Lehavim to Beer Sheva
4. Grain fields between Lehavim and Beer Sheva
At the beginning of the season in rainy years, wheat and barley fields are planted south of Lehavim. In fields that were not fertilized (Fig. 9.1.16), dark colored projections develop, that look like small hills. These “hills” are nests of harvesting ants that have been mentioned in other places in [usefulplantsh1 our website]. The barley on the left in Fig. 9.1.17 is smaller and lighter than the barley next to it. The large one comes from the dark “hills” in the fields, whereas the small, light one comes from the area among the nests. In uncultivated neighboring areas, [Chrysanthemum coronarium] plants constitute the “hills” (Fig. 9.1.17,right) and the explanation is the same as the one given for the barley “hills”.
An uncultivated field is displayed in Fig. 9.1.18. An anemone field west of Khorvat Pura typifies unfertile soil in that area (Fig. 9.1.19); large plants of C. coronarium, [Silybum marianum], and [Sinapis alba] have developed around the nest. These plants use the fertile soil efficiently and reject their competitors. The loessial soils, south of Lehavim and down to Tsomet HaNegev are ploughed each rainy year for growing grains. Plants resistant to cultivating have a biological advantage. The most prominent one is [Achillea santolina] (Figs. 9.1.21, 9.1.22), a perennial herbaceous plant. Its parts above the ground become dry in summer whereas the underground rhizomes continue to be active at low intensity. When cut by the plow, the rhizomes do not die, and sprout again in winter. The plant community of the weeds in grain fields is named after Achillea santolina. One of the typical companions of A.santolina is [Hyoscyamus reticulatus], a poisonous plant (Figs. 9.1.23, 9.1.24).
5. Beer Sheva hills (precipitation 200 mm)
Most of the area in the precipitation range of 200 mm is affected by human activity. Natural areas are extremely rare. A small part of the hills north of Beer Sheva is left under light disturbance, mainly overgrazing by Bedouin herds. The dominant semi shrub of these hills is [Noaea mucronata] (Figs. 9.1.13, 9.1.14). A large number of [Asphodelus ramosus] tufts (Fig. 9.1.25) accompany the semi shrubs. There are years when A. ramosus seems to be the commonest plant all over the hills. Human interference appears to give this plant a biological advantage, hence it abounds. Additional plants of the shrub-steppes occur here, such as: [Astragalus sanctus] (Fig. 9.1.27, left) and [Salvia lanigera].
Astragalus is a representative of a genus rich in species and has dozens of species in the steppes and desert areas of the Middle East. There are at least eight Astragalus species on the Beer Sheva hills. It is hard to recognize them in dry years, but they flourish in rainy years. A small shrub with soft branches is [Centaurea aegyptiaca] (Fig. 9.1.28). It is called by the Bedouin “mourar” (from the root of mar = bitter) and its soft branches protect it from being cut for fuel. When the sun rises, its tubular florets are ready for the visiting bees. When they touch the projecting anther-tubes the latter shrink and bring up pollen grains ready to become attached to the bee’s body.