Iris Nazareth – A Famous Israeli Flower

One of the most beautiful flowers in Israel is known locally as the iris Nazareth or Nazareth iris because it grows mainly on the mountains east of Nazareth. It is also native to south Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan, where they also grow on the mountainsides.

Its scientific name is Iris bismarckiana, named after Prince Otto van Bismarck, Chancellor of the German Empire.

Like all other species of iris, the iris Nazareth grown on rhizomes and has slender, sword-shaped leaves and showy flowers. However, its own blooms are comparatively larger than other irises. The color may be pale yellow, creamy-white, or white background, which is covered with reddish-brown, maroon brown, purple, purple-brown, blue-purple, purple, or blue spots, veins, or markings.

The rhizomes of this flowering plant were sent to Germany from Lebanon in 1888. Several studies on this flower were then published, comparing this flower to other iris species. It has been recognized by several bodies, including the Royal Horticultural Society and is listed in the Catalogue of Life and Encyclopedia of Life.

Iris Nazareth’s preferred habitats include rocky mountainside terrains, scrub land, or woodland edges. It can be found on heavy, limestone clays, terra rossa (red soils), chalky rocks, or basalt rocks.

The flower has become rare due to many factors: threats of urbanization, forestry, and animal grazing. Surrounding weeds, and even other irises, pose a threat to its growth. Another factor is the difficulty in growing and cultivating it as an ornamental plant. The iris Nazareth prefers very dry conditions during the summer and thus cannot thrive in temperate regions. It was once grown and cultivated in Naples during the late 19th century, but suffered due to environmental conditions.

flowers in a field

Like many species of iris, the iris Nazareth is poisonous. If accidentally ingested, it can cause stomach pains and vomiting. Even only handling the plant may cause skin irritation.

As said before, the iris Nazareth has become rare. It is currently listed as “endangered” by the IUCN. This is the main reason why this particular species is protected by law in Israel and grown in several nature reserves.

Its splendor and beauty are the reasons that “The Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel” choose the Iris Nazareth as its logo. These pictures were taken on the hill just behind the cemetery of Nazareth Ilit, the Jewish town adjacent to the historical Nazareth.

The Iris Nazareth can be found in the short period around the last two weeks of March and the beginning of April.