The problem shrub and thorn growth covers most of the north and central parts of Israel. It is the result of environmental destruction during the Roman and Ottoman Turks occupation of Israel. The Romans spread salt on the ground to decrease food production and the Ottoman Turks cut down the forests for their railroads during World War 1.
This last destruction of Israeli forests created an environmental vacuum that was rapidly filled by fast growing non-native invasive shrubs and thorn bushes. This has created an intractable environmental problem to this day.
From a distance, the Galilean hills look green and beautiful, but on close inspection you would see a 15 foot wall of impenetrable and entangled branches with a thin covering of green leaves at the very top.
The photograph at right is an example of an invasive rangeland shrub after the bark was eaten by a Texas Longhorn. This is how Longhorns control shrub and thorn bush growth.
Below is a list of Israeli problem shrubs and thorn bushes that was provided by Israel’s Agriculture Extension Department.
- Calycotome villosa — Thorny Broom
- Sarcopoterium spinosum — Crown of Thorns (of Jesus Christ)
- Rhamnus palestinus —Palestine Buckthorn
- Cistus spp. — Rock rose
- Spartium junceum — Spanish Broom
- Astragalus — Milk Vetch
The Israeli shrub and thorn bush environmental problem has been documented by:
- Mario Gutman, Z. Henkin, Z. Hotzer and N.G. Seligman (1996) Plant and Animal Responses to Beef Cattle Grazing in a Mediterranean Oak Scrub Forest in Israel.
- Nutritional value of common oak (Quercus calliprinos) browse as fodder for goat: Experimental results in ecological perspective, A. Perevolotsky, A. Brosh, O. Ehrlich, M. Gutman, Z. Henkin and Z. Holzer (1993)
- Herbage production of Mediterranean grassland under seasonal and yearlong grazing systems: Mario Gutman, Noam G. Selgman, and Imanuel Noy-Meir (1990)
- Grazing Management of Mediterranean Foothill Range in the Upper Jordan River Valley: Mario Gutman, Noam G. Selgman (1979)
- Soil phosphorus in a managed Mediterranean woodland ecosystem: herbage response and cattle grazing effects: Z. Henkin, I. Noy-Meir, DU. Kafkafi, N. Selgman, M. Gutman (1994)
- Primary Production of Transitional Mediterranean Steppe: M. Gutman (1978)
- Stocking density of cattle and herbage production on Mediterranean grassland: N. G. Selgman, M. Gutman, Z. Holzer, I. Noy-Meir, and H. Baran (1989)