Israelis really love their kalanit (anemone), rakefet (cyclamen), narkis (narcissus), tourmus (lupine) and other wildflowers. They love them so much that they almost picked them into extinction, but in the past 50 years legislation and education have assured that springtime in Israel is a riot of color just about everywhere you look.
For those who are lucky enough to be in Israel during the peak wildflower season of mid-February to late March, ISRAEL21c offers this list of 10 awesome sites to see beauty growing wild.
Our recommendations come from two experts: Elisha Mizrahi of Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund (KKL-JNF) and professional photographer Yehoshua Halevi, who is working on an ebook about photographing Israel through the seasons.
They tell ISRAEL21c that it’s not just wildflowers but also blossoming fruit trees that make this time of year so spectacular. Look for almond and cherry blossoms as you travel the country.
There’s still some time to take advantage of the yearly Scarlet South Festival in the northwestern Negev, produced in conjunction with KKL-JNF. Each Friday (from 9 to 3) and Saturday (9 to 4) throughout February, the public is invited to enjoy free tours through the red carpets of anemones in the Reim Recreation Area and the Ruhama Forest. But if you miss the festival, there’s still plenty of color to see in March and April.
2. Kfar Yarok, Ramat Hasharon
Through the month of March, take the kids to pick anemones and buttercups (nuriyot) at Kfar Yarok’s Anemone Field. Admission: NIS 40 per picker on Sunday through Thursday, from 4 p.m. until dark; NIS 50 per picker on Friday and Saturday, from 10 to 3. Free to children up to age three. Information: 052-662-0253.
3. Lupine Hill
On the road just south of Beit Shemesh in the Elah Valley, anemones grow everywhere on northern side of the road. But the spot that really rocks is Givat Hatourmasim (Lupine Hill) on the southern side of the road. Though purple lupine rules here, many other species are also in full bloom. Go early on Friday, or on any other day of the week, to avoid crowds.
“It’s a 10-minute hike to the top, where there is the best collection of diverse wildflowers I’ve seen anywhere,” says Halevi, who is leading three photography workshops there in the next few weeks.
Almond trees and cyclamens are in bloom this time of year at Sataf, a hiking and nature preserve to the east of Har Eitan on the western fringes of Jerusalem. Cyclamens, in shades from white to dark pink, are also called Solomon’s Fire because they look like clusters of flame shooting up from rocks and shady areas.
5. The Valley of Narcissus Flowers
Emek HaNarkisim (Valley of Narcissus Flowers) is field a north of Tel Aviv, in the Glilot Junction area. Glilot is also a great area to see daisies.
6. Carmel Nature Reserve (“Little Switzerland”)
Carpets of lupines and irises are blooming across the Carmel region now, but the truly unusual sight to see is the special tulip variety of this area: yellow-and-brown striped “tiger” tulips that are unusually large. The main entrance to the reserve is near the University of Haifa.
This hill in the Beit Shean Valley is famous for its incredible irises. In fact, the Gilboa Iris was chosen as the symbol of the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel. Peak season is March and April.
8. Duda’im Forest
The exotic dark brown Negev (or Judean) iris grows in this KKL-JNF grove near Beersheva, as well as on the field road between Tzeelim and Gvulot farther south, says Mizrahi.
9. Cyclamen Hill
This pine-tree-shaded spot in the Ramot Menashe Park near the Elyakim Interchange in the Megiddo area features a short walking trail where visitors come to see the pink cyclamen blossom in early spring. Signs along the trail provide information about this unique flower.
Speaking of cyclamen – as well as anemones and tulips — these large KKL-JNF archeological and nature parks in the Beit Shemesh-Beit Guvrin area of the Judean plain are awash with colorful wildflowers right now, according to Mizrahi. You’ll also see almond trees and cactus flowers in bloom.