Need a break from the news? The flowers of the Dead Sea beckon
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Need a break from the news? The flowers of the Dead Sea beckon

Thanks to above-average rainfall this winter, desert wildflowers are strutting their stuff, making the most of the short pollination period before the weather heats up

  • Plants in bloom along Route 90, close to the Ein Gedi kibbutz, February 22, 2019. (Sue Surkes/Times of Israel)
    Plants in bloom along Route 90, close to the Ein Gedi kibbutz, February 22, 2019. (Sue Surkes/Times of Israel)
  • Echium judaeum is an annual plant that belongs to the borage family. Its flowers change from purple to pink as they age, possibly to alert insects that they have already been pollinated and that they should look elsewhere. The hairs on the leaves help to prevent water loss in dry conditions. February 22, 2019. (Sue Surkes/Times of Israel)
    Echium judaeum is an annual plant that belongs to the borage family. Its flowers change from purple to pink as they age, possibly to alert insects that they have already been pollinated and that they should look elsewhere. The hairs on the leaves help to prevent water loss in dry conditions. February 22, 2019. (Sue Surkes/Times of Israel)
  • The remains of a dessicated bush with the Dead Sea behind, near Ein Gedi, February 22, 2019. (Sue Surkes/Times of Israel)
    The remains of a dessicated bush with the Dead Sea behind, near Ein Gedi, February 22, 2019. (Sue Surkes/Times of Israel)
  • Aaronsohnia factorovskyi, an annual plant, is named after botanist and agronomist Aaron Aaronsohn, who is best known for having discovered one of the the wild ancestors of wheat  -- Triticum dicoccum, otherwise known as spelt wheat -- in 1906, in what was then Ottoman Palestine. (Sue Surkes/Times of Israel)
    Aaronsohnia factorovskyi, an annual plant, is named after botanist and agronomist Aaron Aaronsohn, who is best known for having discovered one of the the wild ancestors of wheat -- Triticum dicoccum, otherwise known as spelt wheat -- in 1906, in what was then Ottoman Palestine. (Sue Surkes/Times of Israel)
  • Rumex pictus, an attractive annual plant, is edible but only in very small quantities. It contains a chemical, apparently evolved to deter herbivores, which gives it a tangy taste but which, when consumed in large quantities, can damage the liver and blood vessels.
    Rumex pictus, an attractive annual plant, is edible but only in very small quantities. It contains a chemical, apparently evolved to deter herbivores, which gives it a tangy taste but which, when consumed in large quantities, can damage the liver and blood vessels.
  • Salsola tetrandra is a salt tolerant plant with scaly leaves.
    Salsola tetrandra is a salt tolerant plant with scaly leaves.
  • Atriplex holocarpa, also known as Spongy Orache, is an invasive plant originally brought to Israel as an ornamental plant from Australia. Its fruit is encapsulated in strange, spongy, ball-like structures.
    Atriplex holocarpa, also known as Spongy Orache, is an invasive plant originally brought to Israel as an ornamental plant from Australia. Its fruit is encapsulated in strange, spongy, ball-like structures.
  • General view of road-side plants with the Dead Sea in the background, Ein Gedi, February 22, 2019. (Sue Surkes/Times of Israel)
    General view of road-side plants with the Dead Sea in the background, Ein Gedi, February 22, 2019. (Sue Surkes/Times of Israel)
  • White mustard, a common plant in many parts of Israel. (Sue Surkes/Times of Israel)
    White mustard, a common plant in many parts of Israel. (Sue Surkes/Times of Israel)
  • Trichodesma africana, a desert member of the borage family, is covered in bristles. Look carefully for the beautiful flowers -- the dark centers guide pollinating insects to the nectar and pollen.
    Trichodesma africana, a desert member of the borage family, is covered in bristles. Look carefully for the beautiful flowers -- the dark centers guide pollinating insects to the nectar and pollen.
  • Pulicaria incisa, known more commonly as fleabane, is a member of the daisy family. Its petals are landing pads for insects and the circle within is made up of many individual, tiny, tubular flowers, each one waiting to be pollinated. The plant's seeds can lie dormant until the next year in which there is sufficient rain. (Sue Surkes/Times of Israel)
    Pulicaria incisa, known more commonly as fleabane, is a member of the daisy family. Its petals are landing pads for insects and the circle within is made up of many individual, tiny, tubular flowers, each one waiting to be pollinated. The plant's seeds can lie dormant until the next year in which there is sufficient rain. (Sue Surkes/Times of Israel)
  • Matthiola longipetala, a species of stock which gives off a lovely scent in the evening hours. Ein Gedi area, February 22, 2019. (Sue Surkes/Times of Israel).
    Matthiola longipetala, a species of stock which gives off a lovely scent in the evening hours. Ein Gedi area, February 22, 2019. (Sue Surkes/Times of Israel).
  • Erucaria hispanica, or Spanish pink mustard, is blooming in all its glory by the Dead Sea, February 22, 2019. (Sue Surkes/Times of Israel)
    Erucaria hispanica, or Spanish pink mustard, is blooming in all its glory by the Dead Sea, February 22, 2019. (Sue Surkes/Times of Israel)
  • Abutilon fruticosum is an evergreen  herbaceous perennial member of the mallow family, also know as Flowering Maple. Each flower opens in the afternoon and wilts the following morning.
    Abutilon fruticosum is an evergreen herbaceous perennial member of the mallow family, also know as Flowering Maple. Each flower opens in the afternoon and wilts the following morning.
  • Centaurea pallescens or desert cornflower, is a thorny annual
    Centaurea pallescens or desert cornflower, is a thorny annual

Sick of reading about the elections and the prime minister’s legal entanglements? Want to get away from the rain?

After the Red in the South festival of anemones came to an end Thursday, you might want to head down to the Dead Sea, where it’s warm and the desert wildflowers are in full bloom.

The drive from Jerusalem to the Dead Sea drops down nearly 1,200 meters in altitude, from the hills of the capital to the lowest place on earth and the hottest one in Israel.

Here, in one of the most harshest places on the planet, boiling summers give way to unpredictable winters during which sudden storms can cause devastating flash floods.

Plants in this area have evolved remarkable mechanisms to cope with extreme salinity and drought.

Acacia trees send roots tens of meters down into the earth in search of wet layers. Tamarisk species are able to expel salt through glands on their leaves. Some plants have segmented body parts so that they can drop sections to conserve water or rid themselves of salt. Others carry white hairs on their leaves to limit water loss and refract the sun’s harmful rays.

It’s worth visiting the Ein Gedi Botanical Garden, where many of the plants and trees are in bloom, and then going down to the main Route 90 and crossing the road (very carefully) to the beach side.

Thanks to above-average rainfall this year, the wild plants are strutting their stuff, and you don’t have to go far from the roadside to see them. (Don’t wander far — the area is full of sinkholes.)

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