Palestinian Wajed Nobani, 29, picks fruits from "the Strawberry Tree", known as "Qayqab", in his village Alluban Asharqiya, in the West Bank city of Nablus, Dec. 1, 2018. The Palestinian strawberry tree is distinguished with its smooth color changing, the fruit of which was described by early travelers as candy, but the tree is now rare to find. (Xinhua/Ayman Nobani)
by Fatima Aruri
NABLUS/RAMALLAH, Dec. 1 (Xinhua) -- The Palestinian strawberry tree is distinguished with its smooth color changing, the fruit of which was described by early travelers as candy, but the tree is now rare to find.
Wajed Nobani, a 29-year-old Palestinian from West Bank's Nablus town of Alluban Asharqiya, who is passionate to explore hiking trails that are barely touched, is seeking ways to save the local strawberry tree from the threat of extinction.
The scientific name of the tree is Arbutu Andrachne, and the common name is maple. There are over 120 types of it and the type that grows in Palestine is known as the strawberry tree.
The tree was once part of the local mythology due to its height, wide truck and sweet tasting berries.
Nobani's search into the wilderness has taught him that this unique tree is of special significance to locals and is about to go extinct, mostly due to the expansion of real estate at the expense of nature.
"The strawberry tree, known as Qayqab, is a beautiful tree which has been used since old times for many things from its leaves, branches and fruit," he said.
"For example, its fruit is sweet and healthy and was used to make one of the finest kinds of jam, but today, people have abandoned it, apparently forgetting about the tree in general," added Nobani.
"The tree is going extinct mainly because there is more interest in construction and real estate. People want to build shops and buildings," he said.
Nobani explained that the tree is found in his village since it is in the wilderness and a rough terrain where the construction has not yet reached.
The strawberry tree grows up to 12 meters high, and its fruit is small red berries that are picked at the end of year.
Both the fruit and the leaves are often dried by farmers, explains Nobani, to be used in home remedy recipes, believed to have medicinal value.
Raya Ziadeh, an environmental activist based in Ramallah, noted that "the strawberry tree, or the Palestinian maple tree, is one of those trees that we have to save in order to protect the biodiversity."
"The biodiversity is not only about the plants, it's also about the identity and culture of the Palestinians," she added.
"If we go back to old times when the farmers go to harvest olive, they eat fruit of strawberry tree which gave them energy during the harvest season," said Ziadeh.
"I think each tree in Palestine has a story and the Qayqab, or the strawberry tree, has its own story also," she concluded.
In the wide areas of the West Bank, hundreds of trees and plants grow, composing a significant biodiverse ecosystem, but observers say it is being eaten up due to two main reasons.
The first is the expanding Israeli settlements and the second is the lack of areas available for Palestinian natural growth, which lead to constructions in agricultural lands.
Under the interim Oslo Accord signed between the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and the Israeli government in 1993, the West Bank was divided to three areas.
The areas (A) are under Palestinian control, (B) are under Palestinian control and Israeli security control, while areas (C) are under full Israeli control, taking up over 60 percent of its 5,655 square kilometers area.