The red flowers
77 conversations with nature, Volume 1
What are all these red flowers? How can we differentiate between them?
We meet five species of spring flowers in Israel in April, spread over the plains and the foothills, sometimes creating areas that sting your eyes, and finally are similar to each other, and cause confusion and disappointment to those who are of the opinion that they will never be able to differentiate between one species and another. These words are written in order to encourage them, and here are the said flowers, the anemone of course, the Asian buttercup, the Adonis, the tulip and the poppy.
Before we prove that there is no justification to err in differentiation between one of these flowers and the other – we will acknowledge that one thing is amazingly similar with all of them: all five have a strong red colour, and it is difficult to differentiate between one species and another, just by their colour. However this is where the similarity ends. The first three belong to the buttercup family. As they are the majority we will present them first, one after the other, and state their characteristics.
The red anemone
The red anemone is the earliest of all of them. The basic difference between it and all the rest of them is its petals which are not shiny, but rather velvety. The flower is wide open, contrary to the tulip and poppy, the flowers of which are partly closed. It has no sepals. Under the tulip’s perianth there are three green leaves, which are similar to sepals, however it is easy to see that they are not those; they are not attached to the perianth, and it becomes more distant the more the age of the flower increases. The number of perianth leaves – five and above, for the most part six, at the base of each leaf is a white patch of colour, which is invisible when the flower is young, however increases day to day – in the Negev anemone the patch of colour is small --, in the centre – a black velvety ball, a stigma and around it a crown of stamens. Each flower is alone on its stalk – and this is also true for the poppy and the tulip – the plant has a perennial bulb and feathery leaves.
The Asian buttercup
The Asian buttercup is open alike the anemone however with shiny leaves and its flowers have sepals. There are several flowers on each stalk, the patch of colour in the centre is not visible, as it is completely covered with stamens. The number of sepals – for the most part five, however many flowers have more leaves. The flowering starts with the conclusion of the anemone season and continues until May. The number of flowers on one plant can be several tens. The plant has thick sucking roots in the earth. The leaves are feathery – however different to the anemone.
The Adonis is the only one in the buttercup list herein which is an annual. When it grows in the undergrowth it does not branch out, for the most part, however in open ground is has several stems. The shiny flowers have many petals, ten or more, and they are grouped at the top of the stems. There are several species, for the most part small flowers. Only those from the large species come close to the size of the buttercup flowers.
The tulip belongs to another group – the lily family. There are three red species of this flower in Israel: the mountain tulip, the Sharon tulip and the desert tulip. The flower is partially closed and it has the shape of a cup or jug. The flower is not divided into a calyx and petal, but rather it has only a perianth, with a fixed number of leaves – always six. Opposite each leaf – a large stamen, and in the centre of the flower a gypnoecium erecta , three sided, and three stigma at the top. At the bottom of each perianth there is an elongated black patch of colour, surrounded by a yellow band. Each flower stands alone at the head of the stem and for the most part each plant has only one flower. The tulip is perennial with a brown and hairy tuber, which goes down deeply into the ground up to about thirty cm. Each plant – has two long and slightly curly leaves, and three narrow and smaller leaves growing on the stem of the flower. The flower fights for its life like a pioneer – if not for that nothing would have remained of it a long time ago. The tuber saves it: wrapped in a hairy layer with brown shells it is buried deep in the earth – sometimes it manages to bury itself at a depth of 20-30 cm. In this way it will overcome several years of picking, however if it does not manage to seed from its red and beautiful flowers oh woe to its future. Four or five years pass, since the seeds germinate, until we will see the first flower. During those years the tubers will put out only one leaf each winter, fills the tuber and buries deep in the earth. Only in the fourth or fith year it germinates for the first time with a pair of curly leaves – a sign that it intends to flower that year.
The various types of poppies suffice with four petals, divided into two pairs. One opposite the other. This time we are talking about the petals and not the perianth, as the flower also has two sepals. These fall immediately when they open however one cannot argue that they exist. At the base of each petal there is a black patch of colour, and in the largest species and the most prevalent of the poppy it is surrounded by a white band, The gypnoecium has the shape of a large street lamp, and it is surrounded by a band of black stamens. The flower is an annual. The stem is branched and carries one flower only at the head of each branch., covered with sparse bristles and full of milky juice. The red carpets in the fields and in the open ground at the end of April and beginning of May - is made by the poppy.
So, is it still possible to err? If you are holding a flower in your hand– you have the clear signs to differentiate between one species and another, however also in the field there is no basis for confusion. The five species meet together only occasionally, for the most part only one or two species have control of the area, and anyone can make for himself several “field signs” that will prevent him from erring.
We have not exhausted the red season – we still have the peony, types of poppies and more, however these are not visible to the general public as are the aforementioned flower. So therefore, don’t give up, you can recognize all the five!