Ilanot Forest – A Botanical Forest Garden

A tour of the forest is a wonderful experience for nature lovers and an opportunity to get acquainted with foreign, strange and wondrous trees.


Geographic location: Sharon and coastal plains
Access: Special (adapted for the disabled)
Picnic
Active recreation

Identity Card



Photo: Tania Susskind



In the heart of the Sharon region, there is a very special forest, the only one of its kind in Israel. Seven hundred and fifty species of trees grow there side by side, and represent a great assortment of locations all over the world. A tour of the forest is a wonderful experience for nature lovers and an opportunity to get acquainted with foreign, strange and wondrous trees, some of them quite exotic in appearance. Small signposts note the names of most of the trees.

Special sites in the Park: the Iris Trail, which is situated east of the arboretum (flowers bloom from mid-February to mid-March), and, in the arboretum, the Labyrinth and the Casuarina Circle.

• Interactive game: an enchanted forest game for children and youth played by scanning the QR codes on the signposts all over the arboretum with a smartphone.

Facilities: Picinic area, Marked path, Active Recreation, Memorial, Water, Restroom, Accessible site.

Additional sites in the area: Kadima Forest, Kadima Nature Reserve, Poleg Nature Reserve, Alexander River Park, Hadera Forest.

How to get there: Ilanot Forest lies to the east of the old Tel-Aviv – Haifa highway (Highway 4) between Dror Junction and Hasharon Junction (Beit Lid Junction). One can enter the arboretum from the south and from the north.

Open Hours:
The gates of Ilanot Forest are open all days of the week, including Saturdays, and visitors are welcome.

Entrance to the Botanical Garden:
East Gate – Turn right after reaching Ilanot Forest from Highway 4 going north:
Open every day including Fridays, Saturdays, Holiday Eves and Holidays
From 08:00 until sunset (the gate is locked at sunset).

West Gate – Turn left after reaching Ilanot Forest from Highway 4 going north:
This part of Ilanot Forest is open every day of the year.

Restrooms opening hours : from 9:00 to 16:00

Entrance fee

Projects and Partners Worldwide
Ilanot forest was restored and developed thanks to contributions from Friends of KKL-JNF worldwide, including Denmark, Canada and the Jewish Federation of Greater Middlesex County, New Jersey.
 

About the Forest and the Arboretum

In the heart of the Sharon region there is a unique and amazing arboretum, the only one of its kind in Israel. The arboretum, a botanical garden for trees, covers an area of 130 dunams and was founded in the 1950s by the Forest Research Department of the Israel Ministry of Agriculture. The arboretum was a grove for the acclimatization of trees in Israel. Indeed, the foresters of the Ministry of Agriculture did their work, and they gathered more than 700 species of trees from all over the world and planted them in a grove with twenty-five sections, in accordance with the geographical regions from which the trees were collected. The site was appropriately called Ilanot, which in Hebrew means trees.

The arboretum flourished. Scientists checked the species in the grove for their level of suitability as forest species in Israel. The site served as a center for forestry research in Israel, and many important studies were implemented there regarding seed collection, tree pests and other fields related to forestry. The great diversity of tree species in the Ilanot grove drew students from the Faculty of Agriculture in Rehovot as well as high school students, landscape architects and nature lovers from Israel and abroad.

In 1986 the Forest Research Department closed down, and work in Ilanot stopped. The place was abandoned. Some of the trees died because they did not suit the climatic conditions. Others withered due to lack of care. The area became filled with weeds, and the wonderful garden was forgotten.

The Ilanot Visitor's Center

 
 

Read about Ilanot Visitor's center inauguration:

The Restoration of the Arboretum

In 2013 KKL-JNF decided to save the arboretum and undertook its restoration. Restoration works included mapping the trees meticulously, treating the trees that were still alive, planting additional species and installing a computerized irrigation system. At the foot of each tree species represented in the arboretum there is now a sign that identifies it. The sign has a QR code which can be scanned by a smartphone for additional interesting information.

