Flora of the Mediterranean
Flora of the Mediterranean basin
The climate of central and northern Israel is typical of the Mediterranean basin. These areas host long hot, dry summers and rainy, temperate winters with an annual rainfall 0f 400–900mm. It is important to note, that there has been a significant decrease in annual rainfall in this region in the past 20 years. The most difficult season for the plants of the region is the summer. Some plants are specially equipped with traits adapted for survival. These plants can be grouped in two categories: those adapted to cope with the elements and the others that avoid it. Mediterranean woody plants survive the harsh summer elements. They mostly remain green all year, have small leaves and are covered with a thick, hard, waxy layer that helps to reduce water loss. In contrast, herbaceous (non-woody) plants, avoid the effects of the summer season. More than half of the herbaceous plants in Israel are annuals, completing their life cycle in one year. They disperse their seeds at the start of summer, germinating only in late autumn after heavy rain comes. There are also perennials in this category. They survive the summer in the form of roots and bulbs. Several plants of this type protect themselves from hungry animals by becoming poisonous or thorny during the summer.
The ground in the Mediterranean region is always full of dormant seeds waiting the next rainy season. Many of these seeds have a very clever complex germination inhibitor system, preventing all of the seeds from germinating in the same year, thus reducing mass extinctions in very dry years or in years with other catastrophes. The typical Mediterranean climate, cold, rainy winters and hot summers, can be found along the northern shores of the Mediterranean from Turkey to Spain and the western countries of North Africa. To Israelis, this climate seems commonplace, but in fact, it is globally quite rare and exists only in five areas: the Mediterranean Basin, the Cape Province of South Africa, California, Central Chile and South Western Australia. While each of these five areas has a unique flora, typical Mediterranean vegetation like maquis, garigue and batha, can be found in each of the five locations. The Eastern Mediterranean has a rich diversity. It is one of the world's largest plant speciation hot spots. The Mediterranean basin is one of the most crowded in the world. As a result, there has been considerable destruction of natural habitats and with it the dramatic decrease and disappearance of many plant species. One of our challenges is to preserve the diversity of Mediterranean plants in nature as well as in tended gardens and parks. Israel is located in the eastern part of the Mediterranean. It is here where the Mediterranean climate reaches its eastern border and with it many plants that do not continue farther east. Northern plants like the cold and can be found in Israel on the southern border in Mt. Hermon and the Galilee. The majority of the eastern Mediterranean plants are arid and drought resistant. Not many plants and flowers of eastern Mediterranean are known in Europe, thus few are actually cultivated there.