• Issue: May 1970
  • Designer: H. Wood
  • Plate no.: 283-285
  • Sheet of 15 stamps Tabs: 5
  • Method of printing: Photolithography

Hundreds of the wild plants of Israel bear flowers of distinguishable shape and color and, in the course of time, dozens of them became "picking flowers" - flowers that ended up in a vase on the living room table. The practice of picking wild flowers was not always common among the local population, but some years ago it reached proportions which endangered the very existence of certain species, especially those with the most beautiful flowers. Others were on the verge of extinction: they were already missing from some parts of the country, and were likely to disappear entirely before long. On the initiative of botanists and nature-lovers, following the example of other countries, Israel passed a conservation law. Under its provisions, a few dozen species of wild plants were placed in the category of protected or restricted plants. Wild flowers designated as protected may not be harmed in any way - they may not be uprooted, picked, or sold. Wild flowers designated as restricted may not be sold or uprooted either, but the law allows a small number of them to be picked. It is the Nature Reserves Authority which is entrusted with implementing this law. A concerted educational campaign which was initiated soon after the law was passed has already borne fruit: large sectors of the population, notably children, have become aware of the necessity of preserving wild flowers. Picking has been appreciably reduced, and the country has once again begun to be carpeted with the flowers which are among its most precious natural resources.


In spring, the valleys of lower Galilee and the foot of the Judean hills are often covered with clusters of blue blossoms, sometimes so close together that they form a blue field. The papilionate shape of the blossoms makes their family connections immediately clear - they are papilionate leguminosae.

Of the five wild varieties found in Israel, the mountain lupin is the largest, and has the most striking color. It is an annual that sprouts at the beginning of winter, and is identifiable by its dikoyiiate, hairy leaves. In spring the tall inflorescences push up through the leaves and bloom for several weeks, the blossoms opening in sequence from bottom to top. The flowers then turn into large, hairy pods, each containing a number of flat seeds.

The lupin was known of old (by its contemporary Hebrew name) and is mentioned in the Talmud. The seeds of a related cultivated variety are edible when cooked, after removal from the bitter peel.

Lupin inflorescences used to be picked extensively and sold in flower shops, until there was danger of the species' complete disappearance. For this reason, the lupin was declared a restricted wild flower.

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Swamp Orchid

The swamp orchid was quite common along the edges of the swamps with which Israel once abounded. In early spring, flowering stalks sometimes more than 20 inches high, bearing a mass of purple flowers, would shoot up out of the heavy, wet soil. The plant is dormant during the summer, storing up nourishment for the following year's growth in one of the two bulbs of its root. As the swamps were drained and intensive farming methods adopted, swamp orchids became much rarer, and today they can be seen in only a few places.

The flowers are typical of the orchid family: a single labellum of the perianth is endowed with size and beauty, while the remaining five are also-rans. The flower has a spur and an inferior ovary. A special pollination apparatus causes the two clusters of pollen to adhere to the nectar-seeking insect that will deposit them later in another flower.

Like all orchids, the swamp orchid is a protected wild flower.

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Maria Iris

The most notable of the wild flowers peculiar to Israel alone are a group of irises, with large and very beautiful flowers. These species and a few related ones grow only in the Middle East, along the narrow strip between the Mediterranean and the steppe zones. In Israel, they can be found all the way from the coastal plains through the northern part of the Beersheba valley, along the eastern edge of the hills of Judea and Ephraim, and on up to the Gilboa, eastern Galilee, and the Golan region.

All these irises are perennials; they have rhizomes and are dormant during the summer, their sword-like leaves sprouting at the beginning of winter. In spring, they put forth large, eye-catching blooms, each species with its own shape and color.

The Maria Iris grows in the sands of the northern and northwestern Negev. It has the most delicate flowers and leaves of the entire group; the leaves are grayish, and bent backwards like a scythe. The plant blooms in February and March, each stalk bearing a single purple flower. A few years ago it was not unusual to encounter patches of dozens of these irises, but they would be a rare sight today.

The Maria Iris is a protected wild flower.

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Twenty-Second Independence Day