KKL-JNF has paved two and a half kilometers of trails in the Ilanot arboretum. Thanks to a contribution from the Jewish Federation of Middlesex, New Jersey, the arboretum was made accessible for people with physical disabilities. The trails are well paved, and wheelchair and stroller friendly.  Alongside the trails there are benches, where one can sit and contemplate the beautiful trees.

Next to the recreation area, which also has parking, there are accessible picnic tables and information stations that provide brief audio explanations about the arboretum. The restrooms in the renovated visitors' center are also accessible.

Children and youth will also be interested in touring the forest botanical garden. They will be able to find out about the tree species through an interactive game that has QR codes to scan with smartphones for solving riddles.

A Tour on the Main Trail

A tour of the trees in Ilanot Forest is an adventure for nature lovers, a wonderful place for getting acquainted with trees that are foreign, strange and wondrous with a fascinating exotic appearance.

The following are the details of points of interest numbered according to the map of the trail.

The tour begins at the recreation area near the entrance, where we see a small palm tree growing alone near the visitors center:

1 – Cycas revoluta
A kind of dinosaur plant, the Japanese sago palm belongs to a group, most of whose representatives are known to us from fossils from the geological era known as the Permian (250 to 290 million years ago) and later periods. It was one of the first plants to produce seeds in our world and grows wild in southern Japan. In many places in the world, the cycas is cultivated as an ornamental plant. At the entrance, even before the trail crosses the lawn, we see a beautiful variety of acacia trees originating in East Africa.

2 – Eucalyptus melanophloia
In the same place, to the right of the trail, is a tree very odd in appearance. It is hard to imagine anyone associating the silver-leaved ironbark tree with the eucalyptus species, but you can tell by the leaves, which are silvery. The younger leaves are heart shaped, the older ones elliptical like an egg, and their base envelop the stem that holds them. Its special appearance makes this type of eucalyptus ornamental. In Israel it has been planted in the Jordan Valley and in the Western Negev. There were 170 species of eucalyptus planted in Ilanot, and about half of them remain. They can be seen later on in the tour. (There are more than 700 species of eucalyptus trees.)

3 – Ficus glomerata
Proceeding past the lawn, to the left of the trail, is a cluster fig tree that resembles its relative, the sycamore. In Hebrew its name includes the word heaped because its fruits are heaped densely and grow right on the main branches, even on the tree trunk. It is common in India, where its bark is used for a variety of folk medicines. Scientific studies have proven that some parts of the tree, especially the leaves, contain substances that are effective in lowering blood sugar.

Read about Ilanot Visitor's center inauguration:
 
Read about Ilanot forest inauguration:
 

Take a walk at Ilanot forest:

4 – Laurus nobilis
On the other side of the small clearing with benches is a bay laurel tree. This is a typical Mediterranean tree, and in Israel it grows on the Carmel mountain range and in the Galilee, especially in the more humid forests. In Ilanot they have grown to especially great heights.

5 – Pinus pinea
The bay laurel is at the end of the central trail. Turn right at the intersection, towards the east, on the trail that veers left. Nearby you can see an impressive group of stone pine trees, recognizable by their reddish trunks. The stone pine is the tree that produces the tasty pine nuts we all know and love.  The tree grows wild in the Western Mediterranean, but apparently it was already planted during the Roman era in the provinces of the ancient empire for its delectable seeds. Many stone pines have been planted by KKL-JNF in the forests of Judean plains, the Carmel and the Galilee.

6 – Allocasuarina torulosa
Arriving in the Australia section, to the left of the trail, you will see the branches of a rose she-oak forming a pretty screen. Because of this characteristic, the tree is especially useful for the purpose of muting and reducing noise. The tree grows wild on the margins of the rain forests of Australia. Its high quality wood is used for producing fine tools such as knife stands.

