Crocus & Berry: Autumn Hike to Mt Meron
On a beautiful Saturday morning, Miss Tea and I set on a little hiking adventure up Mt Merton. It's became one of our most favourite parks, providing not only a great relaxing hike up a beautiful mountain, but also many beautiful lookouts, and year-around greenery that provides shade and the temperatures in this mountain (over 1000m elevation) are always cooler. But the best part is, there are almost always rare wildflowers to find there, different ones in each season. This time I was after the big yellow Sternbergia, or how we call it in Hebrew "Egg-Yolk Flower," a crocus-like flower that is only growing in very specific habitats in Israel, and is one of the protected species that attracts pilgrimage of Flower Viewers. That's the Israeli equivalent of the Japanese Hanami, except there are many seasons like this spread all over the country: crocus, iris, forest peonies, and more.
We started the trail with a bouffet of red hawthorne berries - kind powdery-textured and not as fragrant as the yellow ones, but certainly more photogenic.
We walked up the picturesque trail among oaks and arbutus trees, some of them twisted to form living sculptures:
And the arbutus trees bearing the ripest, tastiest, jammy berries imaginable. They are very tannin when unripe; but if you are patient to wait for them o be really soft to the touch (they will feel like a gooey pouch of slightly leathery skin), you're in for a treat. Their inside is almost jelly-like, orange coloured, and I suspect contain a ton of both A and C vitamins. I wish I picked more to make a jam from. But they were so good we ate them as they are.
Cercis silliquastrum is more noticeable in the spring, where its beautiful pink blossoms dot the green mountain with their delicate decoration. Now they provides a touch of citrine and lime fall colours to the mediterranean forest there.
I was really hoping to find those yellow flowers everywhere, but we had no such luck. Instead, many early autumn crocuses, which were there for almost a couple of months now, so lost their novelty by now but looked special with the changing atmosphere and more greens and berries on the ground.
And then came the shocking surprise: a real, living, wild saffron crocus!
I only spotted two or three of them, but the holy triad and aroma of their stamens was unmistakable.
In the end, I found only a single Sternbergia off the beaten track, because once we got to the peak of the mountain we were both too tired to walk an extra hour in the trail to where other hikers told us there would be a big colony of them. But I was content with this one, and decided that in a week or two I will go straight to the peak trail (an easy, circular trail that circumvents the peak and is rather flat in comparison to what we walked that day; and only takes an hour).
So we climbed back, picked a bunch of yellow hawthorne berries (they taste like very fragrant and juicy "Golden Delicious" apples, but more tart and delicious!). And of course, like all of our hikes, we ended up with an outdoors tea party, at the foothill of Mt Meron.
There are two more perfume related plants in this photo below. Can you identify or guess what they are? Leave a comment and enter to win a sampler trio of my Autumn crocus inspired and saffron-infused perfumes, Song of Songs, Razala and Tamya.