Flora & Flowers of Jordan
SPEAKER: Dawud Al-Eisawi, Joan Weeks, Nawal Kawar
EVENT DATE: 2015/07/30
RUNNING TIME: 59 minutes
TRANSCRIPT: View Transcript (link will open in a new window)
Dawud Al-Eisawi discusses the flora and flowers of Jordan.
Speaker Biography: Dawud Al-Eisawi is a professor of biology at University of Jordan. He serves as the chair of biodiversity and environmental studies for the Late H.H. Sheikh Zayed Ben Sultan Al-Nahyan, AGU, Kingdom of Bahrain. Al-Eisawi is also a biodiversity and dry ecosystem specialist, writer, TV and radio personality.
>> From the Library of Congress in Washington, DC.
>> Joan Weeks: Well good afternoon ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the African and Middle East Division of the Library of Congress and to the Noontime Lecture Series with today's program on the flora and wildflowers in Jordan, featuring Dr. Dawud Al-Eisawi. I'm Joan Weeks, acting head of the Near East Section and Turkish Specialist. On behalf of all my colleagues and in particular Dr. Mary Jane Deeds, chief of the division, who couldn't be with us today, I'd like to extend a very warm welcome to everyone. Before we get started with today's program we always like to give everyone a brief overview of the division and its resources in the hopes that you will come back and use our collections for your research and this beautiful Reading Room.
The division is comprised of three sections that build and serve the collections to researchers from around the world. We cover 75 countries and more than two dozen languages. The African section includes the countries of all Sub-Sahara Africa. The Hebraic section is responsible Judaica and Hebraic worldwide. And the Near East section covers all of the Arab countries including North Africa, also Turkey, Turkic Central Asia, Iran, Afghanistan, and the Muslims in Western China, Russia, and the Balkans, and the people of the Caucasus. So you can see it's quite a wide range of collections and languages.
And now, without further ado, I'd like to invite Nawal Kawar, our Arab World specialist, to the podium to introduce our speaker. Nawal?
>> Nawal Kawar: Thank you, Joan. And thank you all for coming. It's really a pleasure to introduce to you Professor Dawud Al-Eisawi, who is a Jordanian citizen and at present resides with his family in Amman, Jordan. He was born before 1948 in Java, Palestine. Professor Al-Eisawi graduated from the University of [Inaudible] Burks United Kingdom, in 1977, and obtained his PhD from the Faculty of Science in Plant Sciences. He worked as an assistant professor, associate professor, and professor at the Department of Biological Sciences, University of Jordan, from 1977 to the present time. His fields of interest cover a wide range of biological sciences -- the flora and vegetation of Jordan, the dry ecosystem, biodiversity and conservation, palynology -- which I don't know anything about, allergy -- which I know something about, and aerobiology, medicinal plants, and plant anatomy, among others. Because of his experience, Professor Al-Eisawi held several administrative positions. To mention a few, he was chair of His Excellency Shaihk Zayed Nahyan for Environmental and Biodiversity Studies in the Arabian Gulf University in the Kingdom of Bahrain. Dean of Scientific Research at the University of Applied Sciences in Amman, Jordan. Dean and vice dean of Postgraduate Studies at the University of Jordan. Director of the postgraduate program for Environmental and Planning Studies, University of Jordan. He currently services as the secretary general of both Jordan Biologist and Arab Biologist Union. Professor Al-Eisawi spent sabbatical years conducting research in his field of studies at the University of Reading and Royal Botanic Gardens, KEW, United Kingdom, and the University of Reading and Natural History Museum, Balq'a Applied University in Salt, Jordan. And at present at the Washington University of St. Louis, Missouri and the Missouri Botanical Garden. His knowledge is not limited to teaching, but because of his expertise in the vegetation of Jordan, among others, he represented the Government of Jordan in the Committee of [inaudible] and International Convention of Biodiversity, the Technical Working Group of Biodiversity [inaudible], a UNESCO, Arab Regional Economy Network, AREN. He also participated in many scientific and advisory committees in Jordan and abroad. He also participated in many botanic garden and cement factories pollution in Jordan, Zarga-Ma'een Dead Sea Road, Environment Impact Assessment. Petra rehabilitation study, Royal Society for the Conversation of Nature in Collaboration with the World Bank and the Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation, Medicinal and Herbal Plant in the highlands of Northern Jordan in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture World Bank and Ministry of Planning.