7 – Allocasuarina inophloa
By the square nearby is the hairy tree, a name given by visitors to the stringybark she-oak. The tree trunk is covered with something like brown fur, which is split into long strips that look like hairs. One has to marvel when seeing this special tree.

8 – Callitris verrucosa
A little farther, on the right of the trail, is a turpentine pine tree. This Australian conifer has scaly leaves, like the cypress. Adding to the beauty of the tree are its pine cones, which are covered with protrusions. In Australia the pine cones remain closed on the tree for years, and they open only when there is a fire. They then scatter numerous seeds, which sprout easily without much competition from other plants. Gardeners appreciate this tree’s modest needs for water.

9 – Eucalyptus macrocarpa
Arriving at another gateway next to an intersection with four paths, we see one of the superstars of the arboretum, a mottlecah tree. It looks like a shrub and grows wild in the semi-arid regions of Western Australia. The fleshy leaves that recall arrows are covered with fuzz that make them look gray. The main beauty of this plant is its giant red flower, the largest of the eucalyptus species. The flower has innumerable red stamens with yellow tips of pollen. It flowers from mid-October until mid-winter. Understandably, such large flowers will also produce large fruits, which gave the species its name. In Israel this tree has been planted in a few places, among them the localities of the Western Negev, Nir Oz and the Sde Teiman airfield.

A Tour from the Labyrinth Back to the Recreation Area

From the eucalyptus with the big fruit, turning right onto the path to the east, which bears left and passes a stream that flows in the winter season, we will see the labyrinth, a new attraction in the arboretum formed with concentric circles of two kinds of shrubs.

The shorter plants are Rhus glauca, blue kuni-rhus, and the taller ones are Lagerstroemia indica, crepe myrtle, which have colorful flowers in the summer. Both of these species are easy to shape and are therefore suitable for labyrinths.

Across from the labyrinth, several meters to the right of the trail, is the Casuarina Circle, which is a nice place to be alone or to get together with a group of people. These very tall she-oak trees create a circle with a diameter of 8 meters and a very special atmosphere.

10 – Cupressus forbesii
Beyond the labyrinth at the next gateway, to the left of the trail, is a tecate cypress, an American cypress from the deserts of California with peeling bark of a wonderful red hue.
 
11 – Quercus cerris
Right after the cypress, on the right, is a bench shaded by a Turkey oak. It can be recognized by its deciduous leaves and its larges spurts between seasons. A few of these trees grow wild in Israel, in Nahal Arar on Mount Hermon.
 
12 – Acacia xanthophloea
A little farther, to the left of the trail, is a sulphur bark tree, also known as the fever tree. It is an impressive tree with yellow trunk and branches, and the giant thorns of this acacia species reach a length of five centimeters.

 
 
 

Further on is an impressive acacia tree with yellow branches. Its giant thorns are up to 5 centimeters long. The species of the acacia is not named in the signpost, but it is nevertheless worth getting to know.

13 – Prosopis chilensis
The paved trail veers left, and we are again near the labyrinth, which is on our left. Beyond it, to the right of the trail, is a Chilean mesquite tree. Israeli farmers fear the mesquite, because the local species are incomparably tenacious shrubs and plague cultivated fields. In America, however, the mesquite is a proper tree creating landscapes that recall the acacia trees in Israel. They are important there as a sources of food in the arid regions of that continent. The Chilean mesquite is a small tree, which beautifies the arid regions of Chile as its name suggests.
 
14 – Quercus suber
Beyond the mesquite tree the trail passes a wooden footbridge that crosses a small channel. Here it is a good idea to turn right for a moment, on a side path. Next to the arboretum fence, very close to Highway 4, there are two beautiful specimens of the cork oak.  This tree grows wild on the Iberian Peninsula and in southern France. Notice the wonderful bark. It is the source for corks that are used in bottling wine. From here we can find our way back to the recreation area where we began our excursion.