Caper

Capparis L.

الكبار

Status: Common

Capers are shrubs belonging to the genus Capparis in the caper family (Capparaceae). Three species occur in Palestine: the Jerusalem caper (C. zoharyi), Egyptian caper (C. aegyptia), and Sicilian caper (C. sicula).

These are spiny shrubs with rounded leaves. The flowers are very large, white, opening in late afternoon and wilting in early morning. They secrete abundant nectar which attracts large pollinators active in twilight or darkness - hawk moths and special carpenter bees. Smaller insects such as honey bees and tiny sweat bees are poorer pollinators; these visit the flowers during daylight, as they just open, and the day after, as they wilt.

The fruit resembles a fig; it is fleshy and contains very pungent seeds, and is eaten and dispersed by birds and lizards.

Caper bushes occur throughout Palestine, growing on hard rocks and in various disturbed habitats. The three species exhibit complementing distributions: the Jerusalem caper grows in the mountainous, Mediterranean region; the Egyptian caper in the Jerusalem Wilderness and Dead Sea Valley; and the Sicilian caper in the Jordan Valley.

The Jerusalem and Sicilian capers are semi-shrubs that shed their leaves and winter, and bloom from late spring to autumn. The Egyptian caper has evergreen leaves that develop a bluish waxy coating as they mature, reducing water evaporation; it blooms from winter to summer.

Capers are a traditional condiment in Mediterranean cuisines. The flower buds and young developing fruits of the plant are pickled and used to season various salads, starters and savory dishes. Of the three species growing in Palestine, the Jerusalem caper is most often used.