He's a member of the National Environment Strategy Wildlife. Member of the Reserve Committee of the Royal Society for the Conversation of Nature. Member of the National Biodiversity Committee, among many other scientific committees. He has written six books and he brought them to us. Not all of them, right, a few of them. ^IT Wildflowers of Jordan. Vegetation of Jordan. Flowers and Vegetation of Hawar Highlands. ^NO. Howar or Hawar? Hawar. ^IT Kingdom of Bahrain ^NO. Oh, Hawar.
He published more than 140 scientific articles in different publications. To mention a few, "The Vision of the Family." "Orchids, Plants in Jordan," in the British scientific journal ^IT Kew Bulletin ^NO. "Flora of Wadi Araba, the Botanical Journal [inaudible] Switzerland." "Wild, edible plant in Jordan," Scientific Jordan of the Arabian Gulf Association, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. "Airborne Pollen of Jordan," [inaudible] scientific Jordan, Grana, France. "Checklist of Medicine Plants in Jordan," the scientific journal called [inaudible], which called studies in English, in Jordan. "Flora of Holy Meccas," ^IT Saudi Arabia International Journal of Biodiversity and Conservation, USA ^NO.
His awards include His Excellency Prince [inaudible] for Scientific Research offered by the Foreign [inaudible] Office of the United Kingdom, German DEAD Scholarship. He can explain it to you, what does DEAD stand for. The British Council Scholarship, the ONESCO Scholarship, the [inaudible] governmental scholarship, the University of Jordan Scholarships for Research, and the British Council Award.
Without further ado please help me welcome Dr. Al-Eisawi.
[ Applause ]
>> Dawud Al-Eisawi: Ladies and gentlemen, it gives me great pleasure to be among you today. And I hope I'll be able to give you a simple, sort of information about Jordan and the ecosystem prevailing Jordan. I work in Bahrain and I used to travel to Arabian Gulf countries because Arabian Gulf University used to represent that whole Arabian Gulf countries association. Therefore I consider my knowledge is not limited to Jordan because it was easy for me to go to Syria, to Lebanon, and exchange information about biodiversity. I'm sorry if I'm going to use lots of scientific terms but I'll try to reduce that to the maximum limit, and if you don't understand me please stop me and say, "What is this?" I don't mind that.
Jordan is a small country. That total area of Jordan about 90,000 square kilometers. Yet, it is one of [inaudible] countries in the world. Of course, Lebanon is much more, a little bit more than Jordan [inaudible]. The amount of plants in Jordan, there are much more than those present in the United Kingdom, because we have about 25 or 2600 species and there, there are less than 2000 species.
So, area sometimes, it's much limiting factor for the presence of biodiversity. I'm talking here only about plants, but you count in association with plants in biodiverse terms, birds, lizards, reptiles, snakes, you name it, insects. Therefore, I am only specialized in plants and I cannot talk about other things. This is Jordan from the sky. And you can see Jordan, the eastern part, 80% almost of Jordan is a dryland. 10% is Mediterranean and it is constricted to the high rangeland area. And the other 10% is called step land, which is grazing land, or some people they call it different in Latin. So, here we used to have this oasis, Azraq Oasis. Now Azraq Oasis, which I'm going to talk about, it's a dry land because of shortage of water in Jordan. Jordan now is considered the fourth least -- or the third poorest countries in the world in water resources because we have very much limitation. And these are all places -- we used to call them [inaudible], and at home we call them [inaudible]. They use to collect water from rainwater and we used to have pools of water for about five or six months in the year, which was really helpful for the nomadic people and the grazing of animals.
