April marks the second peak of spring! You are invited to celebrate Passover spring holiday with us in the garden, to explore and discover what is blooming – we promise there’s lots to see!
Our first encounter is just in the entrance to the garden, where you can meet three trees that will dress up in a pink flowery dress at the end of the month: these are the Pink Trumpet tree (Handroanthus impetiginosus). They originate in south and central America. The tree’s bark was used for many traditional medicines as well as for making tea. In Israel it is a rather new ornamental tree, planted in the cities.
At the entrance lake and around it two Iris species are blooming these days: the Dutch Iris (Iris × hollandica) and the Yellow Flag (Iris pseudacorus). The Dutch Iris is a known ornamental plant, primarily as a cut flower, while the Yellow Flag is an impressive water plant with beautiful big yellow flowers. The Yellow Flag is a rare-endangered species in Israel. You can see it in nature in Ein Tina in the Golan Heights and in the Hula area. In recent years it is used in urban water ponds.
In the South Africa section we cannot overlook the amazing blossoms of the pincushion shrubs at the end of the month. These are plants of the Proteaceae family, with big impressive flowering heads that resemble pincushions. In the garden there are two species: in the picture you can see the Silveredge Pincushion (Leucospermum patersonii) from the Western Cape in South Africa. Another species in the garden is the Leucospermum ‘Scarlet Ribbon’ – an ornamental hybrid with red flowers.
Another unique plant of the South Africa Cape region is the Starfish Lily (Ferraria crispa). This is a geophyte of the Iridaceae family with oddly shaped flowers. This specific shape gave it its common name – the Starfish Lily. You can see it blooming in the Cape-Fynbos subsection of the South Africa section, as well as in the Asa Geophyte Terrace.
In early April you can still catch some of the wonderful carpets of Lupines and Clovers that peaked in March. They are joined by different trees of the Rose Plant family. In the Asia section you can find different trees blooming in white. This time we’re looking at the different Hawthorn (Crataegus) species. They are flowering beautifully – but their scent is not very good and many of them are spiny. In autumn their fruit will ripen – the fruit look like miniscule apples and are edible. The tastiest among them is in our opinion are the native Spiny Hawthorn (Crataegus aronia) and Pontic Hawthorn (Crataegus pontica), both have yellow fruit.
At the upper trail in the Asia section, just below the garden’s library, another shrub of the Rose family is blooming: the Pearlbush (Exochorda racemosa). This is an ornamental shrub that originates in Temperate Asia. It suits the mountain region in Israel, but it is not known enough in gardens.
In different corners in the garden you can find clusters of Corn Poppy (Papaver umbonatum) blooming in red. The Corn Poppy is a very common wildflower in Israel. It forms amazing red carpets in fields – both natural and agricultural.
The Corn Poppy’s bud is bent downwards. When the flower opens, the calyx falls and the flower itself has four red wrinkled petals.
Search the garden for the Judas Tree (Cercis siliquastrum) adorned with small pink flowers. In Israel you can find the Judas tree blooming in the mountains of the Mediterranean region. It is common in gardening as well for being ornamental and water-saving tree. The flowers are sweet, and are used to prepare jams.
In the Mediterranean section there is an outstanding blooming. Find the Field Gladiolus (Gladiolus italicus) blooming in pink, the Blue Statice (Limonium sinuatum) that has white flowers, but the blue calyxes are what attracts the eye, and 2 Scilla species: the 7-Years Hyacinth (Scilla hyacinthoides) that is native and protected and the Portuguese Squill (Scilla peruviana) that is primarily a West Mediterranean species.
In the Mediterranean section you can find several Sages blooming this month. We are especially proud of two very rare species that you can see these days around Jerusalem only due to the garden’s actions:
Bracts Sage (Salvia bracteata) was known from 4 location within Jerusalem, but got extinct from all of them. The Givat Ram population was relocated to the Botanical Garden in 1994, when Begin road was constructed. Additional seeds were collected from Givat Mordechai by Dr. Michael Avishai. Since 1994, we tried to germinate this Sage in the garden, but only in 2013 we have succeeded germinating it with the help of the Gene Bank staff in Volcani center for agricultural research. Since then it was replanted in several natural locations within the city and around it.
Many-Stemmed Sage (Salvia multicaulis) is known from one location in the Judean mountains – Tura ruins above Sorek Stream; and from several locations at Mount Hermon. Seeds and cuttings were collected from the Tura population, they were propagated and also replanted in natural locations within the city and around it. With limited irrigation this sage forms small carpets that bloom for months.
We had nice rainfall amounts in March, and because of that – some especially beautiful species have delayed their flowering period, so we invite you all to look for them these days in the Mediterranean section:
The Peony will be joined by Iris ‘mor’, also in the Mediterranean section. Iris ‘mor’ is a cultivar developed by the veteran Iris grower, the late David Shahak from Tirat Zvi. This Iris is a cross between several local Oncocyclus Irises, and it is exported to flower markets in Europe.
Another Beauty is blooming these days in Mediterranean section, it’s the Queen of the woods: the Paeonia mascula, or Wild Peony. The wild Peony is a rare wildflower that reaches its southernmost distribution area in the Meiron mountains. Back in the Middle Ages and in Ancient Greece the Peony was considered as a medicinal plant, and used as medicine for spasms, nightmares, nerve diseases, headaches and more. According to the local belief, the Peony can repel bad spirits and prevent evil-eye.
Near the end of March, the Jerusalem Sage will be joined by the prettiest sage Israel has to offer: the Salvia indica. This wonderful Blue sage blooms in the Golan heights, the Meiron, Samaria and Judean mountains. It has tall racemes – reaching up to 1.5 meters, with large impressive blue flowers.
In the Mediterranean section there are several Cistus species blooming, and mainly our plant of the month, the Gum Rockrose (Cistus ladanifer). This is an impressive shrub with many uses, among other – it is an important incense plant.
We’ll end today’s tour in the Plants-Of-The-Month corner near the garden’s nursery, where it’s always recommended to stop and check what is blooming. This time we’ll draw your attention to the orange flowered Ornithogalum dubium and the white flowered Ornithogalum thyrsoides – both water-saving plants that originate in South Africa; and also to the Madonna Lily, Lilium candidum – an exquisitely beautiful flower, rare and endangered, that will bloom during early May in nature in the Carmel and Upper Galilee, and in our garden already in late April.