Tel Goded; Lehavim
2. Tel Goded (precipitation 400 mm)
In the spring, the visitor to the Shefela, some 3 km NE of Bet Govrin, near Tel Goded, arrives at groups of private cars parked on the western side of highway No. 38. As we go south, it is worth observing here, from the botanical point of view, the decreasing number of maquis components. Most of the area of the Ceratonia-[Pistacia lentiscus] here has been taken over by [Rhamnus lycioides] (Fig.9.1.5). This Rhamnus is deciduous in winter in most of the country. However, shrubs situated in relatively moist microhabitats may produce new leaves and flowers at the beginning of spring even before they have shed the older leaves. The area between the shrubs is populated with a wealth of annual plants (Figs. 9.1.6, 9.1.7) that display varying prominence from season to season and from place to place. The Rhamnus shrubs are protected from over-grazing by their thorny stems. The stem in Fig. 1608, left, developed in the spring of last year.
When summer approached, its elongation ceased and a hard thorn formed at its tip. At the beginning of this spring the buds started to sprout, bearing leaves and flowers (Fig, 9.1.8, center). Some of the buds will become stems, which will terminate in a thorn during the summer (Fig. 9.1.8, right). The R. lycioides wood is very hard and according to what I heard from Arab farmers, the wood was used to make the “plow-knife” and pestle and mortar. R. lycioides has an important role among the thorns related to the “Crown of Thorns”. The young age of the thorn of Fig. 9.1.8, right, is indicated by the hair covering the entire stem. During next summer and winter the hairs will fall off.
2.1 Along the road from Bet Govrin to Kiryat Gat
Along the way from Bet Govrin south-westward, the highway traverses areas where the number of R. lycioides shrubs decreases and they become prominent over the background of bathas of [Sarcopoterium spinosum]. Its companions are mostly typical Mediterranean plants. Toward the south, plants typical of the semi-steppe bathas are added. Solitary trees of Ziziphus spina-christi occur in valleys with fertile soil.
3. Semi-steppe bathas near Lehavim (precipitation 300 mm)
South-east of Kiryat Gat the gradual reduction in precipitation is seen through the development of [Sarcopoterium spinosum] bathas (Figs. 9.1.9-9.1.11) accompanied by typical local plants. [Asphodelus ramosus] (Fig. 9.1.10) abounds here and indicates over-grazing and cutting of lignified plants before this area was declared a nature reserve. [Phlomis brachyodon] (Fig. 9.1.12) is endemic to Israel and Jordan and confined to semi-steppe bathas (a relict population that exists among rocks in the [localvegb11 Rahama mountains]).
[Noaea mucronata] (Figs. 9.1.13, 9.1.14) is a semi shrub typical to the shrub-steppes and penetrates up to the margins of the Mediterranean territory. The plant passes the winter drying up the stems that carried flowers and fruits on the short branches (Fig. 9.1.13, left). It blooms in summer, and ripe fruits accompanied by wings develop on thorny stems with minute leaves (Fig. 9.1.13, right). When a rainy winter comes, several buds produce stems with long leaves, 2-5 times longer than the summer leaves (Fig. 9.1.14). The nature reserve of Lehavim is well known for its local dense population of the Autumn-blooming [Sternbergia clusiana]. Their leaves are twisted in a rather unique way (Fig. 9.1.15).