ROYAL BOTANY Text of Speech Delivered for Her Majesty Queen Rania Al-Abdullah on Earth Day 2001 in Amman, Jordan
"I love the title," exclaimed Her Majesty Rania Al-Abdullah, Queen of Jordan, in response to the choice of a title for a book she commissioned me to write. Articulate and charming, she chatted with me in the hallway of the Jordan River Foundation. I was flattered that she appreciated my efforts to describe the plants of her domain and valued the opportunity to work for her on plants I love. The book, Jordan in Bloom-Wildflowers of the Holy Land, was intended by Queen Rania to draw attention to the diverse flora of Jordan and the need for its conservation. She commissioned Dasha Fomicheva, a Russian artist who worked many years for then Prince Abdullah and his wife Rania, to prepare a set of watercolors of native plants. Dasha spent childhood years in Jordan and has a passion for wild flowers.
In addition to the rich array of habitats, Jordan has a comparable wealth of ruins from ancient times-among them Roman amphitheaters, Byzantine mosaics, Crusader castles conquered by Saladin, and Ottoman structures. I wanted the book to reflect these cultural influences in addition to ecology. Because the Kingdom is about 95% Muslim, I selected plants cited in the Qu'ran, the holy book of Islam. The Christian population is small, but their churches comprise the continuance of the very first churches established two millenia ago. Many sites from the Bible are in modern day Jordan, so I included Bible plants. One of my favorites is Anemone coronaria
, perhaps the plant Jesus referred to when he said, "Consider the lilies of the field . . . " Plants in the writings of the great Arab physician-botanist Ibn Sina, Arab poets, and Lawrence of Arabia are also included. With such a feast of plants available, it was difficult to limit the menu.
A few pages from the book follow.
Lytton John Musselman
Mary Payne Hogan Professor of Botany
8 May 2001