However, what do we know about Jordan? Certain facts. This is of course, all of you know, it's Petra. All the photographs are original ones. I took them myself. I didn't borrow them, whether they are plants are not. Characteristics of the dry desert ecosystem. Usually we have short, rainy, humid season. Then long, hot, dry summer. Whatever you have water in the winter, most of it's going to be evaporated during summertime. Yet we have specialized plants that they germinate, flower, and thrive. They give seeds in the summertime. And this is the amazing thing about such ecosystem which needs lots of studies, not botanically, ecologically, and physiologically, and genetically. Because they can be used to make dry ecosystem cultivated. If you take the genes of the dry ecosystem plants and set them in cultivated plants you can have adapted species that you can eat out of them. Long hours of solar radiation, very hot degrees of temperature, low amount of rainfall. The rainfall from -- in Jordan from zero to 500. Rarely we have 600 millimeters in certain seasons in South and Northern Jordan, around Irbid or [inaudible] area. Limited vegetation cover, which means most of the vegetation rich area is really -- 95% of the population are living in that area. So Jordan is really covered by very few permanent green cover and forest. Highly permeable soil because we have lots of sand soil, so the water does not stay there. In a previous study long time ago I made a map for Jordan where we have four different biogeographic zones. This one is called Mediterranean, surrounded by Irano-Turanian, or the one I said it is step or grazing land, and all of this yellow thing is the desert. And in here we have penetration of the tropical or the Sudanian effect on Jordan. So we have in Wadi Araba and around Wadi Rum, elements of vegetation related to Sudan and Egypt and parts of Saudi Arabia. So, although Jordan is classified as a Mediterranean country, yet we have a penetration of this tropical area in Jordan which really enrich Jordan vegetation elements.
Here you are, rainfall and this graph is called [inaudible] graph. It gives you an idea about the rainfall season and about the cold temperatures and sunny temperatures. If we really take the temperature, January, February, and December, we have the least amount of heat and the maximum amount of rainfall. But this, if I take it, November until April is the maximum amount of rainfall. Often November we don't have a drop of water, and sometimes November we have about 100 or 150 millimeters. So, fluctuations of rainfall is really very critical for that cultivation season, and it's really effecting vegetation and crop production in the country. Sometimes until March we have excellent season, after March no rain, so the whole thing will be busted, especially wheat and other cereal production. So understanding this is really important to understand the ecosystem and the behavior of it.
Now, distribution of major terrestrial biomes. Some of us who are really specialized in this business, there are lots of classifications for the ecosystem and that -- at the university level. This is one of them. Usually desert, as it is here, is found in here and the majority of deserts are found in the Arab world. However, if you go to textbooks of General Biology as given by -- major textbooks are coming from this country. They give you an idea that the desert is similar to the one I saw in some parts of the United States. It is full of cacti. Contrary to that we don't have any cacti plants in most of these deserts. So, our succulent plants are totally different. So the message you receive in Biology textbooks, which I teach for Biology students, is really a misleading in here and there. It's very good for the United States only, but it does not apply for other parts of this universe, especially our area. Therefore, if I go to the least amount of temperature and the least amount -- or highest temperature and least amount of rainfall, the desert is classified here. And as you see, the desert there is denoted by cacti. This is taken from the Biology textbook which is totally misleading idea. However, this is the type of deserts we have. Sandy dunes, or others. And the sandy dunes they have plant fixatives we call them. Sandy dune fixatives, which are really very precious and highly needed to fix these sandy dunes from moving and closing this cloudy system or atmosphere prevailing in the Gulf area and some parts. These are just some parts. So at least in certain areas, if you don't have that you have palm, you don't have any cacti. This photograph is taken from Wadi Araba, from Jordan, and it's not manmade. It is real. It germinates and flowers in the heat, when it is about 40 temperature in September, or end of September, early October. And it is a member of the Narcissus family, and it has a very sweet scent. And it has converted the lifecycle, it flowers in the summer, produces the seeds before winter so they have the chance of the least amount of rainfall to germinate and start their life. If they want to follow the normal spring germination they can never have the chance to drop their seeds, and they can germinate. So, here you are. This is one of [inaudible].
This is part of Wadi Rum. This is our desert, and this one. And this is the camel, which is part of our culture and really uses of this peaceful, important plant, which is being shot every day, of course, in Australia, because they have their reasons, because they are eating lots of crops and they are not eating as meat.
In the Arab world we use the meat. We use the wool, and that even the milk. This is part of the desert in Eastern Jordan. It's part of the lava there. In the east [inaudible] we used to have lots of volcanoes and these are spreading their lava on the surface. The lava sometimes is very thin, when it cracks down it produces gravels. If it is thick it produces bubbles. If it is high up we have mounds of these volcanoes in Eastern Jordan. And all of this white thing is a lichen living there. This dark stone -- in the heat of summer the temperature is about 70 Centigrade, because we have these receivers or water heating by solar energy, and the temperature reaches about 70. So these creatures, in fact, if I look at them, they are always north facing. As a biologist I know why to avoid the solar movement in Jordan from east to west via south. So the northern part is always protected from the radiation of the solar energy. So, if I go to the field I can tell where is my direction. Even if I'm in a forest usually lichens have the stem, they are north facing. So you can find your way there.
