Israeli ecologists find plant thought to be extinct

50 years after it was last seen, the retama caper, is discovered in the Arava.

Israeli ecologists have rediscovered clusters of wild retama caper plants in the Arava region. (Benny Shalmon/Nature and Parks Authority)

Israeli ecologists have rediscovered clusters of wild retama caper plants in the Arava region. (Benny Shalmon/Nature and Parks Authority)

Israel Nature and Parks Authority ecologists recently discovered a rare plant thought to have been extinct for over 50 years. The two nature wards for the Eilat region found a cluster of wild retama caper plants in the Arava region.

Over the years, the Nature and Parks Authority made numerous attempts to rediscover this tropical plant known for its stunning red flowers in the wadis of the Judean Desert.

Last seen in Israel in 1956, ecologists managed to grow the plant in ornamental gardens from seeds brought over from Jordan. That’s why the surprise rediscovery caught the two ecologists off guard when they came upon a cluster of 30 bushes – some as tall as four meters – in the Nahal Hayun area.

One of the ecologists, Dr. Benny Shalmon, rediscovered the Halocnemum strobilaceum in the Arava dunes last year. Botanists had thought it too had become extinct.

In fact, this past year has been full of surprises when it comes to nature in Israel. Scientists returned the Yarkon bleak fish from the brink of extinction. And in February, the Syrian spadefoot toad hopped back into nature books after not being seen in the region for some 25 years.

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About Viva Sarah Press

Viva Sarah Press is an associate editor and writer at ISRAEL21c. She has extensive experience in reporting/editing in the print, online and broadcast fields. She has jumped out of a plane, ducked rockets and been attacked by a baboon all in the name of a good story. Her work has been published by international media outlets including Israel Television, CNN, Reuters, The Jerusalem Post and Time Out.