Home Articles & Books Hitchcock's Bible Names Dictionary
IN THE PUBLIC DOMAIN
PLANTS OF THE BIBLE The land which God promised to Abraham and his descendants was extremely fertile. Because of its diverse climate, the world of the Bible contained many varieties of plants. Botanists have identified 3,500 species of plant life in Palestine and Syria. Plants or plant products are mentioned in almost every book of the Bible. The flora of the Bible has been the subject of much discussion and research. Accurately identifying many of these plants has taken many years of scientific research. The Bible writers were not botanists, and they seldom bothered to describe or identify the plants they mentioned. In the 16th century Levinus Lemmens wrote the first book on the plants of Scripture. It was not until the middle of the 18th century, however, that a botanist traveled to Palestine for firsthand knowledge of its vegetation. Since then much valuable information has been learned about the plants of the Bible. Many of the Bible writers often used general terms to refer to plants. Sometimes a reference is no more specific than "tree," "grass," or "grain." Even if an individual grain such as "corn" or "wheat" is named, it is referring to all grains in general. Although many types of flowers grow in Palestine and other Bible lands, very few are mentioned by name in the Bible. Some of the flowers found in the Holy Land are irises, roses, anemones, lilies, tulips, hyacinths, and narcissus. Some of the other general terms referring to plant life include bush, herb, grass, cockle, fruit, and verdure. The Hebrew people were certain that God provided the Promised Land for their use, but they were not careful to take good care of it. The land was cultivated continuously for thousands of years without rest until much of the soil was depleted and many areas became devastated wastelands. The great forests of Lebanon and Hermon were eventually destroyed and the soil was eroded. The people of that time did not know how to manage their environment intelligently. Eventually the land that once flowed with "milk and honey" became barren of much of its vegetation. Today many of these barren regions of the Holy Land are being turned again into fertile farmland. Effort is being made to restore the richness of the land as God intended it to be. The following specific plants are mentioned in the Bible. This listing is keyed to the NKJV, but variant names from five additional popular translations-- KJV, NASB, NEB, NIV, and RSV-- are cross-referenced throughout the listing. (from Nelson's Illustrated Bible Dictionary) (Copyright (C) 1986, Thomas Nelson Publishers) Acacia. A large thorny tree with rough gnarled bark. The orange-brown wood was hard-grained, and it repelled insects. It bore long locust-like pods with seeds inside and produced round, fragrant clusters of yellow blossoms. Many species of acacia grew in the desert of Sinai, in southern Palestine, and in Egypt. Acacia wood was used to build the ark of the covenant and the first tabernacle (Ex. 36:20; 37:1). The acacia is called shittim and shittah in the KJV (Ex. 25:5,10; Is. 41:19). Algum, Almug. A large leguminous tree native to India and Ceylon. While its identity is uncertain, many consider it to be the red sandlewood. Its blossoms were pea-like, and its wood was close grained, dark outside, and red within. It was highly scented, making it resistant to insects. Most authorities believe that algum and almug are two forms of the same wood. Solomon ordered the algum wood from Ophir and Lebanon (1 Kin. 10:11-12; 2 Chr. 9:10-11). The wood was well suited for making musical instruments, cabinet work, and pillars for the Temple. Almond. A large tree resembling the peach tree in both size and fruit. The almond was chiefly valued for the nuts it produced, which were used for making oil used in the home and as medicine. The Hebrew word for almond means "awakening," an allusion to the almond blossom, which is first to bloom in the spring. The almond's pinkish-white blossoms always appear before its leaves. The almond played an important role in the history of the Hebrews. Jacob included almond nuts in his gifts to Joseph in Egypt (Gen. 43:11). The decorations on the lampstands were modeled after the almond blossom (Ex. 25:33), and Aaron's rod was an almond twig (Num. 17:8). The almond also symbolized the dependability of God (Jer. 1:11-12). Many scholars think the hazel of (Genesis 30:37) Kjv is the almond tree. Almug (see Algum). Aloes. Two plants, one a tree and the other e flower 1. The aloes mentioned in (Psalm 45:8; Proverbs 7:17), and (Song of Solomon 4:14) came from a large tree known as "eaglewood," a plant native to India. The wood of the aloe tree is fragrant and highly valued for perfume and incense. Many authorities believe the lign aloe to be the same tree (Num. 24:6), Kjv. 2. The aloes brought by Nicodemus to wrap the body of Jesus (John 19:39) were probably the true aloes of the lily family, a beautiful plant with thick, fleshy leaves and red flowers. The aloin derived from the pulp of the aloe leaf was an expensive product used in embalming. Amaranth. A large family of plants that includes weeds and garden