Wild Madonna Lily

Lily Trail Map

We went on a floral pilgrimage today, hiking the lovely slopes above Kziv Creek, hunting for non other than the Wild Madonna Lily!

Clarification: The lily is wild, the Madonna is not.

Dramatic Arbutus

Twisted Arbutus AKA Twizzlers Tree



White Mushroom|
White Mushroom

Keren Bartut

Keren Bartut

First Lily Spotting

"Like a lily among the thorns, So is my darling among the maidens." (Song of Songs, 2:2)

The first lily appeared to me after we passed Keren Bartut (the edge of the cliff), almost by change, towering over my head and half eaten by some bugs. I had to climb up a rock to be able to smell it not being very hopeful and pleasantly surprised not only by the scent (which I will talk about in a moment), but also because it had a friend hiding in the bush next to it.  I was so worried that we passed many more on the rocks. But decided to walk on because surely, with my eyes for flowers i would have noticed what I was searching for if it was there. Sometimes you just have to trust yourself this way and not walk back a difficult trail because of self-doubt.

Stairs and Rocks

We walked a bit more on the rocks... Climbing a set of uneven stairs.

And a bit more rocky slopes

Rocky Terrain

And then we spotted this!

Wild Treasure!

A whole colony of Madonna Lilies (Lilium candidum), in plain sight!

A rather large colony, actually, with more lilies hiding between the trees and the bushes just at the edge of the cliff, and beyond it on the steep slopes of the cliff itself... Overlooking the wadi and staring stoically into the horizon.

Madonna Lily

"What is this coming up from the wilderness Like columns of smoke, Perfumed with myrrh and frankincense, With all scented powders of the merchant?" (Song of Songs 3:6)

Although the cultivated plant is popular and widespread, these wild lilies are extremely rare. They grow only on very rocky slopes bordering the Mediterranean forests in Turkey, Lebanon and Israel. In Israel it is found in only three locations. The smell is completely, totally different than what you'd expect from something with the same name. 

Rather than the heady lily scent so strongly associated with Easer and funerals,  the wild lilies smell candy-like and very much like champaca flowers! There is sweetness and spiciness to it, very honeyed, full-bodied and with just a tiny bit of orange blossom and green, spicy yet cool bay leaf quality. 

Wild Madonna Lily

This aromatic hiking expedition was partly a known trail to me, from previous visits to the beautiful Kziv creek; and partly a new one. It seemed shorter on the map and ended up feeling like a long way to find the lilies. The terrain was a bit adventurous too, very rocky and with lots of ups and downs that are very much like life's unpredicted path. But it totally paid off, because along it I found much more than I expected. Here are some photos of other beautiful flowers that are quite rare and bloom at the exact same time as these beautiful lilies. 

Helicrysum Sanguinum

Blood helichrysum (Helichrysum Sanguinium)

Mystery Orchid
Mystery orchid: Tall and gorgeous

Wild Snapdragons & Michauxia campanuloides

Wild Snapdragons &  Michauxia campanuloides

Michauxia campanuloides

Michauxia campanuloides

Wild Snapdragon

Wild snapdragon closeup

Old Oak

Old Oak Tree

Old Varthemia

Old Vartehmia with intensely fruity-smelling leaves 

Fern & Moss

Fern & Moss

Bloody Wedding

Bloody wedding (Oak & Arbutus Trees)

Kziv Creek & Goren Park

Kziv Creek & Goren Park

Climbing the Mountain

Climbing Mt. Daniel

Last Thursday, we were vacationing in the Sunshine Coast, and I decided to climb up Mount Daniel with my daughter. It seemed especially appropriate because this mountain was traditionally used by the Coast Salish people (the region's First Nations) to initiate their young girls into womanhood. Our vacation was all about celebrating my daughter's high school graduation - so this seemed meant to be...

We packed some snacks and water, my handmade mosquito spray, lavender oil for bites and cuts, and started going up the trail. It was supposed to be about 45-60min hike, climbing up to 440m elevation. My daughter is significantly fitter than I am - she never gets tired when we walk the beautiful trails in the parks around us, and there is no shortage of uphill and downhill where we usually walk. She always walks way ahead of her old mamma. I thought she'll enjoy the challenge. I was so wrong. She was still walking ahead of me, but made clearly audible signs of discomfort and discontent with the whole ordeal. Five minutes into the walk I was already worried so I asker her if she wants to go back to the car or walk on and she wanted to go back. She complained about headache and looked kinda pale too... Or maybe I was just imagining this.  I have no idea why, I decided to continue... But insisted that we stop for breaks and drink water and snacks on the way up. And also that she walks behind me (in old mamma pace, that is) rather than lead in her super-girl stride. Things got a little better then, and she was not in as much distress as before.

