamina, while wandering around Ramat Hanadiv

הבוטנאי בר שמש בשטח- צילום יואל חסון
Bar Shemesh, an expert botanist - in the field


How wonderful! Do you have a possible explanation? Could it be related, like every other issue in the world today, to COVID-19?…

‘No…not everything is related to COVID-19…of course there were fewer hikers here during the lockdown, but plants aren’t bothered much by such things… what affects them is mainly activities that damage the soil, such as: infrastructure development, construction or agriculture, as well as small ruminant and cattle grazing, and of course, climate change. In this case, it is highly likely that the last two wet years are what had an impact – the seeds of these species were probably always here, but they probably germinate in larger numbers during wet years. And it’s also possible that we simply didn’t notice them until now…’


Bar shatters the myth that autumn is a time of leaf-drop and spring is the season of budding and growth: In Israel, it is exactly the opposite; in the autumn, with the first rains, the season of budding and germination begins.’

שנית גדולה
Lythrum salicaria Around the Taninim River

So you’re basically a walking plant guide?

‘I can identify most of the almost 3,000 plant species that have been identified here in Israel, but sometimes I have to use a plant guide to compare similar plants, especially when it’s not the peak of flowering. In general, my work rather resembles tracking – in many cases I identify a plant based only on dried remains or young seedlings, assembling pieces from different places. Sometimes I have to crawl to find the smallest flowers and compare them. My work links academic knowledge with field skills.’

What happens to all the information you collect?

‘I collect many different types of information according to different requests – for example, Ramat Hanadiv conducts a unique survey of herbaceous plants once every two years. They return each time to the same permanent quadrats, document all the plants there and analyze the data with data from previous years. In the end this information enables us to generate more accurate explanations for different phenomena, such as, for example, the frequency of occurrence of the rare species we have mentioned. The next survey will be in March.

Are there actually any flowering plants during the summer and early autumn?

‘Of course, and not so few at all: the Drimia maritima (squills) flower mainly during August and September, as well as rock plants, such as Micromeria fruticosa, Origanum syriacum and Chiliadenus iphionoides. At this stage of the year they are in a state of “summer exfoliation” and their leaves are few and small, but with the first rains they will bud and grow large, vibrant leaves that are good for tea, herbs or Traditional medical use. They can be found at Ramat Hanadiv.

‘Around the Taninim River you can find Mentha longifolia and Lythrum salicaria, which flower in purple, and Pulicaria dysenterica in yellow. Plants flowering on the coast include Pancratium maritimum, Ipomoea imperati, Crithmum maritimum, Limonium virgatum. Species of Colchicum flower just after the first rains.’

In Israel the autumn is backwards

To summarize, Bar shatters the myth that autumn is a time of leaf-drop and spring is the season of budding and growth. ‘It’s true in places like Europe and North America, where plants enter their winter hibernation during the frozen season and bud and grow in the spring when the weather warms up and the snow melts. In Israel it is exactly the opposite; the difficult season for most plants is the fiery hot summer, and then in the autumn, with the first rains, the season of budding and germination begins.’

So next time you go out for a walk, look around you and search for the late summer and early autumn flowers. Since Bar will probably be busy discovering new plants, don’t forget to take a plant guide with you to aid identification. If you don’t have one, don’t worry; we have a plant guide waiting for you in our InfoShop.