“I Know a Tree …”

September 8th, 2009

MAKHTESH GADOL, ISRAEL–Shade of any kind is rare in the Negev Desert, especially from trees.  At lunchtime in the field we want very much to be out of the sun, so usually someone suggests a lonely tree they know along a road or up some path.  The favorite tree for many Wooster geologists working in Makhtesh Gadol is the acacia pictured below.  Sure we’ve had to endure the camel flies and other camel offerings, but that shade has been heavenly.

One of the very few trees in Makhtesh Gadol.  This is an acacia.

One of the very few trees in Makhtesh Gadol. This is an acacia.

The acacias in the Negev are critical to animal ecosystems as well as in human ecology.  They are of a species which originated in Africa and migrated north into the Middle East.  They are genetically programmed to produce greenery and flowers during the African  monsoons in the summer.  As a consequence they are the only green and productive plants in the dry Negev summers, sustaining many animals with their leaves, flowers and beans.  The Bedouin Arabs depend on the acacia to feed their livestock during the hot and dry months in Israel and the surrounding countries.  Geologists are grateful for the high spreading branches which make a natural desert umbrella.

Leaves and flowers of the acacia tree shown above (left); beans and their pods on the ground beneath the tree.

Leaves and flowers of the acacia tree shown above (left); beans and their pods on the ground beneath the tree.

4 Responses to ““I Know a Tree …””

  1. Elyssa Krivicichon 09 Sep 2009 at 3:36 pm

    Love this picture!!! :-)

  2. Mark Wilsonon 09 Sep 2009 at 8:45 pm

    Me too. My favorite pic of the trip.

  3. Lynon 13 Sep 2009 at 12:54 am

    Trees are wonderful, wherever they are – but as I now can also attest, they are especially welcome in the desert! The acacias in Arizona provide shade mostly for lizards, but those oaks in the canyons are wonderful. No camels leave offerings, but cows certainly do. You learn to look elsewhere!

  4. […] done fieldwork in the southern USA.  The outcrops are of course very different from my favorite desert locations and oddly similar to those I visited in western Russia last summer.  I’m learning once again […]

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