Here you are. This desert it's not that bad. If you go there in the spring you'll find it as carpet, beautiful, of different colors. This is a Narcissus. We have Narcissus on the -- I mean Dianthus. Carnation. We have carnation on the Alps, but we still have lots of carnations about five to six wild species in Jordan. One of them is this one. And we have lots of rich, medicinal plants. Like this is called [inaudible]. Achillea, Achillea in Latin words. And this is very important medicinal plants for human, for animals, for birds. If you take some of this and boil it in a tank of chicken [inaudible] you can avoid lots of these bacteria that can do bad things to the chicken.
However, facts about the flora of Jordan. Now, I was working with the flora of Jordan since '72, when I was young graduate. Then I went to UK '74 and finished my PhD in '77. When I came back I produced the first checklist in '82. We had at that time about 2000 species. And lately, in 2013, I produced a new checklist. The number of plants we have is about 26 -- 25 and 50. So five more hundred species have been discovered for the past 30 years during my lifetime. I reported them. I collected them, and they are deposited at the Herbarium at the University of Jordan. So we sized up the number of the flora. And I'm sure in the future, if you go and do more research around the borders, especially at the border of Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Syria, we're going to discover new, and new more species.
Forest types in Jordan. Although Jordan is a desert, but the 10% of the Mediterranean we have four different types of forest. First one is Aleppo pine, second is oak forest, evergreen. Then we have deciduous oak, then we have juniper forest in the south. This is a pine forest, Aleppo pine. Another view between here. Usually pine forests, they live at higher altitude. Then after them we have the evergreen oak forest. And this is one of the scenery in [inaudible]. It's really dense but the amount of forest in Jordan, they do not reach, the natural one's, half percent of the total area. Cultivated, man-made forests and natural, they form only 1% of the whole total area. So, this one shows part of the deciduous forest but very unfortunate most of this land has been used and degraded for orchard production. You can see olives and other plants, and these are sceneries where this forest has been, day after day, destroyed for human [inaudible]. Now, what are these things? These are grazed. Because we don't have enough land, so most of our animals they go to the forest to graze. So they destroy new seedlings and they destroy even older plants. This is typical Mediterranean, but it is non-forest land. All the forest elements have gone. They have been destroyed and de-forested, and this one. Now, look at these mountains, and look at this. We were doing survey for these mountains few years ago to see how rich, how many species do we have, how much of these are medicinal, how much of these are edible. Of course it doesn't ring a bell, but if I go there it is a little bit better. If you are not familiar you can't see this is olive. Yes? We used to have wild forests of olive and some of these olive trees they have been utilized since the Roman days when they were living in our area and this is one of these orchards. Look at the size of this [inaudible]. I have hundreds of these things, which are really empty from inside. Only a shell of wood, and still green up there producing the best quality of olive and oil of olive.
So, Jordan, these are the mountains, as you can see them. This is flowering, which means is it wild [inaudible]. And these are almost empty. They are overlooking the Jordan Valley. Because if you go to the Jordan Valley then it's becoming dryer and dryer until you reach Jordan Valley [inaudible] Wadi Araba, which is about [inaudible] to 50 millimeters [inaudible]. Here you are. This is only one type of plants that they can survive. It's called Rus, a type of sumac in Arabic. And this is part of Southern Jordan in Tafilah, where we have the Juniper Forest. There are small plants, but they are old. When I went to the great valley in this country I found similar juniper forests on the same sandy dune, reddish type of sandy dune, which we have near Petra and in that area in Tafilah. So here you are. Distribution becomes less and less due to human factor. And whenever you look down it is going to be Wadi Araba. This is part of Wadi Araba. It's almost 40 kilometers and before the entrance of Aqaba. And there all of this land becomes, you know, these wild Phoenix trees, which is palm, date palm. And surrounded by lots of highly grazed plants living there and then the acacia elements they start to appear. These are all granite sort of rocks, surrounding Aqaba and southern Jordan. And this is part of our reserves which is called Muja Reserve. I worked on it for two years and we have about five to 600 species that are there, that are protected. And Dana Reserve, where I showed the juniper, we have about 650 species that are really protected by the World Society for the Conservation of Jordan. It's a private NGO and they are doing really excellent job. This is a view of these hills in this reserve overlooking the Dead Sea. And you can see some of these highly dry plants, or drought-resistant plants, and they are succulents. They belong to a genus called Zygophyllum. And parts of this [inaudible] you have this sort of waterfall of [inaudible], it's hot spring.