plants. Goodspeed translates the amaranth, also called the "rolling thing," of (Isaiah 7:13) as the tumbleweed. It is also called the "resurrection plant" and the "rose of Jericho." The Greek word for amaranth means "unfading." This describes the bloom's ability to retain its color when dried. This meaning is used symbolically in (1 Peter 1:4) and (5:4), where the inheritance of the faithful is described as unfading. Thus, the amaranth became a symbol of immortality. Anise. An annual herb which bears yellow flowers and fragrant seeds. The anise mentioned in the Bible is generally thought to be dill. Anise (dill) was used as medicine and for cooking. It grows in Palestine today both cultivated and wild. Jesus used the anise as an illustration when He scolded the Pharisees for keeping part of the law in detail while ignoring the rest (Matt. 23:23); (also (Deut. 14:22)). Apple. A tree that grows about 9 meters (30 feet) high and has rough bark and pink blossoms. Many authorities believe the apple of Scripture actually is the apricot, a native of Armenia. Other authorities suggest the quince, peach, citron, orange, or some other fruit; some believe it was the apple. The apple was described as sweet and fragrant (Song 7:8); (apricot, NEB), golden (Prov. 25:11), and suitable for shade (Song 2:3). This fruit was used figuratively to show how precious we are to God, and how extremely sensitive He is to our needs (Deut. 32:10; Ps. 17:8; Lam. 2:18; Zech. 2:8). Apricot (see Apple). Ash (see Pine). Aspen (see Mulberry). Asphodel (see Rose). Balm (see Balsam). Balsam. A thorny tree growing 3 to 5 meters (10-15 feet) tall with clusters of green flowers, also known as the Jericho balsam. Some think the lentisk or mastic tree, a shrubby evergreen growing one to three meters (3-10 feet) tall, is meant. Balsam was highly valued during Bible times (Gen. 37:25; 43:11; Jer. 8:22; 46:11; 51:8; Ezek. 27:17). It produced a fragrant, resinous gum called balm. This was an article of export (Gen. 37:25) and was given as a gift by Jacob (Gen. 43:11). Balm was used as a symbol in (Jeremiah 8:22) to refer to spiritual healing. Barley. A grain known since early times. It was well adapted to varied climates, ripening quickly and resistant to heat; it usually was harvested before wheat. Because barley was considered a food for slaves and the very poor, however, it was held in low esteem as a grain. In the Bible barley was first associated with Egypt (Ex. 9:31). It was used as an offering of jealousy (Num. 5:15), for fodder (1 Kin. 4:28), and for food (Judg. 7:13; John 6:5,13). Bay Tree. The laurel, a tree native to Canaan. The laurel grew to heights of 12 to 18 meters (40-60 feet) and produced small greenish-white flowers and black berries. Parts of the tree were used in medicine, while its leaves were used as seasoning. The Hebrew word means "a tree in its native soil"; this was a fitting way for David to describe the natural prosperity of the wicked (Ps. 37:35), (KJV; native green tree, NKJV). Beans. A hardy plant about one meter (three feet) tall with pea-shaped fragrant blooms, large pods and black or brown beans, which were eaten alone or cooked with meat. Beans have always been an important part of the Hebrew diet, especially among the poor, and they have been known since ancient times. When beans were threshed and cleaned, they were often mixed with grains for bread (Ezek. 4:9). Bitter Weed (see Wormwood). Black Cumin (see Cumin; Fitches). Box Tree. A tree of very hard wood and glossy leaves, which grew to a height of about 6 meters (20 feet). A native of northern Palestine and the Lebanon mountains, the box tree was well suited to beautify the Temple (Is. 60:13). The box tree was used since Roman times for wood engravings and musical instruments. Isaiah symbolically used the box tree, along with other trees, to remind the Hebrews of God's perpetual presence (Is. 41:17-20). Some scholars have suggested that the box tree of Scripture may instead be the cypress or plane. Also see Chestnut. Bramble (see Thistle Thorns). Brier (see Thistle Thorns). Broom. A dense, twiggy bush, almost leafless, which grew to about 3.6 meters (12 feet). It has small white blooms. Common in the desert regions of Palestine, Arabia, and Egypt, it was used as charcoal (Ps. 120:4) and provided shade for the prophet Elijah (1 Kin. 19:4-5). The roots which Job ate were not from the broom, which was not edible, but may have been an edible parasite which infested the bush (Job 30:4). The broom is sometimes referred to as juniper in the NKJV, KJV, and NASB. Many scholars believe this to be the shrub or heath referred to in (Jeremiah 17:6) and (48:6). Bud (see Gourd). Bulrush (see Reed Rush). Calamus. A fragrant, reed-like grass growing along streams and river banks (Song 4:14), also referred to as sweet cane (Is. 43:24; Jer. 6:20). Calamus leaves are fragrant and ginger-flavored when crushed. It is named with other aromatic substances (Ezek. 27:19) and as one ingredient for the anointing oil (Ex. 30:23). It is believed to be a plant native to India (Jer. 6:20). Also see Reed Rush. Camel-thorn (see Cypress). Camphire (see Henna). Cane (see Calamus; Reed Rush). Caperberry. A plant with large white, berry-producing