The rains are held back this year, and the fall colors with them – the heat kept many trees green or shedding the leaves without a significant fall display. In spite of the dryness, there is plenty to see in the garden and we’re hoping that during the coming month we’ll have plenty of rainfall that will water the ground and the plants.
We’re starting in the South-Africa section, where winter flowers are already starting. Aloe arborescens is blooming in red-orange and With lots of patience and some luck you’ll be able to spot Palestine Sunbirds enjoying its nectar. The Aloe has elongated red flowers, with plenty of nectar. Such flowers attract the Sunbirds that pollinate the flowers. This Aloe is the first of several Aloe species that bloom in the South Africa section during winter, and are an important botanical attraction in the garden.
Cotyledon orbiculata is also blooming in the South Africa section – a succulent plant with red blossoms. The Cotyledon is an easy-to-grow ornamental plant, fit for containers, and like the Aloe, it attracts sunbirds who enjoy its nectar and pollinate it. We recommend this plant as a water-saving plant for the garden, for full-sun or partial sunny conditions.
Barleria obtusa of the Acanthaceae family is blooming in violet, in the South Africa section, near the ancient burrial caves. This is a water-conserving plant that blooms in the autumn and early winter. Its common name is “Bush-Violet”.
In the Europe section as well as in other locations around the garden you can see the English Oak – Quercus robur. This Oak is common throughout Europe and the Caucasus, and is frequently used in European gardening. Its fall colors are yellow-browns, and when the leaves fall – they create a thick leaves carpet at the foot of the tree, that helps keep the roots warm in the cold winter.
In spite of the heat, there are trees that show beautiful fall colors. One of the more conspicuous ones was our plant of the month last year: Liquidambar styraciflua. You can see it at the lawn in the North America section, as well as in other locations in that section. The Liquidambar, whose name means “Liquid Amber”, is named after its sweet liquid resin.
In the Medicinal Plants Garden between the Australia and Asia section you can see the Ginkgo biloba tree. During December, its foliage will change color to bright yellow, making the whole tree shine.
The Ginkgo is a unique plant. It is a living fossil, the only living plant in its family, and though it’s hard to believe, this tree belongs to the conifers plant group, although it doesn’t have needle-like leaves and its fruit is fleshy and globular. There are fossils of 280 million years old Ginkgo trees. It is considered an important plant in Chinese traditional medicine.
The strawbbery trees in the Mediterranean section are laden with sweet red fruit. These fruits attract many birds, that eat them and disperse the seeds. In the Northern parts of this section, near Beatrice circle, you can find the Arbutus unedo from Southern Europe (in the picture). In the central areas of the Mediterranean section you can find the Arbutus andrachne that is common in Israel, Along the Cork Oak trail you can spot Arbutus × andrachnoides which is a natural hybrid of the two former species. In the parking lot near Burla st. grows Arbutus canariensis.
On some trees you can spot flowers, attracting bees such as the bumblebee in the picture below. These flowers will develop to next year’s fruit.
One of the nicer visitors of the garden this season is the European Robin, that migrates from Europe to spend the winter here. The Robins like tree and shrub thickets, and there are several enjoying the gardens this year. Listen to their pleasant songs, and try to find them – look for the orange-reddish glimpse of the breast among the trees.
The Tropical Conservatory is open daily between 9:00 and 15:30, and you’re welcome to visit and enjoy a breathtaking display of the tropical jungle and of the desert.
Our plant of the month this month is Costa-Rican Butterfly Vine – Dalechampia dioscoreifolia. This is a vine of the Spurge plant family, originating in tropical America. The Butterfly Vine’s inflorescences look like big purple flowers, hence its common name. You’re welcome to read more about it here.
On the side of the conservatory’s green wall and on the back wall you can see small purple flowers. This is the False African Violet (Streptocarpus saxorum), originating from Kenya and Tanzania. Its common name is False African Violet because of the similarity to Violet flowers. The False African Violet grows mostly on sun-exposed rocks and cliffs.
In the Desert section of the conservatory, Astragalus sparsus is blooming. This is a rare and endangered species that grows in Israel in Eilat mountains and the Arava. Most of its distribution is in the Arabian peninsula. In nature it blooms only after strong rains, once in a few years. The plant has become even rarer because the average annual rainfall in the Eilat area has reduced from 30 mm annually to merely 16 mm annually.
It is always nice to check the Plant-of-the-month corner near the nursery and see the unique plants there. During this month look at the corner and at the adjacent Geophyte terrace for Crocus and Muscari species that will bloom there. This time we’ll look at Androcymbium palaestinum, of the Colchicum plant family. This is a bulb that blooms on the ground, at the desert and the semi-desert areas mainly in the Eastern parts of Israel.