We kept walking up what turned out to be beautiful but not at all easy trail. Which meant that we couldn't really enjoy the flora and fauna all that much because our gaze was too focused on the trail and what our next step should land on. And the summit is always invisible, which adds to the uncertainty, anxiety, and anticipation. It's really easy to lose the big picture when climbing a mountain, forget why we are even here... Each step, and sometimes breathing itself is so painful and we get too focused on the rhythmic stride and breath-mechanism and feeling the suffering - unable to converse or sing or really pay attention to anything else that makes striding along a path in nature enjoyable on most other occasions... And from a caregiver's point of view, it is much harder to pay attention to my daughter's needs and state of mind if I'm struggling myself. It's so much easier to help others and be mindful of their needs when you are well yourself.

Mushroom Heart

In the end, it took us more than an hour to get up there (we stopped about 4 times to catch our breath). And when we got to the first summit I thought we got lost - because there was non of the view that everyone who told us about this trail raved about... But we enjoyed the grass and moss covered rocks, and the warmth of the sun, and the smell of West Coast Garrigue - the mingling of arbutus, berries, sun-warmed grass, conifer needles and moss-covered rocks. I even found a heart-shaped fungus! We peeled an orange and Tamya drew a little bit and began to feel happy and proud again.


Thankfully, we quickly found our way back to the obscured trail, and less than five minutes later the second summit with the promised view unrolled in front of our eyes. We stopped there for a while, snacking on wild blueberries, drawing and writing in our journals, meditating on the meaning of climbing a mountain and dragging your children into an adventure that perhaps has very little meaning to them... But is important for you. And now after watching this trailer, I'm also seeing the other broader analogies to this very stressful transitional time into adulthood. As a society, we expect our children to fly the coup at 18 (or 20 at the most). We equate "independence" as "success". But what when this is not possible? Where do you draw the lines between what your grown-up child's needs and what you need as a human who's been a caregiver for over 19 years, and mentally should prepare to remain in that role for as long as you live? How do you keep that balance of respecting another person's choices (or even giving them choices), when it is very unclear which understanding they have of major life decisions? Which brings me to - what do we know at all about major life decisions? And what happens when all your mistakes don't just affect yourself, but also your dependant yet grown-up child?

Mt. Daniel, Pender Harbour

All my life I've been told that "What's good for the caregiver is better for the dependant too". This seemed like golden advice when my daughter was still a minor. Somehow, it feels really selfish and icky to take on that responsibility of potentially ruining your most beloved person in the world just because you need to do something for yourself for a change. And then you realize, that like anything in life, decisions are never cut and dry "good" or "bad". That even a "better" decision will always leave you with a huge chunk of gut-wrenching guilt and sadness. And that sometimes you don't really know that you made a mistake until 20 years into it...

Pender Harbour Self Portrait

P.s. You should watch the trailer (or the whole movie) "My Brother is Brave" 


Mint is almost as widespread as mankind itself - with representative species in all continents except Antartica. There are citrus scented mints (Bergamot mint), apple or pineapple scented mint,  and even a chocolate mint (a type of peppermint, really). In her book Fragrant - The Secret Life of Scent, author Mandy Aftel praises mint's homely qualities, and how it can be not only grown everywhere but also used in family recipes books called "Books of Secrets". I have many recipes in my own "Book of Secrets" that incorporate mint in this form or another: my first tea blend, for example, which was inspired by the Charisma perfume and the beautiful herbs that grew on the footsteps of my cottage in the Galil (lemon verbena, spearmint and lemongrass) combined with jasmine green tea are the brew to inspire dreams and happiness. Likewise, a more earthy and rustic brew of cinnamon sticks and wild, medicinal white mint can always be found in my mother's spice shelf, and if you're lucky she'll also have some of her own home-made pickles, which she beautifully serves on a tray with crackers and aged cheese, blanched almonds and whichever other dried fruits or nuts from her pantry. Each home has its own secrets, after all...

What gives mint its refreshing aroma and cooling sensation is a molecule called menthol. In its pure form, menthol has the consistency of white crystals in room temperature. When mixed with all the other elements of peppermint oil the appearance would be liquid. But this winter, temperatures in my studio plummeted, and my peppermint oil (and several others, including ginger lily CO2 and rose otto) have radically crystallized. It certainly is amusing, but makes working with the oils a bit cumbersome in the winter months.

It is interesting to note that menthol from natural origin (that which is found in countless mint varieties), as well as the leaves of pelargonium (AKA geranium) is different than that which is synthetically produced and in used profusely in the flavour industry - in anything from soft beverages, liquors, candy, bubble gum, toothpaste and other medicinal preparations. It is a very subtle difference, but nevertheless noticeable. Natural menthol is the isomer d-menthol, while the synthetic one is l-menthol. There is also a subtle difference that can be detected by discerning noses - it has a more metallic, cold quality than the (natural) d-menthol.

