Since ancient times, people knew how to utilize the quantities of stone in the lowland for carving out caves with diverse purposes such as dwelling, cisterns, storehouses, olive presses, winepresses, dovecotes and burial. From the large bell-shaped caves, building material was quarried. Another kind of cave, which has become popular with tourists, are caves with secret tunnels. Tradition holds that the warriors of Bar Kochba emerged from these caves to ambush the Roman legions sent to subdue the revolt.
In the open expanses that surround Shahariya Forest, the vegetation that grows is primarily desert brush. The most ubiquitous shrub is the buckthorn, which is known for its tiny leaves, its round berries that turn black and its branches that end with thorny points. Other ubiquitous plants are the Thorny burnet and the common thatching grass, also known as Coolatai grass, a perennial grass originating in East Africa. This plant has flourished between the rocks of the Judean Lowland. One should also note the wild marjoram, also known as hyssop, which is the main ingredient of the famous Middle Eastern spice zaatar, and is also an endangered species and is forbidden to pick.
Many pretty flowers can be seen in the spring, such as anemone, cyclamens, buttercup and more. In the winter, mushrooms can be seen among the trees, mostly pine mushrooms.
Shahariya Forest was planted in the southwestern foothills of the Judean Lowland, an intermediate region in between the Judean Hills and the Coastal Plain. The summits of the region, in the vicinity of Beit Shemesh and Beit Guvrin, reach an altitude of 400 meters above sea level. The hills continue westward, and in the Shahariya area they reach an altitude of 230 meters above sea level.