And there are lots of pools there and we have this beautiful [inaudible] if you want to go and spend some time during December it would be a superb place to visit.
Right, these are some of the varieties a leading to the Dead Sea. You can see the richness of the flora there with these palm plants and other elements such as this. And we have lots of other aspects. This is an oozing out sort of volcano. I've seen something like this, maybe one on the TV in Turkey, and I was thrilled to have this photograph. This element, it's called Maringa [assumed spelling], it's a very important plant medicinally, and they people they produce oil out of the seeds. And they used to feed on it in the past. And still we have lots of orchids, one of them is growing near the Dead Sea and this is one of them.
This is a group of the team, they were helping me to do the survey. And these are parts of the plant. This is called Biarum. It's a new species [inaudible]. I did not give it a name, I only say this is a genus called Biarum, Biarum species, maybe I will call it [inaudible], Jordanica. I'm not sure. And this is a new species I found during that survey. Again, it belongs to the Narcissus -- it's called [inaudible]. The other one is called [inaudible], and the second species which I found during that survey there. And this is a gherkin. You know this is wild cucumber? Yes, we have it wild in the Jordan Valley and the valleys leading to that.
This is [inaudible]. And this is part of Wadi Araba where it shows the tropical vegetation. And the acacia trees similar to those found in Senegal or Sudan, or anything, to show you that we have the tropical vegetation. This is the kind of vegetation we have. Look at these lives. Typical, dry, salt ecosystem. This one is called [inaudible]. Nevertheless this plant is highly grazed by goats -- what do you call them, camels, and produces little fruits that are very sweet. Some people they collect them like berries and they eat them, and some of them the produce jam out of them. And look at this, highly succulent. In Arabic it's called Sama [assumed spelling]. Sama means something very good. In dry seasons this plant preserves in parts of eastern Jordan, at the borders of Saudi Arabia. And in the past they used to collect this plant, produce the seeds after these fruits, and the seeds they have 22% of their contents, protein. And people at the [inaudible] agriculture they worked on it to produce food subsidy for infants, because it's very important. So people in tribes in the past they used to survive on the seeds of this. Again, another species of succulent plants, Zygophyllum. And this is one is called an [inaudible]. In Arabic they call it [inaudible], or [inaudible]. And in the past they used to use this plant in replacement of soap because it has lots of [inaudible] and producing cleaning substance. And I've been told that the old factories in the West Bank [inaudible], they used to collect it from the Eastern Jordan part to use it in replacement of soda for the production of soap. Here you are. Jordan is a small country yet it is very rich in other -- you know what's this? This is saffron.
>> Dawud Al-Eisawi: Yes, crocus. And this is called crocus moabiticus. What does it mean moabiticus? Mountains of Moab. In Jordan, around [inaudible] these things. And carac. And we have -- I had a student who did research on it. We have eight different species. And the saffron quality is much better than crocus setivus, which is cultivated in Spain, Italy, or Persia. Because this, the length of this [inaudible] sometimes reaches 10 to eight centimeters, which is amazing. You can never find this in cultivation. And fortunately we have not yet utilized such important things. And this is another species, its called crocus Kotschyanus. It was reported that the [inaudible] limit of distribution is [inaudible]. I found it near [inaudible] about 20 years ago and it was really a miracle to be found in that area for the whole region. So, these are -- this is the same species. Look at that, styles how beautiful they are. This is a different species, but the styles are not really economically important. This is colchicum. Colchicum, again, we have another group of colchicum and colchicum is very important to produce [inaudible] for [inaudible] research and it's used, the bulbs, for treating the Mediterranean children sort of disease. They take the bulbs. And it is excellent for gout. Yes. So this is -- we have again a group of them. This is remulla [inaudible], and this is [inaudible], it has been used often for the decoration of pillars in Petra and [inaudible] and these things. And this is allium. We have about 30 species, and new species will be recently published in [inaudible] at Missouri Botanical Garden. And these are certain plants living in the crevices of the rocks, as you can see.
