On a cool misty Sunday afternoon, we chased through the fog a rooster with incredibly long feathers. The fluffy looking animal led us into the vineyard, where amidst fresh lavender and rosemary, we came across a rare flower, the Iris Sofarana.
Iris Sofarana is a native plant from Lebanon, and is an endangered species, that has slowly been disappearing from our mountains likely due to excessive picking and construction. First discovered in Sofar, thus named the Iris of Sofar, by the botanist Hartmann at the end of the 19th century, its beautiful dark purple colour underlined with delicate white stripes is nowadays almost impossible to find.
Sarmad Saliba, who launched the winery Iris Domain, named after the flower, set out to safeguard this piece of Lebanese heritage. He partnered with an agricultural engineer, and they found an Iris Sofarana nestled in Falougha which they multiplied through tissue culture. Among the oak trees, black tulips, wild thyme and little chicks at Iris Domain, the endemic plants now have reclaimed back their roots on their homeland, even blooming early this year. Sarmad who just like his protégée Iris Sofarana, moved back to his village of Btalloun, near Bhamdoun after several years spent working abroad, has created a safe place for this plant to grow in its original habitat. Once they have multiplied enough, he intends to place them in natural reserves across the country in order to preserve this unique bloom of our land for future generations.