Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Jordan in Bloom, Part I

When one lives in a land where the rains dimish in March and cease sometime in April, a land in which the late spring landscape is browned by hot dusty winds which blow in from east, one must celebrate the advent of spring with at least a couple trips to the countryside. Must! And thus we did this weekend, driving 40 minutes west to the oak covered hills of Gilead.

My springtime joy is getting out to visit the wildflowers. Yes, visit. They all have names, you know. One serendipitous spring, eight years ago, I had the privledge of taking a plant taxonomy class from Fulbright Professor Lytton Musselman , an enthusiastic botanist who studies and writes on ethnobotany and plants of the Holy Land, while he was teaching at Jordan University. Coinciding with my class was a spring of copious rainfall. The wildflowers bloomed profusely and I was able to create an herbarium of over 100 specimens. For a couple of months I had just about every large book in our flat pressing specimens on the dining room table.

I was surprised to learn that because Jordan is at the crossroads of three continents, it enjoys great biodiversity and, in fact, has some of the most diverse flora of any place in the world. Although nearly 80 percent of the nation is desert, there are more than 2,500 plant species and several distinct ecosystems.

This year I won't be collecting specimens but I will enjoy searching out my wildflower friends--not only do they all have names, they are all members of families-and I will attempt to capture some of their beauty with my camera (Canon Rebel XT, with alas, only the kit lens so far). Our trip to the hills of Gilead provided an opportunity to visit many old friends, and I even made one new one, a lone orchid plant growing under a wild oak tree. This was the first time I had seen this species:

Orchis collina

Stay tuned for more flora pictures...

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