The flora of Israel includes some 2700 species, more than half of which bloom in the spring. The springtime conditions suit and encourage the development of flowers as well as the plethora of insects that visit them. Spring flowers come in different sizes, colors, shapes and scents. Their characteristics attract different insects. Competition among flowers during this blossoming season leads to the evolution of different shapes and colors.
The scientific name Chrysanthemum means gold crown (chrys = gold, anthem = flower). The Hebrew name also stems from the root meaning gold, as mentioned in the Bible: "How much better to acquire wisdom than gold, to acquire understanding is preferable to silver" (Proverbs 16:16). In Arabic the flower is called Supheir (the root asphar means yellow), or colored in yellow. According to the folk medicine belief that healing is achieved through something similar, these flowers are used to heal jaundice. Chrysanthemums are used to dye Easter eggs yellow, as well as wool.
Most of the flowers in the thistle family bloom on prickly plants in shades of white, yellow, pink and red. The blue type is the exception – with soft leaves and blue blossoms. Nevertheless, they belong to the same family, as determined by the structure of the inflorescence.
The color blue is rare in the world of flowers and usually appears in families that are more evolutionarily evolved and on high mountains. It is presumed that because the chemical compounds of the color (anthocyanins) absorb ultraviolet irradiation, the pollen grains are protected from their harmful effect as well as the fact that the flowers can be seen better by bees.
Herbal medicine uses these flowers to strengthen the immune system, as an anti-inflammatory and to add color to infusions. Some claim that the blue color brings internal blossoming. The genus Centaurea is named after the centaur Chiron in Greek mythology, who discovered the medicinal properties of these flowers.
This is one of five types of red plate-shaped flowers which are pollinated by beetles, along with the anemone, buttercup, adonis and poppy.
In 1554, the ambassador from the Holy Roman Empire to Turkey brought this red tulip from Turkey to Vienna and from there to Holland. Tulip cultivation then became a national Dutch craze, peaking in 1634-1637 when it was called "tulipomania". Incredible species were developed at that time, in part due to the mosaic virus that causes colored stripes on the petals and creates extraordinarily beautiful varieties. While these species had low durability and disappeared over time, they were well documented in works of art from that period. The bulb of a special species was worth more than a house in Amsterdam! The dream was to create black tulips, which were thought to possess mystic attributes.
Israel is home to 51 species of clovers – some are humble and few in number while others are especially beautiful. The purple clover is noted for the size of its flowers and their prominent color. In some places it creates entire "carpets" of blossoms. The nectar is hidden deep inside the flowers and only long-tongued bees and butterflies are able to reach it.
Like many clover species, it is used in folk medicine, mostly for its calming effect and to treat stress. It is also grown in gardens thanks to its beauty. Cultivated plants are taller and have more flowers as well as a longer blossoming period than wild plants of the same species.
Professor Emeritus Department of Evolutionary and Environmental Biology, Haifa University
With thanks to Dr. Hagar Leschner.