Jordan is famous in irises. We have 11 different species, five of them are [inaudible] to Jordan. They don't grow anywhere else. And the size of the flowers, that big. Look at them. How beautiful. Huge. Of course this is Alesia [assumed spelling]. In the Syrian habit area they used to collect these flowers and use them as tea. So our tea is made of many different types of flowers collectively, and you can produce them there. This is plant/animal relationship to see the vectors of these plants. And this is a plant similar to teucrium, but it's different. Again, this is ephedra. They used to produce ephedrine out of it, for heart disease. Now it's not used anymore and I was surprised to find this ladybird, or lady beetle sitting there as vector. And this is medic, you know medicagos, and trifoliums. They're used for grazing animals. This is called medicago eradica, it grows in the desert region and it is very special.
Now, Jordan decided to produce a botanic garden. We don't have one. So we selected -- we've been working on this for 15 years or more. Selected -- this is King [inaudible], and this is part of the forest. Here is about 500 meters, and there is less than 180 meters. And we've been working on this side to be transformed into a botanic garden. It's a beautiful site. And hopefully we'll be able to present all different types of ecosystems on this corner. Why it was selected there? Because of water scarcity and we are able to get some water from this government resource, which is [inaudible].
Now, let's take one or two examples which have no direct effect on gas emission because climate change -- everybody's talking about, and obscure evidences of climate change. I will talk about Azraq. Azraq used to be an oasis. Something [inaudible] people, they used to go there and spend one or two days. And Arabs in the past, especially in the Umayyad Period, they used to come to Jordan [inaudible], and they have palaces, and inside these palaces lots of [inaudible], and dancing, and good life. And the [inaudible] lush with plants and animals. Now, if you go there, very unfortunate, it's barren land, no vegetation, rarely you have any vegetation.
Well, water conflict between human need and agriculture needs. I don't want to say much about this. That flow coming to the Jordan, Azraq Oasis coming from the Syrian borders, from the Arab Mountains, where [inaudible] area is there. About 1800 meters above sea level where they have lots of snow. So this water seeps and comes to the lowest part in the desert, which is Azraq Oasis, about 450 meters in elevation. And there we used to have lots of pools. These pools they've been [inaudible] from Roman ages to Arabs to our present. But very unfortunate, Jordan was forced to pull the water from that area to feed the major populations present in Amman and Irbid. Due to this the whole area has been dried off. Except for one or two pools, we really pump water to survive part of this important ecosystem.
This is Druze Mountains and Azraq is there. And here you are, this is barrier region, which belongs to, and this is the Azraq Castle where Lawrence of Arabia used it during the first and second, wasn't it, Second World War. And the water in springtime used to be hitting here at the margin, and this road was cut off. Because of this, this castle inside they used to have wells. They used to pump directly. Even if they have sage, they don't mind because they can take and extract their water internally. This is the water in 1995. When I used -- I made a survey for this area and this is the size of water, the beauty of this. And these are parts of these pools and fresh water used to be there. Very unfortunate the scenery is like this, and these pools are like that. And look at the depth of the pools. And so, this is really a horrible thing but if you don't have resources you have to use whatever you have.
This is a direct effect of global change? I don't think so. We have direct effect of global change but most of what we are really observing is a man-made effect [inaudible]. Sometimes you can see this climate change when you see trees with their [inaudible] stem is tree. This is not a human. This is typical atmospheric effect and so on. So, let's proceed. This is it. If you have a tree like this and the [inaudible] is dry, this is not a human interference, this is climate change. Because we don't have enough water to go there.
Nevertheless, signs of climate changes, the dry ecosystem. Here you are, past history of vegetation, desert castles. This is one of the castles in the desert. And this is another one. Look at the land around it. It's totally dry. In the past it used to be green, totally green. Now because of the increase of human being and population explosion, we didn't leave any part of this Earth without really utilization. So we -- we used to have few herds of animals. We have counts in millions of these animals. So they have destroyed everything. Imagine that this is really an almond living in the desert. This is an almond. And if you take this, we took it and we cultivated and we grafted the finest qualities of peaches, almonds in it, and it was really perfect, drought-resistant species. Here, this is the flower of the plant. Again, plants worth conservation. Do we have plants worth conservation? Yes. Facts about the richness of the desert ecosystem. I'm talking now a little bit wider about the Arab world. The Arab world has about 2500 -- or thousand species, and this is about 1/10 of the whole universe. [Inaudible] plants, we have quarter of a million, 25 is 10%. So, these they have 10% of universe flora. Most of the species, 10 to 20 of them are medicinal plants. Origin of many important crops, all wheats of the universe they originate from [inaudible], in the Arab world. And still we have it wild in Jordan, in Syria, and other parts of northern Palestine.
