Wild Mustard ~ Jahag

During the recent Christmas holidays, I spent a day with my family on a desert safari near Wadi Arada. This area has already been blessed by winter rains, so I was thrilled to see some of my favorite plants already sprouting – and in bloom!

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This is a type of wall-rocket (Diplotaxi acris), a wild mustard in the cabbage family, called jahag or yahag by the Bedouin. It is one of the species that appears shortly after seasonal rains in desert plains.

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It is an annual plant with alternate, serrated-edged leaves that grow out from the base in a rosette formation. The leaves are juicy and peppery-flavored and make a tasty addition to a fresh salad. Of course, the goats, sheep, and camels like to graze these greens as well.

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The four-petaled flowers, also edible, are white to pinkish-purplish in color. There is a related species in Sinai, Diplotaxi harra, that has yellow flowers.

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Have you ever seen jahag on your desert adventures? Have you ever tasted it?

To learn more about the flora of South Sinai, check out my book, Wandering through Wadis.

Amicta Bagworm Moth

One of the most fascinating things that I have come across while wandering through wadis is the case of the Amicta Bagworm Moth (Amicta quadrangularis).

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The first time I spotted one, there were several hanging on stems of a White Broom (Retama raetam) plant in Wadi Arada. I had absolutely no idea what I was looking at. I was simply amazed by the precision of the architecture! Thanks to members of Project Noah and my own further research, I was able to identify the creature behind this masterpiece – a bagworm moth.

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Bagworm moths, a name given to those in the Psychidae family, go through a 4-stage metamorphosis typical of moths, from egg to larva (caterpillar) to pupa (cocoon) to adult. As soon as the egg of a bagworm moth hatches, however, the larva begins to build a protective case to hide in. The “bag” or case is constructed out of silk and items found in the environment – sand, soil, and plant material. As it grows, the caterpillar continues to add material to the front of their case. The hungry caterpillar extends its head and thorax through the opening at the front in order to eat leaves. There is an opening at the back through which it excretes waste. And the caterpillar moves around, carrying its case with it.

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When the caterpillar is ready to pupate, it attaches the case to a rock, tree, or fence. As adults, the female Amicta moth does not have wings and she does not leave the case. The male moths will come to her. She lays her eggs in her case and then dies.

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Each species of bagworm moth creates a unique case, specific to its own species. The cases, therefore, are often very useful when trying to identify these moths. I have never seen, as far as I know, the caterpillars or the moths of this species, but I love the design of their homes! Have you ever spotted these fascinating creations in the wadis?

References:

Bagworm moth – Wikipedia