Poplar trees in Israel's desert regions: Relicts of Roman and Byzantine settlement

Eli Ashkenazi, Yotam Tepper, Rami Zituni, Dafna Langgut, Amots Dafni, Guy Bar-Oz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The Euphrates poplar (Populus euphratica), can be found in the arid regions of the Negev highlands, the Judean desert, and the northern Arava in a number of clustered populations located near permanent water sources. The trees' distribution in the desert regions is not continuous, being disconnected from its major area of distribution along the Jordan River, where its distribution is uninterrupted. It is unclear how and when this disjunctive distribution occurred, and what were the initial ecological conditions for this poplar's original establishment and success. In this article we present a study of the current distribution of these trees within an arid environment, and of their various traditional uses. A strong relationship is demonstrated between the present location of the trees and settlements from the Roman and Byzantine periods (between the 1st century BCE to 7th century CE). Euphrates poplars are abundant today near early Christian monasteries, which could have been the main factor responsible for their present-day distribution.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104574
JournalJournal of Arid Environments
StatePublished - Oct 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement no. 648427 ) and the Israel Science Foundation (340–14).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Elsevier Ltd


  • Cultural landscape
  • Euphrates poplar
  • Judean desert
  • Negev highlands
  • Roman and byzantine periods

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Earth-Surface Processes


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