Four Acacia species are native to Israel, alongside several non-native and invasive Australian species. Just across the border in Jordan, another species, Acacia laeta, can be found on the other side of the Dead Sea. Most of its natural distribution area is in the dry savannahs in Africa, south of the Sahara. Acacia laeta has short, extremely sharp, hook-shaped spines, which enable it to create a virtually impassable dense thicket, helping it to avoid herbivory by the large mammals common in the savannas. In Jordan it reaches its northern distribution range in small patches, far from the central range of the species’ population. The first record of the species in our area was in 1891 in the Safi oasis, located south-east of the Dead Sea, but it was not observed again until after the peace agreement between Israel and Jordan in 1995, when it was rediscovered by Shuka Ravek and Prof. Avi Shmida from the Hebrew University. They found a grove in Wadi Hassa, not too far from the original site. In 2008 seeds were collected by Dr Yuval Sapir (director of the TAU Botanical Garden). The seeds were germinated in the Jerusalem Botanical Garden in Givav-Ram and returned to our Botanical Garden as seedlings. One tree was planted in the Oasis plot (Ein Gedi) about a year and a half ago. It has been successfully acclimatized, as evident in its current blooming and fruit-setting. The blooming and the fruit ripening process can be observed at this time. Note the wide and flat pods, which differentiate this tree from other Acacia species in the Middle East.

Photo: Yuval Sapir