New Flowers Species Found on Israel-Egypt Border

Unlike the more common Colchicum, the new species, called a “Shimper” Colchicum, is found in only one part of Israel.

The elusive “Shimper” Colchicum flower in the Negev.
Dafna Carmeli

A rare species of flower was recently discovered in the Negev by Israeli botanists.

The flower is of the Colchicum family, a perennial flowering plant found in the Negev. However, unlike the more common Colchicum, the new species, called a “Shimper” Colchicum, is found in Israel only at the location it was discovered.

Prof. Avi Shmida of the Hebrew University and botanists Mimi Ron, Dudik Rivner and Dafna Carmeli visited the location at the Se’ifim plateau, near the Egyptian border, on Saturday. They examined the population of Colchicum flowers in the area, in full bloom right now, which was discovered in 1988 by a teacher from Eilat and was previously considered to consist of the common Colchicum only.

However, on examining the reproductive attributes of the flowers under a magnifying glass the botanists found that dozens of the flowers differed from the common Colchicum in a crucial respect. At the base of the pollen-bearing stamen, where the nectar is concentrated, they expected to find a tooth-like structure meant to deter ants from eating the nectar. That part was missing in many of flowers they looked at. They were looking at the “Shimper” Colchicum, the only Colchicum species lacking the tooth-like structure.

The findings of the botanists will be published shortly in “Calanit,” an online periodical dealing with Israel’s flora.

“This is the only place in Israel where this species grows” says Prof. Shmida. “That makes it an endangered species.” It managed to survive despite a long spell of drought that affected other flowers in the area. Helping it survive is a bulb that remains underground, allowing it to bloom when conditions are right.

Shmida says that the Shimper Colchicum is very rare in Israel, but grows in other desert areas in neighboring countries. “Earlier travelers in the area reported seeing this rare species, but this was the first time we used a magnifying glass to study the flower’s intimate organs," he says.