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From the Jordan Times weekender
by: Ammar Khammash

Wild lily or Tartar lily

From Madaba, you can drive on the way to Um al Rassas, on the road that starts in front of the Church of the Apostles. You may also drive in the direction of Dheiban- southwards- and at different points exit the Kings Highway eastwards , to arrive on the plateau to the north of Wadi Wala or between Wadi Wala and Wadi al Moujib. Another way to reach this landscape would be from the Desert Highway from the east, exit heading west just after Zeizia, or at a point further south on the Desert Highway with the sign of “Um el Rassas”.

This destination is suitable for half a day; it can be combined with visiting mosaics at many sites around Madaba. You can also explore the wonderful drive down Wadi Wala, towards Wadi Heidan, and continue till Makawir.

No need for 4x4, this destination is suitable for children.

Nowadays the wheat land to the east and south of Madaba would be very attractive. Besides being the best location to find the Black Iris and the wild gladiola, now in bloom, the vast landscape of rolling hills has another very interesting flower, a wild lily, with the interesting scientific name of “ Ixiolirion tartaricum”.

As you drive east from Madaba, on the road to Um el Rassas, the green fields of different grains get gradually dryer and paler the closer you get to the Desert Highway . Vegetation also gets shorter, reflecting the gradation of rainfall. Following this transition, from high rainfalls in the west to low rainfalls in to the east, the color of soil also turns from dark-red, to terracotta, to pale ochre.

In the middle, along a wide strip of the landscape between the Kings' Highway and the Desert Highway , a special flower can be spotted growing on the periphery of wheat fields as well as among the cultivated crop. From a distance the flowers might be mistaken for wild gladiolas, but to a careful eye, these flowers have a different blue, paler, and with less violet.

This plant, called also Tartar Lily, Sky-Blue Mountain Lily, or Siberian Lily, is not very common, it is rarely spotted in locations other than such well-drained wheat and barley fields, in stony grounds, and on the periphery of cultivated land towards the eastern desert. I have noticed that in some springs this flower becomes more abundant and thus more noticeable, in other years you cold hardly find it. It seems that some wild flowers favor a specific rain pattern, or maybe a specific temperature patter. There is also the possibility that such a flowering plant prefers to bloom in abundance every other year, as traditionally people say about olive crops. There are hidden cycles that might set the calendar for plants in a way that we still do not fully know. And there might be the basic randomness that would not guaranty any consistency in the flowering patterns. All of these possibilities only contribute to create refreshing surprises, where every spring season is different; you may hardly mark a location in bloom in one spring and find it the same a year later.

The Tartar Lily is a hardy plant, it can grow to a height of 70 cm, and has branching stem with as many as 8 flowers of the most clean and sharp blue.

The flower itself is 3-4 cm across and has a funnel-like base ending with six petals. Both the fully opened flowers as well as the long buds are of the most elegant forms, and the stem with the rest of the plant has rather small delicate liner lives, that hardly add any green to the flowering stem.

Deep into the soil, this plant has a corm so well protected that it would be impossible to reach unless you dig, such depth might also help this plant to avoid the yearly disruption of plowing.

Along with the other flowering bulbs that are native to Jordan , such plants can contribute to the creation of a national garden based on local species. We may build up a Jordanian drought-resisting, ecologically compatible, landscaping option, one that celebrates our wide variety of native pants, educates our children, and contributes to the spreading of some Jordanian elements to the rest of the world, and at the same time give more opportunities for local jobs.


•  The “Tartar Lily” (Ixiolirion tartaricum) blooms in some spring seasons in good quantities, found in and around wheat fields of peripheral lands east and south of Madaba.

•  This wild flower, native to Jordan , is a hardy plant, it prefers well-drained soil, and it is an excellent drought-resisting species to be part of a national landscaping scheme.

•  The Tartar Lily, growing among the cultivated wheat, might look very similar to Wild Gladiola, also growing in the same habitat and in almost the same time.

•  Flowers of the Tartar Lily are stunningly elegant, with the most clean sharp blue, the leaves are of minimal, linier nature, adding hardly any green to the stem.

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