Lebanon is a country located to the east of the Mediterranean Sea. This narrow country is one of the world’s smallest countries, and consists of a small strip of land west of Syria, northwest of Jordan, and north of Israel. Lebanon is a geographic area home to some of the most ancient parts of human civilization. Geographically, this small country is home to some of the oldest settlements recorded in human history. Throughout its history, Lebanon has served as a safe haven for refugees and asylum seekers from many different political,. This mountainous country is full of varied terrain, with regions that include a coastal plain, valleys, and mountain ranges. Among the rugged mountain terrain live numerous plant and animal species. Among these are the national flower of Lebanon: the Lebanon cyclamen. This article will give you an overview of this unique mountain flower.
Lebanon has long been at the epicenter of human culture and commerce, and today remains a unique country of cultural diversity, thriving cities, and unique geography. It is one of the most densely-populated countries in the region and is a hub for trade and cultural development among other Middle Eastern countries, despite being small and extremely narrow.
The Lebanon Mountains (Jabal Lubnan or al-Jibal al-Gharbiya) stretch across most of the country’s length. To the east stand the Anti-Lebanon Mountains, which are on the border of Lebanon and Syria. Between these two mountain ranges is the Beqaa Valley, through which runs the Litani river that flows into the Mediterranean Sea.
Lebanon has a Mediterranean climate defined by a winter season that is mild, cool, and wet, and a summer season that is hot and dry. As you climb higher into the mountains, you will find colder temperatures and areas that see lots of snow during the winter – some of which lasts well into the summer.
Historically, Lebanon was a heavily wooded country. The famous cedars of Lebanon grew in dense forests. However, since ancient times, much of Lebanon’s forests have been destroyed to harvest wood for lumber. Today, about 13% of Lebanon is woodland. However, despite the destruction of the forest environments, Lebanon still has immense biodiversity. With both mountain ranges and coastal plains, Lebanon is host to a wide diversity of plant and animal species. These include some rare animals such as the loggerhead turtle and the imperial eagle. In total, Lebanon is home to more than 4,600 different plant species, of which 2,863 are native to the country. One of these is a plant often proposed to be Lebanon’s national flower: the Lebanon cyclamen. Let’s dive in and learn more about the Lebanon cyclamen now.
What is the Lebanon Cyclamen, the National Flower of Lebanon?
One species proposed to be the national flower of Lebanon is the Lebanon cyclamen, also known by its scientific name Cyclamen libanoticum. The Lebanon cyclamen is a tuberous perennial that produces heart-shaped leaves in shades of green and silver each fall or winter. These leaves have wavy margins and sometimes are variegated with pale green or gray-green patches. By the time these leaves are fully developed, in the late winter or early spring, it is nearly flowering time. Each year, the Lebanon cyclamen blossoms with flowers in the months from February to April. These flowers are typically bright pink and have a spicy or slightly peppery fragrance.
Lebanon cyclamen grow in woodland environments, which experience ample rainfall during the winter rainy season and benefit from humid Mediterranean air. These plants thrive in moist, shady areas under the cover of trees.
What Do Lebanon Cyclamen Flowers Look Like?
The Lebanon cyclamen plant has rounded or heart-shaped green leaves. During late winter into early spring, the plant produces flowers that range in color from bright pink to white with darker pink at the flower’s base. Each flower has five petals, which join together to create an upward crown shape. Petals can range from flat to twisted in shape. These flowers bloom atop thick red or brown stems. These extend straight up from the ground, where the plant’s tuber grows in moist soil in mossy forest areas. You can look for these bright pink flowers in small groupings growing in the wild. There, they grow on the side of hills and in forest areas near mossy rocks and boulders.
In art and media representations, the Lebanon cyclamen is usually represented with the vibrant pink color associated with this popular, potential national flower of Lebanon.
Where Do Lebanon Cyclamen Grow?
Lebanon cyclamen grow in the mountain regions of Lebanon, northeast of the major city and capital of Beirut. There, they are native to the area surrounding the Jabal Moussa mountain and Ibrahim River valley. In the Jabal Moussa Biosphere Reserve, they grow at elevations ranging from 1,100 to 5,500 feet above sea level. The Lebanon cyclamen is one of 26 plant species growing in this area that are endemic to Lebanon.
You can find the Lebanon cyclamen in limestone-rich land with moist areas with lots of shade, dense tree foliage, and ground covered by moss and leaf litter. This plant does well with bright and filtered light but will wilt under direct sunlight. If seeking to cultivate a Lebanon cyclamen at home, keep the plant in cool places with lots of indirect sunlight, and maintain conditions of humidity that can allow the cyclamen to stay moist without becoming too saturated from over-watering.
What is the Cultural Significance of Lebanon’s Cyclamen Flowers?
As a proposed national flower of Lebanon, the Cyclamen libanoticum, is a rare and beautiful endemic plant species in Lebanon. This unique plant is vulnerable to unsustainable agricultural practices, logging that has depleted its woodland habitat, and picking by local people who claim the flower’s beauty for their own.
Though it is geographically and culturally similar to many other countries in the Arab world, Lebanon is unique. Throughout history, Lebanon has been a safe haven for refugees and asylum seekers. Those who have fled home due to political, religious, and ethnic persecution have found safety in Lebanon. This legacy has, in turn, made a significant impact on the country’s culture. Because it is native to Lebanon, the cyclamen has been used in cultural traditions, weddings, and as a symbol of national pride and unity.
For example, after explosions in Beirut on August 4, 2020, which killed over 200 people, artists began selling paintings and art showing the Lebanon cyclamen as a symbol of solidarity and hope.
However, the Lebanon cyclamen is just one among several flowers that have been nominated to gain the official recognition of being Lebanon’s national flower. Some of the others include Iris Sofrana (the Iris of Sawfar); Geranium Libani, the endangered Cyclamen species, Silene makmeliana, and several others. Several of these options, like the Lebanon cyclamen, are considered good candidates because they are endemic to Lebanon. This means they are not found anywhere else, and so are the special plants that Lebanon offers to the world.
As a popular flower within Lebanese culture, the Lebanon cyclamen often appears as a symbol of the country at events, fundraisers, and ceremonies such as weddings.
What Are the Other National Symbols of Lebanon?
The Lebanon cyclamen is just one symbol of Lebanon’s unique cultural history and geography. Some of the other emblems of Lebanon include:
- The national flag of Lebanon consists of two red horizontal stripes that surround one white horizontal stripe.
- The national tree of Lebanon is the Lebanon cedar (Cedrus libaini).
- The national animal of Lebanon is the striped hyena.
Lebanon is a country of diverse cultures, tall mountains, lush valleys, coastal plains, and immense significance historically in trade and geopolitics. The Lebanon cyclamen is just one of the unique plant species found growing within this small country’s borders. There is so much more to learn about this country and its biodiversity!
The photo featured at the top of this post is © iStock.com/Erich Karnberger
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