in post

13 March, 2021


A pleasant Saturday. I set up one of the two irrigation computers for the garden; I don't think we'll be getting much more rain this season. Then I started to repair a bit of water damage in the ceiling, and fixed three of our wobbly kitchen chairs. For want of anything more interesting to write about, here's some information I've been gathering on a thorny plant that grows around here:

Sarcopoterium spinosum (Spiny Burnet)

The open country around here, if it isn't cultivated or wooded, usually reverts to a low chaparalle dominated by Sarcopoterium spinosum; in Hebrew סירה קוצנית, in Arabic نتش بلان .

Image/photo has this to say about it:

Sapoterium spinosum, Arabic ballan, which covers countless acres of bare hillside, was used all over Israel for ovens (Ecclesiastes 7:6) and lime-kilns. Before kindling one of these latter the fellahin gather enormous piles of this plant-carried on their heads in masses much larger than the bearers-around the kiln mouth.


Lytton John Musselman, in his book "Plants of the Bible and the Quran", suggests Sarcopoterium spinosum to be the plant used for the crown of thorns placed on Jesus' head. Sarcopoterium spinosum has thorns up to 4 inches long. It is a flexible plant that would be easy to weave into a crown.

Besides the uses mentioned above, there are many others. It was used for brooms, for filtering water, in the construction of domes and vaults and, paradoxically, the spiny plant can be used in mattresses (due to its springy quality).

In local folk medicine, "the plant is very popular among healers and the roots are used for the treatment of diabetes (major medicinal use!), toothaches, digestive problems, inflammation, and pain." (source)

One of the most quoted medicinal indications is the use of its root bark as a popular cure against diabetes and for dissolving kidney stones. Traditionally it is used as a tranquilizer and a potion prepared from its leaves is said to dispel fears. Green leaves, salted and spiced and soaked in saliva are used to cure eye complaints, and also as a lucky charm. Five pentacyclic triterpenoids were identified in Sarcopoterium spinosum, Tormentic acid is suggested to be the major constituent extract, and to mediate its anti-proliferative activity on several cancer cell lines.


The plant is a distant member of the rose family - in this highly magnified image, a certain resemblance can be seen:


It flowers from February to April, and is beginning to flower now. In the summer, the plant turns brown and looks almost dead.

More on the plant:
Plants of the Bible: Thorny burnet
Sarcopoterium - Wikipedia

Below are some photos I have taken during a walk on the adjacent hilltop. Three or four years ago, the slope of this hill was engulfed by fire: Everything was burned black. But the Sarcopoterium quickly rejuvinated; you would never know there'd been a fire there now. If left to itself, nature might eventually replace the Sarcopoterium with something else; perhaps a low cover of oak and terebinth, as elsewhere in the country; but I haven't seen that happen anywhere in our immediate vicinity.





Links Blog

Israel 'bombed a dozen ships carrying Iranian oil or weapons in past two years' | Israel | The Guardian
"The strikes did not sink any tankers but forced at least two to return to port in Iran, it added."

Friendly Fire review: Israeli warrior Ami Ayalon makes his plea for peace | Israel | The Guardian
“To kill terrorist leaders without addressing the despair of their supporters is a fool’s errand and produces more frustration, more despair, and more terrorism,” Ayalon realized. “The more we ‘win’ such a misbegotten war – the more we debase civil society and democratic norms – the more we turn our society into an Orwellian dystopia in which truth and lies are indistinguishable.”

Denmark under pressure to drop plans to work with Israel on vaccines | Denmark | The Guardian
“It would be a historic mistake for Denmark to cooperate with Israel as long as Israel does not live up to its obligations under international law. Instead, we should demand of Israel to provide the Palestinians with the vaccines, which they have a rightful claim to.”

LG is Cramming Ads Everywhere It Can On its TVs - Slashdot
“We live in an era when smart TVs can automatically recognize what you're watching, and TV makers are building nice ad businesses for themselves with all of the data that gets funneled in.”

Toronto swaps Google-backed, not-so-smart city plans for people-centred vision | Canada | The Guardian
““To bet the farm on technology that redesigns our entire streets and relies on apps and sensors doesn’t really jive with how human beings actually use public spaces – and how they want to live in cities.””