Today there are a dizzying variety of wildflowers blooming across Israel, welcoming the months of spring. Fifty years ago some of these plant species were on the verge of extinction. With the help of the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel and the Nature Reserves Authority, the 1965 campaign to publicize the law prohibiting picking wildflowers became one of the most successful in Israel’s history; It changed the public’s behavior through raising awareness, and proliferating environmental education.
The tiny country of Israel is home to an impressive variety of wild plants. Overall, Israel has close to 2,300 species of plants, including many medicinal plants such as wild marigold, sage and Palestinian oak. Dozens of these species are found only in Israel. For comparison’s sake, England, which is six times larger than Israel, has only 1,750 plant species.
According to a study of environmental campaigns in Israel, by the University of Haifa’s Benny Furst:
“The activities of nature protection organizations succeeded in fostering significant structural and cultural change, as they altered ways of thinking, values and collective behavior of a sizable sector in Israeli society. As it pertains to the attitude toward natural environmental resources, the significance of this change is of greater importance in light of the prior situation, in which picking wild plants was the accepted norm, and was not at all conceived as being a criminal offense.”
But Furst believes that this success cannot be maintained in future generations without continuing environmental educational. The results of a survey conducted in 2007, demonstrated that half of Israeli young people said they were in the habit of illegally picking flowers.
Conversely, responses from older adults proved a statistical link between memories of the ‘60s-era campaign and their present-day wildflower-picking practices.
And in recent years, yet another danger to the wildflowers has arisen. Urbanization and construction threaten these species’ natural habitats, such as the wild Iris. According to the “Red Book,” a publication which documents species at risk, nearly one-fifth of plant species in Israel are currently in danger of extinction. Most of these plants grow in in areas where there are extensive development plans, such as in the Sharon region.
Read more about plants in Israel: