Writing about his work in the Nursery, James T, one of the current interns, explains how he has approached propagating one of Israel’s rare and endangered plants.
Rheum Palaestinum is on Israel’s ‘Red List’ of Rare and Endangered Plants. It has ornamental potential but doesn’t seem to like it out in the borders of the Garden. Known as the desert rhubarb it is found in 32 sites around the Southern Negev, in the Southern Jordan Mountains and the northern areas of Saudi Arabia. Its preferred habitat is rocky ground, rocks and cliffs and desert rocks, usually above 850 metres and is often found growing with Artemisia sieberi, a companion plant.
This herbaceous perennial has a ground-hugging form compared with relatives grown in Europe with an interesting flower spike which adds to the ornamental potential in the right environment. The issue with using this plant within the Gardens here in Jerusalem is that it struggles in the winters of the city, but also the long tap root it sends out once germinated means it doesn’t like being transplanted. To combat this it is often put into deep pots to allow for the root system to develop correctly.
Taking this into account I have sown the seeds of this plant in two different ways. One using the standard shallow seed trays used in propagating most of the material in the nursery, which will be transplanted into a deep pot or bucket quickly after germination. The other seeds have been sown directly into deep plug trays; ¾ of the plugs filled with a standard mix with osmocote used in the nursery, ¼ is a propagation mix where the seed is placed. It seems to have worked so far – with some good germinations, hopefully meaning when the plant is transplanted into the garden or in a bucket it will have a better developed and less disturbed root system.
I look forward to watching this plant develop in the next couple of months, hopefully my little experiment works. If not, I’ve got the standard method (germinating today) as back up.
Further and more in depth information can be found at http://redlist.parks.org.il/taxa/Rheum%20palaestinum/
I’m James T, the current Friends of JBG sponsored intern in Jerusalem. I write this from underneath a mound of rare and/or endangered seeds given to me to propagate for the Jerusalem Botanical Gardens and other projects around Israel.
It is a fascinating mound, not just because of the variety of plant material to propagate but also because it seems never-ending! This, though, is by no means a complaint, as one thing I have learnt over the last couple of months is that there is always something interesting to be getting on with.
The rare seed stockpile (c) James Toole
Never thought I’d propagate a dandelion! (c) James Toole
My role in the Gardens is a balance of looking after the Rare and Endangered Plants and looking after the plant material in the quarantine area, ready for the Tropical House when the rebuild is complete. Dan A (Australian Intern) gave me a wonderful introduction to the management of this intriguing area – and the legacy of previous intern Hans M. I am still finding notes from him amongst and around the plant material e.g. ‘water this carefully with a watering can’ in the area designated for ferns. Very helpful for someone who has had little practical experience in managing such environments and plant material – I am still worried I may be neglecting certain plants’ needs.
How I felt once left to maintain the Quarantine area on my own! (c) James Toole
Watch out for more news about how James is getting on ….
I am James T, the current Friends of JBG-sponsored intern at the Gardens. I arrived at the beginning of November 2015 for a six-month placement. Within two days of being in the country – and even before I had done any work to earn my keep – Ori (Scientific Director) took me on a botanical tour of the Golan Heights and Mount Hermon.
It was a fascinating experience seeing species such as Crocus pallasii, Colchicum antilibanoticum and Sternbergia colchiciflora as well as many more. The highlight was the carpet of Sternbergia and Colchicums found on the border to Syria within the Golan Heights – flowers, minefields and nearby gun fire a surreal mix.
The rocky outcrop (pictured) was a great habitat for these geophytes protecting them from being uprooted by hungry animals; an issue that the Gardens have with their resident porcupine population, though Sternbergia seem to be fine as they are poisonous to the species.
Sternbergia and colchicum (c) James Toole