River in Rehab: Rare Plants Back on Kishon Banks

Friends of botanist Yoav Gertman call him "the clover finder." During a hike on one of the interim days of Passover 1998, he found a group of 3,000 narrowleaf crimson clover (Trifolium angustifolium), after other botanists thought it had disappeared from Israel. After this group was destroyed by the paving of a road, he found another group in the lower Kishon Stream, now undergoing rehabilitation. This is the only place in Israel they can be found.

The rare clover was discovered during an ecological survey the Kishon Stream Authority conducted two weeks ago, along with other rare species, such as catchfly and Lobularia arabica.

Gertman, the chief botanist of the Yagur nurseries and a senior observer for Rotem, the Israel Plant Information Center, says the narrowleaf crimson clover is particularly rare although the Carmel area is considered its cradle, along with wheat and legumes. According to Gertman the clover, an annual that blooms March and April, "penetrates damaged and saline areas where there is no strong vegetation," but disappears due to competition with other plants. Gertman said he was so surprised to find it that he sent samples to three other major botanists who said they, too, thought it was extinct. That year, the narrowleaf crimson clover was crowned "the botanical find of the year."

However, the plant's rare status did not keep the Israel National Roads Company from paving a road to a new neighborhood in the Carmel town of Nesher soon after the clover was found, destroying it. "For this find alone the Kishon should be protected and restored," Gertman says.

"Today this clover is found nowhere else in the country. I understand there are already plans to turn this into a back area of the Haifa Port. We have to fight to save it." Gertman said some of the clover sent to the Hebrew University will serve as a breeding nucleus.

Another rare plant found only in the Kishon is Cardopatium corymbosum.