We divided the list of recorded plants and the oral information gathered at the cemeteries into three categories based on the botanical characters of the plants: 1. Plants with aromatic leaves (Table 1); 2. White-flowered plants (Table 2) and 3. Trees and bushes (Table 3). These categories were found to correlate, more or less, with oral ethnobotanical evidence.
Data concerning the presence of aromatic plants in the surveyed cemeteries are presented in Table 1. The following points emerge:
1. On average, 6.0 (SD = 4.3; range 0–14) aromatic species were present in each cemetery.
2. Half of the recorded species were members of the family Lamiaceae.
3. Only one cemetery had no aromatic plant.
4. The most frequent as well as dominant species in cemeteries was Salvia fruticosa and the second was Rosmarinus officinalis.
5. In 18 cemeteries wreaths of aromatic plants were placed on the fresh graves at the funeral and/or during later visits (especially Salvia and Ocimum).
6. The presence of wild aromatic plants in the nearby natural habitats did not correlate with species diversity of such species on graves. In fact, 66% of the aromatic species in cemeteries were not indigenous.
7. In the traditional cemeteries all the plants were perennial, only recently the adoption of irrigation systems allows maintenance of annuals such as basil (Ocimum).
8. In the old traditional cemeteries (mostly abandoned or neglected today) S. fruticosa and R. officinalis were almost the only aromatic species present.
In attempt to uncover the possible role of Salvia fruticosa's use in funerals and cemeteries informants were asked "Why is S. fruticosa used in funerals and planted at graves?". We received the following answers (Bold number in parenthesis indicates the informant identity, see Appendix 1):
1. "The angels like a good odour and come to the fragrant plants, and they also transfer the prayers to the dead" (7). "We place Salvia in cemeteries because it gives a good odour. When a person is deceased the angels come to visit him and they like good odour – that is why we put Salvia there" (7, 8, 16, 19). This note is related to the common belief that angels go to judge the dead person in his grave [:74;  passim; :130,134].
2. "Fragrant plants are planted in cemeteries to counteract the unpleasant smell; we have to recall because the burial was superficial" (15). "For a good odour in the cemetery" (17, 28, 33, 36, 38, 41, 43, 49).
3. "We put Salvia on graves because it gives medicine, "barakeh" (a divine blessing) and good odour" (11, 12, 13, 14, 18, 20, 21, 24, 29). "Because it is a blessed and sacred plant that gives good odour and it is healing" (15, 21, 25, 26, 34, 43, 44).
4. "Because it is evergreen and has a good odour" (26, 30, 40).
5. "As a token of honour and appreciation for the deceased" (9, 24, 39).
6. "Because of its good odour, beauty, and medicinal power "(20, 31, 35, 48).
7. "It has fragrance; it is a beloved and respected plant. It accompanies man during all stages of his life" (15, 18, 32, 33).
8. "We purify the dead with Salvia and for good odour" (10, 38).
9. "It expels the Satan and the evil eyes" (7, 19, 23, 33, 45, 47, 48).
10. "There is justice in this plant" (34).
11. "For the blessing of the dead" (48).
Three-Lobed Sage (Salvia fruticosa) has an important role in daily rituals in the Muslim life-cycle in Israel and today it accompanies each person as a main ritual plant from birth to death:
1. When an infant is born he is placed on a bed of fresh leaves of three-lobed sage, and the mother drinks three-lobed sage tea (1, 7, 15, 24, 34, 37). When infant is born a ceremony called mauled is performed. A sheep is slaughtered and all the friends and the relatives are invited. The Sheikh arrives and reads chapters from the Quran. A substantial number of three-lobed sage leaves are mixed with barley and placed on a tray near the Sheikh. The Sheikh reads the (appropriate) chapter and each of the guests takes a fistful of the mixture in a small packet. At home this mixture is used to prepare an incense against evil eye and demons; it is placed on burning coals and then the house is blessed with a good fragrance and the demons are expelled (1,12, 27).
2. At every wedding, and any other family feast, incense of three-lobed sage leaves is placed on burning coals. It is used against evil eye and to expel demons (1, 2, 18, 27).
3. Garlands of three-lobed sage for incense are left at the graves of saintly people as well as in front of sacred trees, for the private use of the visitors who pray and burn incense in honour of the holy man (A. Dafni personal observations).