Most mint oils for the flavour industry are rectified in order to remove some of the grassy components, as well as the bitter-tasting component menthone. They are also more stable this way, resulting in a water-free, and colourless liquid (the water content can spoil the oil). Different mints have different molecular contents.
For example: peppermint has mostly menthol (29-48% or even more in some teroir), mention (20-31%), menthyl acetate, menthofuran, limonene, pulegone and cineol.
Spearmint has a significantly different chemical makeup, containing as much as 50-70% L-carvone, which gives it its characteristically warm mint-like character, as well as dihydrocarvone, phellandrene, limonene, mention, menthol, pulegone, cineol, linalool and pinene - which add a sweeter, more refreshing and complex aroma to spearmint. 
Lastly, Japanese mint (AKA Cornmint) has an even higher menthol content (70-95%), menthone (10-20%), pinene, methyl acetate, isomenthone, thujone, phellandrene, piperitone and menthofuran. The menthol is usually removed, because that would make it solid at room temperature!

Peppermint oil is the most versatile and useful of all three for aromatherapy, medicinal and flavour purposes. The oil can be mixed with a fixed oil and then rubbed on the belly to relieve stomach ache, can be added to smelling salts or to lavender and rosemary oils to relieve headache, and also added to cough drops and syrups to soothe sore throat. Spearmint is less potent medicinally, and is used as a milder, gentler substitute for young children. It also has more versatile use in soaps, colognes, sweets and soft drinks etc.

Peppermint (Mentha piperita), one of the most popular of all mints, is in fact a cross between
Spearmint (Mentha spicata) and Watermint (Mentha aquatica), the mint that grows wild on the banks of brooks and creeks in Europe and the Middle East. There are countless hybrids of mint, as the species spontaneously cross-fertilize (something to keep in mind when growing them in your garden - if you are interested in keeping a particular type of mint and maintaining its qualities), creating many new varieties with subtle flavour and aroma differences. 

As far as its limited perfume use goes - I've enjoyed working with peppermint in an eau de cologne formulation to add a distinctively cooling effect; and with spearmint in Charisma - one of my favourite perfumes, where the refreshing coolness of spearmint is contrasted by sensuous jasmine and precious woods. I also used spearmint in a OOAK perfume that was inspired by the quiet afternoon teas with my Moroccan grandmother - alongside rose, anise and almond notes.

When visiting in Israel this month, we spent a blessed day in the wild hiking with my brother, sister in law, her parents and my two nieces. To call it hiking is an overstatement - because we followed the pace of my 3 year old niece, and the trail was a very easy, relaxing one. Which allowed us to fully appreciate the beautiful scenery. Snailing along between the old growth oaks and the flowery meadows was a most relaxing way to spend a Friday afternoon and pay attention to the versatility of flowers in bloom in all colours of the rainbow. 

Towards the end of the day, we stopped at Tzippori creek for a little impromptu outdoors tea party. We picked wild mint that grew along the banks - probably Silver mint (Mentha sylvestris), AKA Horse mint (Mentha longifolia). We brewed a simple tisane, and enjoyed it with fruit and nuts, plus chocolate bars that a generous Bedouin woman who picnicked with her family under the eucalyptus down the stream offered us - perhaps as a prize for the girls for being able to so bravely cross the step-stone bridge. If you've been following SmellyBlog for long enough, you'll know by now that this is not the first time I experience an outdoors tea party with my brother. It's never too much of an ordeal for him to carry in his backpack a small propane burner and a kettle, and brew on the spot wild herbs we find on the way - white mint (Micromeria fructose), sage, or whatnot. Worse case scenario, there is always some black coffee in his backpack to cook a strong cup of Turkish coffee.  

White mint (in Hebrew we call it Zuta Levana, in Arabic it is called Isbat Il Shai - meaning tea herb) can be found in the east Mediterranean countries: Israel, Lebnon, Turkey and the Balkans) is a precious wild herb most valued for its fine aroma as well as its medicinal properties. In folk medicine and herbalism it is used to reduce stomach pain, and also is considered helpful in reducing blood pressure, as well as colds, flu and coughing. It is especially fantastic when combined with cinnamon, for a warming and sweet-tasting tea in the cold winter months. It dries very well, maintaining its delicate flavour very well. It is reminiscent of both spearmint and hyssop in flavour - fresh yet a little warm and spicy as well. The fresh leaves are fantastic when paired with citrusy herbs such as lemongrass and lemon verbena, as well as pelargonium.

Are there any wild mint varieties growing in your area? Or any other wild herbs you an brew as tea on your next hiking trip? 

