Israel's fleeting spring is gone, and with the start of summer, the flowering season is almost over -- but not quite. If one looks very carefully, it's possible to find some hidden little plants with flowers that actually choose to bloom in the summertime, when everything else in sight seems to be dried out. Take, for instance, the 'scalped thyme' (Coridothymus capitatus), which reaches only 40 cm. high, spreading to about 50 cm. One can catch sight -- and scent -- of this plant on practically every hiking path in Ramat Hanadiv's Nature Park. Its leaves are small and give off a spicy fragrance reminiscent of z'attar, the popular spice combination that's often sprinkled on Israeli pita bread and salads. Thyme is also known as a healing plant; back in the twelfth century, the Jewish doctor and scholar, the Rambam, described it as having properties that could purify the body.
What makes a plant flower in Israel in the unpromising month of June -- when the landscape is already sere, most vegetation has long since stopped flowering, and some plants have already dropped their seeds? If one bends down to take a close look at the thyme, the answer can be found in its modest blossoms. Now of all times, when there are few other flowers around and nature's supply of nectar is running low, pollinators mark these little flowers as a source of food, despite the relatively sparse quantity of nectar that they offer. Thus the humble thyme takes advantage of the season when it has no competition in the field, and it provides crucial nourishment to bees during the summer when there is little else for them to eat. In some parts of Israel, this thyme continues blooming right until the start of autumn.
Hikers are welcome on the Nature Path. It may take a bit of effort to find this tiny plant, but an unwitting rambler can discover its location by treading on it: the sharp fragrance that suddenly fills the air gives away the thyme's location. Take a look at the photos and see whether you can get a glimpse of the small flower with the big name when you're out on the trail.