The Ilanot botanical garden in Israel’s Sharon region is a unique woodland that started out in the 1950s as a testing ground for the acclimation of foreign trees. Staff from the Ministry of Agriculture’s forest research division planted around seven hundred different varieties of tree from all over the world in order to examine their degree of suitability to climate conditions in Israel and the possibility of using them in local forests.
In 1986 the investigations came to an end, and the site was abandoned. This unique arboretum and the wonderful trees it contained came under threat. KKL-JNF, however, stepped in and assumed responsibility for the site: now it boasts two and a half kilometers of well-surfaced trails that lead visitors among three hundred different varieties of tree. With the help of donations from Friends of KKL-JNF in the USA, the site has been rendered accessible to people with physical disabilities, and in 2015 it won an award from the Access Israel non-profit organization.
Ilanot Forest, which lies to the east of the botanical garden, offers eucalyptus groves and open areas of red loam (hamra). Soil of this kind provides a habitat for many flower species that bloom in winter and spring, and in mid-February the coastal iris (Iris atropurpurea), one of Israel’s most beautiful flowers, can be found here. In the past Tabor oaks were the most common native tree in the Sharon region. Many of these trees are now under threat from building projects in different parts of Israel, and KKL-JNF has saved many of them by moving them and transplanting them in Ilanot Forest.
Natural areas of red loam have also greatly decreased as a result of construction and infrastructure work, and the Iris Trail offers visitors an opportunity to acquaint themselves with the red loam landscapes of the Sharon.