Many people know the Arum Lilies that bloom during spring and attract flies with their unpleasant smell. But there are other, less known members of the Arum family that grow in Israel.
The Biarum lilies are related to the Arum lilies – they too have miniscule flowers that grow along a rachis (which is stem-like), wrapped by a big and colorful leaf called spathe. Like the Arum, they attract flies with unpleasant smell. But they bloom in autumn, and their leaves will sprout only after November’s rains.
There are five Biarum species in Israel, and today we’ll talk about the most colorful of them: Biarum auraniticum – The Hauran Biarum.
Biarum auraniticum was discovered in the 1950’s, when a French researcher named Pabot found a population of an unknown Biarum at south-eastern Syria, in the Hauran mountains region. He passed a dried sample to the herbarium of Paul Mouterde – a French botanist and researcher that worked in the French University of Beirut, and wrote the Flora of Lebanon and Syria. Mouterde described the new species using these samples and called it Biarum auraniticum – Hauran Biarum. Today, the plant pages with the original dried samples reside in the Mouterde herbarium in Geneva.
In the year 1996, Arye Ohad was hiking the central Golan Heights, and found a colorful and unknown Biarum. He shared the find with the Arum researcher Ofer Cohen, and he found that this was the Hauran Biarum, similar to the one from Southern Syria.
The Hauran Biarum is a rare and endangered species, known today from a small area of approximately ten squared kilometers in the Golan Heights. It can probably be found in South-Eastern Syria, but due to political reasons, we’re unable to verify that…
Compared to other Biarum species, who are mostly dark maroon in color, this Biarum is quite colorful. Its rachis is usually light yellow, and the spathe has green, yellow and maroon colors.
A good place to meet the Hauran Biarum in nature is Rujm El-Hiri, the ancient Megalithic site in the Golan Heights.
A few bulbs were translocated from the Golan population to our Botanical Garden, to establish a backup population as well as a reproduction base. You’re all welcome to see the Hauran Biarum as well as other Biarum species and more unique autumn wildflowers, at the Geophyte terrace in the Botanical Garden!
Author: Yael Orgad, October 2019