Relatively few flowers bloom in Israel in summer due to the lack of rain during this arid season. It is therefore not surprising that most of the species that do bloom are found in damp habitats such as pools, riverbanks and beside swamps, where they have sufficient water. These habitats are crowded and plants compete for space and light. Most of them have complex root systems and grow vigorously.
Some “bold” plants grow among rocks and utilize the small amounts of water that are saturated into the plaster and stone.
As a result of the small number of insects during this season, most of the plants remain wide open and are visited by many insect species.
Few plants are able to grow in walls and among rocks in harsh conditions with no soil and water. It is therefore no wonder that Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish said: “There are three impudent ones: The Jewish people among the nations; the dog among animals; and the rooster among birds. And some also say: Also the goat among small cattle and also the caper bush among trees” (Bavli Beytza 25:2)
The flower buds that are preserved in vinegar or salt are called capers and can be found in any store. This fruit was so significant that it was said: “The Sages taught: There was an incident with a pious man in which a breach was made in the fence around his field, and when he saw it he decided to fence it in. And then he remembered that it was Shabbat. And that pious man refrained from fixing the fence forever because he had thought about fixing it on Shabbat. And a miracle was done for him, and a caper bush grew in the breach, thereby closing it up. And from it and its produce he then received his livelihood and the livelihood of the members of his household (Shabbat 150:72). In other words, the bush was large enough and so full of fruit that it supported an entire family.
The inula grows along river banks and beside swamps, the “silt” that is part of its name in Hebrew attests to its original habitat. The inula also became an invader plant because of human activity and it is prevalent along roads, in garbage heaps and abandoned buildings. Inula seeds are scattered by the wind and the seedlings are less “demanding” than other plant species. They take over habitats that are meager in minerals such as roadsides and quarry waste.
The shoulders of new roads abound with the inula blossoms that appear in late summer, a nearly flowerless season. Natan Yonatan wrote in his poem “Coexistence in a Dream”: Do not eradicate the rare wild plants / the end of the inula erases testimony from roadside history.” With the reappearance of wild plants, and after years of human interference, the inula has disappeared because it cannot compete with other plants which overshadow it and take over the habitat.
In summer, when plants bloom in damp habitats, it is impossible to ignore the bold pink blossoms of the willowherb plant. The many visitors to these flowers agree: butterflies, wild bees and flies that descend upon the nectar and pollinate the plants.
Many gardeners throughout the world embraced the willowherb thanks to its beautiful flowers but it soon became apparent that it is a Trojan horse – a single plant can create tens of thousands of small hairy seeds that are carried by the wind and take over wide areas. This immense invasive capability has turned it into a dubious weed, especially in North America and Australia.