Autumn is here. One of the most beautiful natural phenomena is the wonderful fall colors – and the Botanical Garden is an excellent place to see them. This time we’re on the lookout mainly – but not entirely – for fall colors.
We’re starting with a flower, and not just any flower: the Garden’s autumn queen – Sternbergia clusiana. In this season, the oak forest in the Asia section is full with the Sternbergia flowers – a feast for the eyes.
The first Sternbergias in the garden were relocated from today’s Begin Highway route and Ort school. Nowadays they are thriving and blooming between the oaks, and it is worthwhile visiting them!
Having arrived to the Asia section, let’s look for fall colors. The most conspicuous colored tree is our plant of the month: Mount Atlas Mastic Tree (Pistacia atlantica). Mount Atlas Mastic Tree grows from the Atlas Mountains in Morocco to Central Asia, and you can see it growing in Israel as well. In the Mamila Muslim cemetery there are wild trees, and of course in our Garden – both in Asia and Mediterranean sections.
Shemer, the gardener in charge of the South Africa section, is inviting us to see the Poor Man’s Cycad (Encephalartos villosus) in the section, at the upper trail not far from the date palms. The Poor Man’s Cycad belongs to the Zamiaceae family. Although similar, it is not a palm tree. It belongs to a unique ancient group of gymnosperms that first appeared on the planet about 280 million years ago. In fact it is a living fossil! The cone in the picture is a male cone. The Poor Man’s Cycad is a dioecious plant, i.e., there are separate male plants and female plants. In our Garden we don’t have female plants – our Poor Man’s Cycad is a lonely one.
Nanaberry (Searsia dentata) in the South-Africa section reminds us that we look for fall colors. This is a large shrub that grows in most of South Africa. It grows well in a variety of soils, and it is both frost and drought hardy. During autumn, its leaves change to beautiful rustic-orange color.
Look beyond the lake, to the far edge – you can see there an impressive shrub with orange-red leaves. This is Cotinus × ‘Grace’, a garden variant of Smokebush (Cotinus coggygria), which is a widely distributed shrub that grows from Southern Europe, through Central Asia to Northern China. In the garden you can find Cotinus coggygria and the variants Cotinus × ‘Grace’ and Cotinus coggygria ‘Royal Purple’ – all three have beautiful fall colors this season.
And here we are in North America, where the main fall colors of the Garden can be seen. Already in the entrance to this section we’ll see a vine climbing on the wall, left of the main trail of the garden. This is Five-Leaved Ivy (Parthenocissus quinquefolia). Note its fruit, which resemble tiny little purple grapes. Indeed it is a distant relative of the Grape Vine. The fruit is edible, but the flavor is considerably inferior to that of grapes.
Across the road from the Five-Leaved Ivy, on the right side of the trail, note several trees with magnificent red leaves. This is Flameleaf sumac (Rhus copallinum) that originates in the Eastern United States. Its fruit is used to prepare a sour drink. Its common name, Flameleaf Sumac, is very obvious in this season.
One of the most beautiful trees with many fall colors is the American Sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua), that was our plant-of-the-month last December. Note the wonderful colors of the trees, up on the lawn in the North America section. You’re welcome to go near the trees, and appreciate the large colors variety!
Apart from the fall colors, there are also colorful fruits, and in the North-America section the American Beautyberry (Callicarpa americana) are very showy with their violet fruit. These fruit attract birds that eat them and spread the seeds. The Latin name of this plant, Callicarpa, means “beautiful fruit” – a name that suits this plant very much!
In the Australia section we’ll meet a shrub full of delicate pink flowers, hanging on it like tiny lanterns. This is Correa pulchella. In Australia it blooms in the autumn and winter – from April to September. In our garden it adjusted itself to our seasons, and it blooms from October to March.
On the ground, under the Correa pulchella, you’ll see small white-purple flowers. This is the Australian Violet (Viola hederacea). It is a mat-forming spreading evergreen plant that grows nicely both in the shade and in partial sun.
The tropical conservatory is open for guided tours, register and enjoy breathtaking botanical displays. Today we go to look at the desert part in the conservatory, where we simulate arid and hot desert conditions. The African Starfish Flower (Stapelia hirsuta) is blooming there. It originates in South Africa, and it is from the Apocynaceae family, like its local native relative – Caralluma europaea. The stinky flowers attracts flies that pollinate them.
In the beginning of this post we talked about the Mount Atlas mastic tree, and we won’t forget its sister: the Palestine Terebinth (Pistacia terebinthus subsp. palaestina). It was our plant of the month last year, and its fall colors are the most beautiful and outstanding colors in the Israeli Mediterranean woods.
We’ll finish our tour in the Plant-Of-The-Month corner near the nursery, where it is always interesting. Several Cyclamen, Colchicum, Crocus and Biarum species are already in bloom there. Today we’re looking at the Cyprus Cyclamen (Cyclamen cyprium). This Cyclamen grows only on the hills in Cyprus, and it is Cyprus’s national flower.