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November 12, 2013 3:10 pm

Israel’s Iconic Sabra Plant Faces Extinction

avatar by Zach Pontz

A sabra. Photo: Wikipedia.

The Sabra, Israel’s beloved cactus fruit, could become extinct due to bug infestation, Haaretz reported Tuesday.

The prickly fruit of the cactus has become a symbol of modern Israel. Its thorny, spiky skin and soft, sweet fruit has long been an analogy for the Israeli character and the term is also used to describe a Jew born in Israel.

But residents in the northern Israel region of Hula Valley reported several months ago that local sabra plants were being severely damaged. When researchers arrived on the scene they discovered that an aphid, a small lice-like bug, had begun attacking the plants.

“We’re talking about an aphid that secretes toxins into the tissues of the plant in order to make it easier for it to suck its food from the plant,” Prof. Zvi Mendel, one of the researchers who discovered the aphid, explained to Haaretz. “The aphid damages those parts of the plant which are vital for food supply and, in the end, the plant dies.”

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Pesticides can initially be used to control the bug from spreading . “A more complex mode of treatment,” writes Haaretz, “is to introduce the pest’s natural enemies into Israel, to promote their reproduction and disseminate them throughout the country.”

The sabra is mainly found in  Central America where the aphid’s natural enemies limit the extent of damage that the bug can inflict. Israel hosts no such natural enemies.

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