This is Petra. The dawn of civilization, use of wild, edible plants. They used to [inaudible] plants, select the varieties for them. I will go a little bit further. This is called the Fertile Crescent, and still it is because the richness of the vegetation. I did not believe that until I'd gone to Syria and visited all of this area and I saw how much really beautiful the varieties there. Fruits and herbs, all what I'm showing you are wild plants. These are almonds. This one grows in Jordan, and this one was taken from Lebanon. This is wild from Lebanon. We have it in Jordan but it is extinct now. But still living in Lebanon at altitude of more than 2000 meters. This is fig. We have two or three different species of wild fig. This is a wild fig taken from the [inaudible] overlooking the Dead Sea. And this is the olive. And if you go to the markets in Jordan you'll be fascinated to see this [inaudible], and lettuce, and you see thyme, and the shallots, and you see there the radish, and [inaudible], and the carrots. Most of these are really wild. This is a wild species. Recently they start to cultivate this thyme, we call it za'atar. If you go to Lebanon, the best breakfast is manoushe, which means a wrap, wrap of za'atar and white cheese and olive oil. Very tasty, amazing. And here you are. This is called salvia, but it's cultivated from the wild and you can really take it and wrap it as [inaudible]. Very delicious thing. It's very common in Jordan and West Bank thing. And [inaudible] and the radish, we have them wild and we collect thee green parts and eat them. This is cyclamen. Yes? Well, what's new about cyclamen? Cyclamen we eat the flower, we eat this, we eat this. We don't eat the corn because it's toxic. You can use it for fishing. If you crush it and throw it in the water you kill lots of fish and you collect them. But at home in Jordan and parts of the West Bank we eat this, the leaves. We take them and [inaudible] them and stuff them with meats and rice and they are a delicacy. Here you are. This is sumac, this is a wild thing. I've seen similar to that in my way from Missouri to Illinois. But I'm not sure if it's the same. And [inaudible], these are wild. This is orchid, holy orchid, poppies, irises, irises, another type of poppy. We've seen this. And this is viola. And this is [inaudible]. This is campanula. And this is linum. All of these -- and this is poppy again. And this is [inaudible]. And this is remulla [inaudible]. And this is lentil. We have three different types of lentils that are wild. Chickpeas is wild. And other legumes. We are famous in legumes plants because of this lamentation of [inaudible] is legumes. So the Aleppo used to have the word center for legumes. I think I can stop here because I can see that all of these are wild, I exceeded my limits as I promised, but I started 10 minutes late.
All of these are wild plants in Jordan. I'm going to stop there because I cannot finish talking to you, and I'll give you some time for questions. Please. These are orchids underneath the pine tree. Thank you.
>> Joan Weeks: [Inaudible] questions? Yes.
>> I actually have four questions.
>> Dawud Al-Eisawi: Sure.
>> The first one is, is climate change causing the desert part of Jordan to expand?
>> Dawud Al-Eisawi: No doubt. Because the shade of frame is becoming less and less. Jordan is experiencing less and less frame. Because of this the dry ecosystem becomes more and more.
>> And second question is, is Jordan doing research into the benefits of [inaudible]?
>> Dawud Al-Eisawi: Oh yes.
[ Inaudible Speaker ]
You'll thank my wife now.
>> Dawud Al-Eisawi: Because she has a student who finished his PhD working on [inaudible].
>> Oh, really?
>> Dawud Al-Eisawi: Yes.
>> Can I ask all four of my questions?
>> Joan Weeks: Yeah, go ahead.
>> Okay. The third one is for the focus with the saffron, do they actually sell the saffron? Is it used or [inaudible]?
>> Dawud Al-Eisawi: We sell it but it is imported from Persia. I would love to have maybe an investment in this product if I have the money for it. It needs some support and usually scientific people are not really the rich ones.
>> And the last question was, you showed a flower, I used to call them [inaudible] plants. It looks like a [inaudible]. Is it related? The one --
>> Dawud Al-Eisawi: Yes. Yeah, it looks very tricky like a lily but it isn't. We're supposed to have on species of lily but we haven't seen it during the past 40 years. Yes, sir?
>> Does the government have any programs for investigating [inaudible]?
>> Dawud Al-Eisawi: Well, they do. The Minister for Agriculture, they have lots of programs, but we did not reach the limit to really invest this [inaudible] ecosystem for our benefit. But I'm --
>> It's very expensive.
