Monday, February 2, 2009

Star of Bethlehem

Damascus gagea, Gagea chlorantha (?)

Today Moshe, our 13 year old son, came back from the forest with a small yellow six petalled flower. Checking Azaria Alon's guide he identified it as Star of Bethlehem, Gagea commutata. Comparing it with photographs of other members of the same genus at I agreed.
I pressed the delicate little yellow/green flower in a book.
(Just as a geographical sidenote, we are approx. 10 miles north of Bethlehem here)

We wanted to go out, find it and photograph it on our walk. Moshe had found it in the upper part of the forest just east of valley road but after some search we were unable to locate it again. He was sure there had been a number of other flowers there. The forest floor has a fractal nature.. the repeating patterns of lichen and fossil marked limestone rock, asphodel and miniature glades of pine needles can be quite a confusing labyrinth unless you leave a marker! We did find some more Bellevalia and a number of large fleshy sickly yellow mushrooms but no more yellow stars. Finally I found a yellow bud just opening! Moshe was adamant that this was NOT the same kind of plant he had found, though similar. Checking back at the wildflower site I now find I agree with him again. It seems 'my' flower matches a close relative, Gagea chlorantha, also called the Damascus Gagea. (photographed by husband above)

In our search for the star we did find a pair of stone curlew on the ground not far off under the pine canopy. Again they departed quietly but gave us good views. On the forest floor they are not so camouflaged as they are out on the open hillside. We also found a little covey of chukar partridges, perhaps half a dozen. Husband saw them, I heard them chuckling but they were out of view where I was searching. We also found a nice patch of gazelle spoor, probably a male's territory marker.

Blackbirds in song, graceful warblers active as are Eurasian jays, jackdaws and laughing doves.

Today's range: 8-15 degrees C, 4.30 p.m just over 11 degrees, ~80% humidity, winds NW, 3-6 knots.

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