A team of international scientists has discovered a new species of garlic in the mountainous fields of Israel. Summer garlic, named because it grows only during the hottest months, has been found throughout the Mount Hermon area.
Dr. Ori Fragman-Sapir, chief scientist at the Jerusalem Botanical Gardens, along with Prof. Salavatore Brullo of the University of Catania and a world expert in wild garlic, uncovered the unknown plant variety while giving a tour in the mountainous area in 2010.
After collecting samples on-site, Brullo took the species back to his lab in Sicily and compared the species to known varieties of garlic worldwide. No matches were made, leading scientists to conclude that the samples represented a previously unknown garlic variety growing on the mountain.
A survey of the Mount Hermon areas also found other concentrations of summer garlic, which appear to thrive in mountainous, open forest areas that have oak trees. Excited by their findings, the duo published its conclusions in the botanical journal Phytotaxa, announcing the new garlic species, one of four unique to Israel alone.
A closer look at the summer garlic by the scientists also revealed some innovative adaptations that have allowed the plant to survive and perhaps avoid discovery for so long.
“The new garlic blooms in the summer, when its leaves are already dry,” Fragman-Sapir explained. “Its flowers are straw-colored and well-camouflaged by the dry flora that typifies the season. That’s how it evades being eaten by animals seeking fresh plants.”
Blooming at a time the other plants are dying off also has a reproductive advantage, Fragman-Sapir added, pointing out that the pollinating insects flock to the garlic because there are no other fresh plants around.
Currently, the new species has been classified as an endangered species since it exists in a limited region in the Israeli mountains, although the scientists said that it is possible that the garlic variety may also exist in mountainous regions of Syria and Lebanon, yet to be discovered.