>> Dawud Al-Eisawi: It is very expensive but I know lots of colleagues at various parts of the universities that are really interested, and I was part of one of the projects to work on the [inaudible] ecosystem and to utilize certain of these genomes for future use and cultivation.
>> [Inaudible] your answer didn't really address my question. [Inaudible] seawater and removing the salt [inaudible].
>> Dawud Al-Eisawi: Oh yes. Well, this is a very expensive project, again. Jordan --
>> At what level does [inaudible].
>> Dawud Al-Eisawi: Okay. Jordan is thinking of making a canal between Dead Red Sea -- the Red Sea, and Aqaba, and the Dead Sea. And they made all the studies needed but this project needs about $7 billion to be really work. And it is fantastic because it can produce electricity and we can utilize sort of desalination of this water and it can raise the level of the Dead Sea, which is really shrinking day after day, because of the evaporation, and of course, potash production.
>> Joan Weeks: I have a question.
>> Dawud Al-Eisawi: When does the botanic garden going to be starting and who is going to finance it?
>> Dawud Al-Eisawi: Well, we have [inaudible]. She was working --
>> Oh [inaudible].
>> Dawud Al-Eisawi: As the --yes, head of this project, and she wants me to collect some donations, and they are working hard on it. Hopefully within maybe one year or so it will be open for public.
>> Very good.
>> Dawud Al-Eisawi: Yes ma'am?
>> Yes, [inaudible] are you trying any projects to replant some of these extinct [inaudible] the one that's in Lebanon. Is there any effort to [inaudible] Jordan?
>> Dawud Al-Eisawi: Yes. I mean, the [inaudible]?
>> Dawud Al-Eisawi: I think we still have some [inaudible] some [inaudible] has been collected and stored [inaudible] in one of our institutes [inaudible].
>> -- to replant those [inaudible].
>> Dawud Al-Eisawi: The idea, if you replant them they won't survive [Inaudible], because of the temperature and the humidity. Because these in Lebanon, they grow at about 2,000 meters above sea level. But in Jordan we don't have that height. The maximum we have is 1800. But in the past the climate used to be much more humid and cooler.
>> [Inaudible] about the way certain plants survived a long time [inaudible]. Has there been a drastic change over in 2,000 years or [inaudible]?
>> Dawud Al-Eisawi: One of the crocuses I showed, crocus [inaudible], it was first collected from archeology [inaudible]. And the explanation for its presence, that it was [inaudible] and this is a remnant of that. Otherwise we don't have it because it doesn't occur in Syria, for instance. If it is naturally distributed it should come through Turkey to Syria and to our region. But it was, seems to me, imported by man to this civilization. Like the camel, it was taken to Australia by human. Naturally it's not there. Yes?
>> Is there any kind of a rose [inaudible]?
>> Dawud Al-Eisawi: Oh yes, we have one. Rose [inaudible], which is the wild one. And the flower is that big [inaudible], we have five petals. And grows among the forest ecosystem because it needs some humidity. I have beautiful for it. I'm sorry I didn't insert that. I cannot really put whatever I like.
>> Do you have a garden at your home?
>> Dawud Al-Eisawi: We have a little garden, yes. Ask [inaudible] about it. We have a good piece of land now.
>> When I was there I saw many nice gardens in the houses [inaudible].
>> Dawud Al-Eisawi: Both of us -- yeah, both of us are interested in wildlife.
>> Dawud Al-Eisawi: So we leave plants to live as they are because we want to see them as they are. We don't go and buy, say, roses and put them -- we have a few bits and pieces, but we leave the land natural to observe the plants because we are both botanists.
>> Do you plant any medicinal plants?
>> Dawud Al-Eisawi: Oh yes. Jordan is a very rich country. We have 20% of the flora are medicinal. About 500 species.
>> In the tradition [inaudible]?
>> Dawud Al-Eisawi: Yes, still use them. Of course, some of them are much more popular, like sage and Artemisia, [inaudible], achilea, and others. These are much more common than others.
>> [Inaudible] opium products.
>> Dawud Al-Eisawi: Opium.
>> Is that a problem?
>> Dawud Al-Eisawi: No. Luckily, no. So far. We had one or two cases but none of that bad.
>> Joan Weeks: Okay, this has come to an end. Thanks very much. Let's give him --
[ Inaudible Speaker ]
[ Applause ]
>> This has been a presentation of the Library of Congress. Visit us loc.gov.