When Passover Arrives, Acacias Bloom

Jerusalem acacia tree in full bloomIt’s almost Passover and, in Jerusalem, the acacias are in bloom.
Nearly a year after Moses led the Jewish people out of Egypt during the first Passover, acacia wood would play a prominent role in a momentous event.
Two weeks before the second Passover was to be celebrated, an elaborate, yet portable, sanctuary was completed that would accompany the people during their decades-long desert journey to the Promised Land. This mobile house of God was crafted from acacia wood, as was the ark, which housed the tablets on which the Ten Commandments were inscribed.
The acacia trees used for construction of the sanctuary and the ark were not just any trees. When Jacob went down to Egypt from Canaan, he made a stop in Beersheba, which had been the home of Abraham, his grandfather. Abraham, famous for his hospitality, had planted acacia trees to provide shade for his nomadic guests. Jacob now uprooted these trees for the purpose of transplanting them to Egypt.
Jacob knew his descendants would become slaves in Egypt and the trees were to serve as inspiration during the dark days of exile, reminding the people of Abraham, their illustrious ancestor, each time they looked at the trees. Before he died, Jacob instructed the people to cut down these same trees and carry them out of Egypt when they won their freedom. The acacia hospitality trees of Abraham, in being used for holy structures, would elevate Abraham’s primary mission, which was to spread kindness throughout the world, to the level of divine worship itself.
Acacia trees were created not only to facilitate hospitality and worship of God, but to sustain a variety of creatures, from ants to elephants, as well.
Certain acacia species endemic to East Africa extend remarkable hospitality to ants. These acacia species possess hollowed-out thorns or thorns with swollen, gall-like structures, that provide homes for ants. In addition, these acacias have special leaf glands that exude ant food in the form of nectar. In return, the ants put up fierce resistance to browsing animals such as giraffes and elephants, stinging the insides of their throats and trunks. Yet these animals still nibble, now and then, from the acacias. It is important that they do so since their nibbling stimulates growth of those important foliar nectar glands, without which the ants could not survive.
The name acacia, incidentally, is derived either from a Greek word that means “to sharpen” or from an Egyptian word for “thorn tree.” Most acacias have thorns, although species that originate in Australia, referred to as wattles, are often thornless.
Acacias are available in tree, shrub and ground cover forms. Prostrate acacia (Acacia redolens ‘Low Boy’) is one of the toughest flowering ground covers available. Plants grow 1 foot tall and spread out to a diameter of 15 feet. Make sure to specify ‘Low Boy’ if you ask for them, since the common Acacia redolens species, although sometimes classified as a ground cover and commonly seen in Caltrans freeway landscaping, may grow up to 6 feet tall.
Acacia flowers are typically small, soft golden spheres and can grow on wands, so they look like long, fluffy caterpillars in either yellow or white. They are seen from late winter through spring.
Acacias grown for Southern California gardens are extremely drought tolerant.
Spanish broom
Another yellow-flowered plant visible at this time of year is Spanish broom (Spartium junceum). Although this species is occasionally seen in nurseries, it often appears as a volunteer in people’s gardens and, for that matter, wherever plants are growing throughout Southern California.
Spanish broom flowers are an arresting canary yellow and will remind you of sweet pea (Lathyrus odoratus) blooms; Spanish broom and sweet pea are leguminous cousins. Spanish broom is highly invasive. Its strategy for survival in harsh conditions may be attributed in large part to its lack of foliage. Yes, you will see a few small, rudimentary leaves this time of year, but by the time summer comes all of its leaves will have disappeared.
Lacking leaves, it photosynthesizes by means of prolific green shoots that are much less water-needy than foliage would be.

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