The Department of Plant Sciences

Remarks on Flora and Vegetation
in the Land of Israel

Phytogeographically the Land of Israel is unique, being the place where four different floras meet.
This is expressed in the richness of the flora, composed of ca. 2600 species of higher plants, distributed among ca. 130 families. Few other places on Earth harbor a similar number of species in as small an area as that of the Land of Israel.

Green Mediterranean Region;
Brown Irano-Turanian steppe vegetation;
Yellow Saharo Arabian, desertic vegetation;
Purple Tropical Sudanian vegetation.

  The geographical distribution of most species growing in the country is rather wide. However, despite its small size, a considerable number of endemic species occur in different parts of the country. Most of the endemic species are represented by one or two such species in a genus, but in some cases all or most of the species of the genus growing in the country are endemic to it.

Such are, e.g., all five species of Caralluma R. Br. (ASCLEPIADACEAE): C. negevensis Zohary, C. aaronis (Hart) N.E. Brown, C. sinaica (Decaisne) A. Berger, C. europea var. judaica Zohary and C. israelitica Zohary et Chaouat, some of them being restricted to very small areas.


Another example that may be mentioned, is that of the eight species of Iris subgen. Iris sect. Oncocyclus (IRIDACEAE), the flowers of all are outstandingly beautiful. These are: Iris atropurpurea Baker, I. bismarckiana Regel, I. haynei Baker, I. hermona Dinsmore, I. hieruchamensis Avishai, I. loessicola T. Kushnir, I. lortetii W. Barbey in C. & W. Barbey and I. mariae W. Barbey. Each of these Irises grows in its own restricted area of distribution and habitat. For example, I atropurpurea is typical to light loams in the coastal plain, I. bismarckiana is a rare species in the northern mountainous region, and I. lortetii is very rare in the central and northern mountainous region.

Iris lortetii W. Barbey in C. & W. Barbey

Iris bismarckiana Regel

Iris atropurpurea Baker

By contrast with the rare endemics, some common species with colorful bloom paint wide areas during the main flowering season: the late winter and the spring. Such are, e.g., Anemone coronaria Linnaeus (RANUNCULACEAE), a common species in most parts of the country,

or Cyclamen persicum Mill. (PRIMULACEAE), common in the mountainous region, or the simple Chrysanthemum segetum Linnaeus (COMPOSITAE), that grows all over the country.

Conspicuous in the late summer, when almost no other plants are in bloom, are the flowers of Pancratium maritimum Linnaeus (LILIACEAE), typical to sandy habitats near the Mediterranean coast.

15 November 1996 - yiftah