Hiking with Hall at Steep Ravine (Marin County, California)

Hiking in Marin with Hall Newbegin
On June 6th, I joined Hall Newbegin and a group of 10 interns from Slide Ranch on a wildflower hike at Steep Ravine. Hall picked me up from El Cerrito, and his car smelled strongly of all the wild herbs and needles he picks to scent the Juniper Ridge wildcrafted line of fragrance products. These include cold processed soaps scented with the real juice of plants, sachets made purely of dried plants from the wilderness, incense sticks, cabin sprays, and most recently - Backpacker's Colognes & solid perfumes that were designed to capture the unique scents that stick to your clothes and your memory after a day of hiking in places such as Big Sur, Steep Ravine or the Mojave Desert.

The hike was full of wonderful plants, beautiful scenery, people who are passionate about plants (which I rarely brush by in my urban daily life), and lots of learning, fresh air and we even got to pull out some weeds - invasive species that threaten the unique wild habitat and increase the frequency of forest fires.

So-called sage (a type of artemisia), which is part of the coastal sage scrub.

Cow Parsnip
Cow parsnip, a natural nerve-tonic.

Unusual formation of redwoods (they usually grow straight upwards), unique to the Marin coastal habitat.

We also stopped by the Douglas Fir tree and picked and smelled needles, which we added to the water. They have a pleasant, citrusy aroma, reminiscent of tangerines. So it's no surprise that they were valued by the natives as a source of vitamin C throughout the winter months.

Pissmint (was that really the name?). It smelled musky, warm and a little like patchouli.

Amercian Ginseng
American Ginseng. That's what ColdFX is made of... The leaves smell heavenly! Sort of herbaceously spicy and cucumber-like. Really hard to explain.

Trillium, a type of lily, also called birthroot (used by midwives to assist in labour).

Steep Ravine

Wild Violet Leaves
Wild violet leaves.


Onion-like flower, which we weren't able to identify...

Poison Oak
Beware of the poison oak!

Usnia: Lichen with properties good for treating Athelet's Foot (steep in alcohol to make a tincture). Recognizable by the white threads that appear when stretching out it's "branches". It also smells strangely watery, similar to calone...

Goldenback Fern
Goldenback fern: The yellow powder on the back of these little ferns can create a temporary mehendi. Fun!

Redwood Clover
Redwood clover.

Mountain Meadow with Pearly Everlasting

Top of the hill and view of the ocean.


Pearly Everlasting
Pearly everlasting: Beautiful in and out - this flower has a soft, warm, spicy herbaceous scent, more deliacate than other helicrysums that I've smelled.


Hills with lots of coyote bush.

The only part of the hike that was really steep: a small group of us went down this cliff to the bottom of the creek to uproot an invasive species that takes over the habitat. The rest remained on the top meadow, to get rid of thistles that bring on too many frequent forest fires and chase away the native plants.

View of Slide Ranch educational farm
View of Slide Ranch - an educational farm just by the beach.

Blue Eyed Grass
Blue-Eyed Grass.

Gum thorn
The flowers of Gumweed (Grindelia), a native American thorny plant, have a liquid white, sweet, sticky gum that's used to clear out lung infections.

Cypress near Slide Ranch
Gigantic cypress trees by Slide Ranch. This photo really does not do them any justice.

On the way back, Hall pulls out a bottle of oil infused with desert Chaparal from the Mojave desert and slabs some on my hand, than douses his face with it, contemplating compounding a beard oil out of it. The car fills with the bitter, spicy, smoky, warm and intriguing desert dryness, transporting me to somewhere I've never been to and make me feel as if I'm standing under the starry desert night and brewing a bitter tea on the campfire.

It was an inspiring, adventurous day and the highlights of all the plants from an aromatic point of view were the pearly everlasting and the white gum-producing plant. Next I will tell you about the Steep Ravine perfume and soap that Hall has created as an inspiration from this beautiful trail.

White Spring at Lighthouse Park

I went for a hike today at Lighthouse Park, and stumbled upon some beautiful white flowers, not all of which were fragrant, but all the same beautiful:

The white lilacs were on the way to the park on Beacon Lane. Crisp looking and befitting a bridal bouquet in appearance alone... Their scent is just a tad cleaner and less sweet than the purple lilac.

Within the park, blooming tall shrubs of what looks like a wild pear judging by the flowers and leaves, but is more likely to be Saskatoon (which will turn into not too small-apple shaped berries later in the summer).

Red elderberry's flowers (aka elderflowers) are described in Plants of Coastal British Columbia as "White to creamy, small, with a strong, unpleasant odour; muberous, in a rounded or pyramidical parasol-like cluster". Admittedly, they did not smell all that bad to me... Not any worse than blackcurrants. But my nose is more tolerant than my taste buds, and I'm still not quite sure if I like elderflower cordial or not.

And last but not least, the pristine lily of the valley blooming by the rocks in the lighthouse keeper's garden. A feast to the senses and a pleasant surprise to find them in the forest by the sea!

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