The Pistacia tree is not the most impressive but is vital to the Mediterranean woodlands’ ecosystem. Don’t expect to find pistachio nuts growing on the local varieties of pistacia trees, called atzei ela in Hebrew.
Like their nut-bearing cousin pistachio trees in other places, especially in Turkey and Iran, these trees are members of Anacardiaceae in Latin. There are three species represented here.
Pistacia Tree Varieties
Most typical is the familiar Pistacia palaestina that grows all over the country. It is one of the small numbers of trees that add color to the Mediterranean woodlands and is known in Hebrew as ela Eretz-yisraelit.
The blossom adds a touch of russet color to groves and forests in the early spring, and the large galls (afatzim) are bright cerulean and remain as large colorful pods on the tree even after the leaves are shed in autumn.
These galls are particularly interesting to dyers of wool who use only natural colors. The galls, formed by the parasite’s invasion, are a source of bright pink, almost red dye and are greatly cherished.
In addition, it is possible to produce turpentine from almost every part of the tree, including its fruit, but this material is usually obtained by making cuts in the bark. In ancient times this tree was the chief local source of turpentine.
Pistacia pollen, at least 75,000 years old, has been discovered and studied.
Less widespread and appearing chiefly in Galilee, the Negev hills, and the Golan, is the Atlantic pistacia (Latin: Pistacia Atlantica; Hebrew: ela Atlantis).
Pistacia Tree Origin
This tree is found throughout the Mediterranean countries and is larger and more impressive than the Palestinian pistacia but less colorful. It has been around for at least 80,000 years and is mentioned in the Scriptures.
The third pistacia tree is often seen as a shrub and is a typical and vital part of the so-called scrub forests of the Middle East.
The familiar Pistacia lenticus (in Hebrew: elat hamastik) is known in English as the gum pistacia tree.
Certain birds also aid in its plant is the abundance of bright red berry clusters that are a favored food of some wild dispersal by dropping undigested seeds in various places.
Two others are a part of this large family but are not true pistacias. The name rhus call them in Latin or og in Hebrew.
Both are shrubs or small trees and are widely distributed throughout Mediterranean woodlands.
They both have larger leaves, thicker foliage than true pistacias, and more discrete blossoms.
Because these trees grow relatively fast and are extremely hardy, they serve as an excellent cover and shade for more delicate members of the Mediterranean woodland ecosystem.
Grow Your Own Pistachio Tree
If you’d like to have your pistachio tree, be aware that they grow best in desert climates but, once established, have proven to be a pretty hardy tree that can live 300 years and withstand winter temperatures and high summer heat.
In the United States, they first succeeded growing them in New Mexico and then began growing flourishing pistachio trees in California.
They like long, hot summers and cannot tolerate humid climates or soil that does not drain properly.
You need a male and female tree to get pistachio trees that produce edible seeds. A pistachio tree or two makes for a lovely addition to your garden.