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On the scent

As winter starts, Negev desert daffodils herald the coming spring

Vistas of fragrant narcissi, blooming straight out of the rocks near Dimona, await those willing to make the trip

Sue Surkes is The Times of Israel's environment reporter.

Intensely fragrant wild narcissi flowering out of the rock just outside of the city of Dimona, in southern Israel, December 21, 2020. (Sue Surkes/Times of Israel)
Intensely fragrant wild narcissi flowering out of the rock just outside of the city of Dimona, in southern Israel, December 21, 2020. (Sue Surkes/Times of Israel)

While Israelis wait for the well-known first signs of spring — the blossoming of the almond trees and carpets of red anemones — the less familiar but no less stunning vistas of white narcissi with yellow centers rising gracefully out of bare rock in a corner of the Negev Desert in southern Israel await those willing to make the trip.

The delicate flowers grow on a rocky hillside above the Dimona streambed, close to the city of Dimona’s Ayalim Student Village.

To find them, drive to the easternmost point of Rabbi Elnakaveh Street, where it makes a 90-degree turn south, but instead of turning, continue straight onto a building site at the edge of the open desert.

Climb up the stony hill and walk down into the riverbed, following the blue and white trail markers, and when you reach what look like caves on your left, start climbing the escarpment on your right until you spot the little daffodils waving in the breeze.

Clumps of narcissi growing out of the rock near Dimona in the Negev Desert in southern Israel., December 21, 2020. (Sue Surkes/Times of Israel)

That these divine-smelling flowers can bloom out of rock is thanks to the way in which rainwater runoff has carved hollows into the limestone, which have been filled with soil made from eroded rock shavings and organic matter.

Israel is home to two subspecies of Narcissus tazetta — one blooms in November and December on the limestone hills, while the other opens in the valleys and the edges of swampland from January to March.

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