KKL-JNF's 50 acre Gilat tree nursery in the south is a testing ground for trees from all over the world to see which species are suitable for growing in Israel.

Mexico's Arroyo Sweetwood – Flowers that smell like cinnamon buns

Scientific (Latin) name: Myrospernum sousanum
Common name: Arroyo sweetwood
Country of origin: Mexico
Aliya to Israel: about 15 years ago
KKL-JNF professionals and the scientists who work with them go from time to time on scientific expeditions throughout the world to locate species of trees that will successfully acclimate in Israel's often harsh climate. When Sima Kagan of the Agricultural Research Authority was in the Mexican desert fifteen years ago, she found the Myrospernum sousanum tree, which is commonly known as the Arroyo sweetwood. This is a fragrant, deciduous, understory tree that reaches a height of 4 to 6 meters.

Each spring the tree is covered in white, highly fragrant blossoms that are highly attractive to bees, butterflies and hummingbirds. The white blooms emit a strong scent of allspice or cinnamon. As Gilat Nursery director Pablo Cherkesky said, "When you walk by the tree when it's in full bloom, it literally smells like cinnamon buns." In the fall, the light green, compound leaves turn to gold.
Arroyo sweetwood flower buds. Photo: Tania Susskind
The tree's optimum soil is highly alkaline, but it thrives in almost any type of soil except for sand. One of its main advantages for Israel is that is very drought-resistant, and it thrived in Kibbutz Nir Oz acclimation plots without irrigation. This is not a tree for forests, but rather for urban landscaping, as it's not too tall. Gardeners like to plant it is places where they want to create shade, but don't want to hide nearby buildings or have the trees interfere with electric cables.

Besides providing trees for KKL-JNF's forests, the Gilat Nursery distributes saplings free of charge to local municipalities, army bases, public parks and more. The Arroyo sweetwood is often the perfect choice for such public gardens. Depending on demand, the nursery produces between 1,500 – 3,000 sweetwood tree saplings every year.
Fully grown Arroyo sweetwood. Photo: Tania Susskind