Purple Clover in the HolyLand

Purple clover, photographed by Jeff Zablow on Qedesh trail, Israel

Bet you’re like me, meaning you presume that Israel has some wildflowers, but not that many. Rocks and hills, you know; but not much else. Each time I travel there, What? New this, new that. New butterflies, new wildflowers. Then you travel again the next year, not June, but this time March. OMG! All over again, new butterflies, new wildflowers.

The wildflower in the foreground is the flower head of Purple Clover (Trifolium Purpureum). It was so pert, so richly colored, and so very intricate in pattern and design. Had to stop and shoot, shoot, shoot. This trail in northernmost Upper Galilee region bore March’s huge bounty of wildflowers, a hint of which shines in the background of this image.

Flowers from March to May, and it is difficult to pass without the requisite stop and stare. My, my, you are beautiful this morning . . . as the other wildflowers respectfully await their turn for attention.


We All Stopped To Marvel


Eye Therapy on those trails at SPNI’s Hermon Reserve. I flew from the very brutal winter in the U.S. northeast, to an Israel blossoming after especially wet winter. Wildflowers were popping up everywhere. I do mean everywhere. March 2015, and I was there to search for rare butterflies. I had been there 3 times before, but never during this Renewal of a March month. It was a feast of color.

Oh, if I could have been there with Rembrandt, Peale, Peterson, Matisse, O’Keefe, Chagall and Audubon . . . All would have stopped at these ‘Protected’ Palestine Pheasant’s Ear (Adonis Palaestina) blooms. How I would have loved to hear their shares, as they internalized the rich color, fragile handsomeness and gestalt of this find. Honest.


Aricia Aegesis (Israel – Protected)

Aricia Agestis butterfly, photographed by Jeff Zablow on Qedesh trail, Israel

In the Uppermost Galilee, perhaps 200 feet from the Israeli Lebanon border. Verdant, sunny, isolated and carpeted with blooms of many colors. March brought a whole new menu of butterflies. I had been on this same Qedesh trail twice before, but never in March. Expectant.

A bountiful basket of butterflies it was. Those blooms must have been pumping nectar hard, because butterflies of many species came up and down the trail, most eating nectar as they went along, other males flying that crazed way that male butterflies do, frenetically searching for receptive mates.

This female, of a species at risk, a brown Argus, gently sipped sweet nectar on this tiny blooms, and her orange margin patches lit up nicely. I lit up also. I was thankful to be here amidst 360 degree beauty, with flying dreams alighting right before my eyes, and a big smile on my face. Alone amidst the Artist’s palette.

Sadly, this morning’s news brought the unbelievable report of the torching of a Christian church in Bethlehem, by Muslim terrorists. That was the trigger for this post, hateful madness vs. Joyous beauty.


Thorns Aplenty

Israeli thistle wildflower, photographed by Jeff Zablow on Qedesh trail, Israel

They were standing, here and there along the Qedesh trail in the uppermost Galilee region of Israel. Ghostly remnants of last year’s summer. I paused to admire their thorny bravado. Armed with a thousand long barbs, they continued to stand guard, warning any and all that intercepting this dried plant skeleton remains fool’s errand.

Again my Israeli wildflower field guides taunt me, my Hebrew language facility near zero. This botanic buzzard may be a Hermon Thistle or another closely related thistle. Here in the States, our thistles often bear thornes, but never such brutal daggers as you see here.

That is very typical of many wildflower species growing in the Israeli biome, nearly all desert, until industrious folks figured out ways to irrigate much of it to life.

Photographer beware. When you see a flying tiny, Israeli blue butterfly for instance, placing your hands on the ground, to secure a good close-up, risks meeting this or that thorny plant growing flush to the ground.

Of course Israel is a challenging place to live (more so with ‘Iran Deals’), and the botany has learned to offset the risks with: Thornes.


Who Enjoyed It More? Me or Them?

Pittsburgh South Vo-Tech public school field trip participants - May 2004, photographed by Jeff Zablow in Raccoon Creek State Park, PA

Seeing Facebook posts by Butterflies and Blooms in the Briar Patch, so many good memories were triggered. Virginia Linch and her volunteers shared recent school trips to that Eatonton, Georgia Habitat, just now in its 2nd year. Converted from a former Aluminum plants’ brownfield, Virginia and her co-volunteers pushed, pulled, ‘dozed the site, dropped topsoil and tons of mulch. Hundred of perennials, bushes and trees were planted, mothered and preened. Almost every planting was of a native variety, and they all thrived.

Seeing those school kids and other visitors to the Habitat (as it is called), I am reminded of my kids, on those wetland field trips we took. The last chapter of my teaching career, at South Vo-Tech High School in Pittsburgh found me introducing Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania city kids to wildlife and pristine PA state parks.

Turns out most of my 16 and 17-year old students had never visited same, and almost all had never left the city, ever.

With 150 students each year, I advertised our 3 per year field trips often, beginning in September. My kids were told that we’ll have as many as 3, and that no more than 15 students will be chosen to participate. 150 students, but only 45 could go? It was explained that to go, they must act maturely, do their classwork and demonstrate cooperation. I will never forget the young man, a very formidable guy, who was belligerent throughout the year. Here was someone who everyone gave a wide berth. A menacing, scary guy, with very real street creds.

One of the motivations for these kids was exposure during Slide Lab, but more about that if our readers request it.

Came March, one day class ended, and all left for their next class, and Mr. Nightmare lingered till he and I were alone. He looked a little sheepish, and I’d never seen that before. I waited, and he quietly said that he wanted to go on one of the field trips. I was not surprised, because this had happened several times over the years, very bad guys, waiting till the ’10th hours’ and then sheepishly approaching me. I told Mr. Nightmare, that he could not go, because doesn’t he see that he has not made the List because he has not demonstrated the 3 attributes? Pause. He said that between that day, and the day of the trip, he would show me that he deserved to go. Wow! Probable killer on the city streets seeks participation on wetland study field trip?? His classmates were astonished when, over the next many weeks, he became a model student in his Biology class. He went on the trip . . . and he was wonderful.

This photo of our May 2004 field trip to Raccoon Creek State Park is rich in personal vignettes. Some of these kids struggled to get their names on the List, and then worked to keep it there. Most were beyond the city line for the first time. All were exhausted after the miles of hiking that we did. Most expressed their happiness once we finished our field work. All enjoyed the pizza that we shared at a local pizzeria after the trip. Oh, one of the folks in the image is a fellow teacher, who came along with us, she’s leaning in the middle row, fourth from the left.

A long post no doubt, but can you tell that I favor these memories? Oh, and thanks! Virginia Linch for setting the example.

And yes, we mostly stopped at each and every butterfly . . .