4. Garlands of three-lobed sage are used in funerals and also placed at graves; the dead body is placed on a layer of fresh three-lobed sage leaves (2, 24, 34, 42).
One informant (15) summarized the importance of three-lobed sage in the daily local ritual: "By placing three-lobed sage on the graves, a connection is sustained from birth to death", while another person (27) said "The three-lobed sage accompanies man in all stages of his life".
Data concerning the presence of white flowered flowers species in the surveyed cemeteries are presented in Table 2. We report the the following trends:
1. White flowers are more common in old traditional cemeteries, some of which are abandoned or neglected today.
2. The commonest white-flowered plants in traditional graveyards are Iris spp.
3. Today the most common plants in new cemeteries are Narcissus tazetta and Urginea maritima.
4. White flowered species are usually taken from the local nearby vegetation. Pancratium maritimum may be found in cemeteries along the seashore, which is their original habitat, while Pancratium parviflorum is evident in cemeteries near calcareous habitats, in which it grows naturally.
5. Narcissus tazetta (and other white cultivars) and Iris spp. are scattered without any clear geographic or ecological pattern.
6. Asphodelus ramosus is quite rare as a graveyard plant.
7. All the species in this group are perennial geophytes, which need no cultivation.
When we asked the informants "Why are white flowers planted on graves?" we received the following answers:
1. "White flowers are signs of "something good" (26).
2. "White is the way to Paradise" (28).
3. "White flowers are pure like the soul of the deceased" (4). "The white colour a sign that a man is pure and clean" (10).
4. "The white flower recalls the colour that characterizes the Haj, white colour is beloved by God, and white colour will erase the deceased's sins" (7).
5. "Because of the beauty, and to honour the deceased.... white colour .... A bride wears white, every dead person is wrapped in white cloth, the pilgrims to Mecca wear identical white clothes to show that all are equal" (8).
6. "White colour is the colour of birth (the baby is wrapped in a white cloth), of a wedding (the bride's dress), and of death (the white shroud)...life commenced with white and ended with white (27).
7. "The white flower recalls the colour of the pilgrim's garment ...white is preferred by God and will redeem the dead person" (34).
8. In this connection we heard the following story "A king had a lovely daughter. One day the daughter was violated, and a girl who disguised herself a boy was accused of the rape. When the head of the accused girl was cut off, her real identity was disclosed and the people regretted their deed. Zambak (a general name for white flowers like Lilium, Iris and Pancratium) flowers were planted on the daughter's grave. Because the raped daughter had acquiesced to the violation she was buried and a carob tree (which is regarded as a 'bad tree') was planted over her grave" (5).
Trees and shrubs
Data concerning the presence of trees and bushes in the surveyed cemeteries are presented in Table 3. From our observations and Table 3 we can conclude:
1. Cypress is the most frequent (68.9%) as well as the only dominant plant (20.6%). It is planted especially as a fence round cemeteries and also between graves. In old traditional cemeteries, cypress is almost the only tree.
2. Palms and olives are planted among graves and branches of both species are frequently placed on fresh graves. An interesting feature is the abundance of palm branches placed on tombs on 'Id el-fitr (the feast at the end of Ramadan).
3. Ziziphus spina christi is not planted but is a component of the natural vegetation.
4. Several species of cultivated fruit trees are planted today in cemeteries (e.g. pomegranate, oranges, almonds, mulberry, and loquat); at present it is hard to see any pattern in this trend.
5. In one Bedouin village (Arab al Aramshe, 40–43), branches of Laurus nobilis are placed on graves.
6. In one Village (Akhbara), young shoots of Myrtus communis are placed on fresh graves (46–48, and our personal observations). In this village myrtle is grown commercially for the Jewish religious market for use at the Tabernacle Festival.
The following answers were given, by the informants, to our question, "Why are trees planted in graveyards?"
1. "Shrubs and trees are planted on graveyards to create a connection between the deceased and his God" (21).
2. "Each tree protects the grave because it is green – a protection against evil events" (18).
3. "Every planted tree on a grave is praising the merciful god, on behalf of the deceased, all the time" (27).
4. "Green trees reduced the punishments inside the grave" (39).