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Book Review

Bulbs of the Eastern Mediterranean
by Oron Peri

The Alpine Garden Society, 2015, ISBN 978-0-90004-897-5

Reviewed by Ori Fragman-Sapir
Photographs by Oron Peri

Photographs to illustrate the article published in The Mediterranean Garden No 84, April 2016.

At last Oron Peri’s book Bulbs of the Eastern Mediterranean has been published, after long preparation, collaborations and delays. I am happy to say that the “cake” has been properly “baked” in other words, all the delays have simply contributed to this wonderful book.

Bulbs of the Eastern Mediterranean includes more than 400 species with over 600 photographs; it is a good size that will fit into any rucksack or bag; it covers Cyprus, Syria, Lebanon, the Palestinian Territories, Israel and north-east Egypt – an area that is very diverse in climate, altitude and geology and therefore rich in habitats and flora. Some of the regions in this book are accessible and should be visited by Europeans much more often; indeed, I have often wondered why the eastern Mediterranean is neglected compared with the western Mediterranean. However, some of the areas covered by the book are much more remote and inaccessible these days. In this sense the book is a unique treasure documenting these regions, though at the same time admitting that they should be studied more.

Cyclamen persicum autumnale - Galilee Region

Biarum auraniticum

I was excited when I received this book to see all “our” bulbs photographed for the first time, with so much data and pictures that had never been published before. I confess I also felt some trepidation, afraid that I might find plant treatments that I do not agree with or missed plants that had been left out. My worries were almost groundless: the only species missing in this book are the extreme desert plant Erodium arborescens (some will argue whether it is a true bulb, but since Erodium crassifolium is included this plant should have been included as well) and the lesser-known Ophrys umbilicata subsp. beerii.

Androcymbium palaestinum

This impressive book covers all east Mediterranean bulbs fluently with great illustrations. I really loved the way some species have several photographs showing various forms from the field; I almost fainted with delight when I looked at the pictures of Iris edomensis, such a remote and little-known species, appearing here in several striking photographs.

Iris edomensis

Oron has skilfully translated the difficult botanical data appearing in old floras and books into short but accurate descriptions. He has also added so much of his own new and valuable views. I admire his modern treatment of orchids – what an easy, sensible approach in a mess of names and splittings. Oron has successfully included some recently described and little-known species, as well as species that have not yet been described, but will be soon. Perhaps this information is not entirely accurate, but it is practically sensible.

I would have liked to see global distributions in addition to local ones. Also, it would make more sense to split the large Allium genus into groups, as Oron has done with the genus Iris. As for references, only general references were given, while they are missing for individual species, and in some cases it is not clear whether the text is based on the original species description or on Oron’s own knowledge (although this is valuable…). I could argue with Oron about whether the cultivated Iris mesopotanica is a hybrid and different from Iris pallida found wild on Mt Hermon, or whether Tulipa lownei is a distinct variety of the widespread Tulipa humilis, but all this is semantic. The bottom line is that Oron introduces all the bulbs in a simple and clear way. For that I salute him.

Iris nigricans from Jordan

This is not a scientific book, but scientists, horticulturists, conservationists and nature lovers will all benefit from it. It has created a basis on which to discuss the status of so many species, their taxonomical status as well as their conservation status. I can tell you that it will influence the treatment of several species in the red data book on Israel.

All that remains for me to say is come to Israel, the Palestinian Territories and Cyprus. These regions are safe and outstanding in spring time. You should bring with you Oron’s book as your bulb guide and you might even be lucky enough to book a place on one of the few tours he is skilfully guiding himself.

Anemone coronaria

Seeds of Peace
Oron Peri raises seeds for sale in an Israeli/Arab partnership with Mansour Yassin. The list comprises many bulbous plants – rare, desirable and mainly Mediterranean. Contact Oron Peri for the current list; international mail order; no website. The next list will be available in July/August 2016.
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