flowers, which grows in clefts of rocks and on walls. Only the NEB and NASB refer to the caper. Other versions translate the Hebrew word as "desire" (Eccl. 12:5). Also see Hyssop. Caraway (see Cumin). Cassia. A plant with a flavor and aroma similar to cinnamon, but considered inferior. Some believe it could be the Indian perfume, orris. Moses included cassia in the anointing oil (Ex. 30:24). It was also an article of trade (Ezek. 27:19). Cedar. An evergreen tree which sometimes grows more than 30 meters (100 feet) tall with a trunk circumference of 12 to 15 meters (40-50 feet). It grows in western Asia, the Himalayas, and Cyprus as well as Lebanon. The cedar's fragrant wood was rot-resistant and knot-free, making it ideal for building purposes (2 Sam. 5:11; 1 Kin. 6:9), ship building (Ezek. 27:5), and fashioning idols (Is. 44:14). The reference to cedar in (Leviticus 14:4) and (Numbers 19:6) is generally understood to be the juniper which grew in the Sinai. Also see Fir; Pine. Chestnut. A tree of Syria and Lebanon thought by many scholars to be the plane tree. It grew to a height of about 21 to 27 meters (70-90 feet) and had a massive trunk. This tree is translated chestnut in the NKJV and KJV, but is translated plane by the RSV, NIV, NEB, and NASB. Cinnamon. A member of the laurel family, the cinnamon tree grew to be more than 9 meters (30 feet) tall with white flowers and wide-spreading branches. A native of Ceylon, the cinnamon tree produced bark and oil which was used for the anointing oil (Ex. 30:23) and as perfume (Prov. 7:17; Rev. 18:13). Citron. A fragrant wood from the sandarac tree. Citron is sometimes referred to as "sweet" or "scented" wood. The sandarac tree grew to a height of no more than about 9 meters (30 feet) tall. Citron is translated as thyme by the KJV (Rev. 18:12). Coriander. An annual herb, growing from one-half to one meter (two to three feet) tall, which produced grayish seeds used to flavor foods, for confections, and in medicine. The dried leaves of coriander were also used to flavor foods. Corn (see Wheat). Crocus (see Rose; Saffron). Cucumber. A climbing vine which produces vegetables. The cucumber was one of the vegetables which the Israelites longed for after leaving Egypt (Num. 11:5). Cumin. An annual seed-producing herb with pinkish-white blooms. Cumin is native to the eastern Mediterranean lands. When harvested, cumin was threshed with sticks (Is. 28:25,27), a method still used today. Cumin was used to flavor foods, in medicine, and was subject to the tithe (Matt. 23:23). The NKJV also mentions black cumin, which is translated dill (RSV, NEB, NASB), caraway (NIV), and fitches Kjv. Cypress. A tall evergreen tree of hard and durable wood. Cypress wood was suitable for building, and was used to fashion idols (Is. 44:14). The word rendered gopherwood by the NKJV, KJV, RSV, and NASB in (Genesis 6:14) is thought to be cypress. This was the wood which Noah used to build his ark. The word for cypress is also rendered as camelthorn (Is. 55:13) and ilex (Is. 44:14) by the NEB. Darnel (see Tares). Date Palm (see Palm). Dill (see Anise; Cumin). Dove Droppings Dove Dung. A bulbous plant which was edible after being boiled or roasted. Dove's dung was mentioned as food eaten during the siege of Samaria (2 Kin. 6:25). Some believe this was excrement from pigeons and doves, while others interpret it as an edible plant (seed pods, NIV; locust-beans, NEB). Dove dung was also referred to as the Star of Bethlehem. Syrians are known to have used this plant as food. Also see Locust. Ebony. A large tree which produces edible fruit similar to the persimmon. The hard, black wood from the inner portion of the tree is quite valuable and is used for fine furniture. It is also known to have been inlaid with ivory. Idols were sometimes carved from ebony wood. Elm (see Terebinth). Fig. A fruit-producing plant which could be either a tall tree or a low-spreading shrub. The size of the tree depended on its location and soil. The blooms of the fig tree always appear before the leaves in spring. When Jesus saw leaves on a fig tree, He expected the fruit (Mark 11:12-14,20-21). There were usually two crops of figs a year. Figs were eaten fresh (2 Kin. 18:31), pressed into cakes (1 Sam. 25:18), and used as a poultice (Is. 38:21). Jeremiah used the fig tree as a symbol of desolation (Jer. 8:13). It also signified security and hope for Adam and Eve (Gen. 3:7), the 12 spies (Num. 13:23), and the poets and prophets. Fir. An evergreen tree of uncertain identity. Although this tree is mentioned several times in Scripture, biblical authorities question whether this was the true fir or some other evergreen of Palestine. Many suggest the aleppo pine would fit this description, while others think the cypress, juniper, or cedar could be meant. The Israelites valued the timber of the fir tree for building the Temple (1 Kin. 6:15), Kjv, for ship building (Ezek. 27:5), and for making musical instruments (2 Sam. 6:5). The fir is used symbolically to describe the blessings of God for His people (Is. 41:19; 55:13), Kjv. Fitches. Two different plants mentioned in the KJV 1. An annual herb one-half meter (one to two feet) tall with finely cut leaves and blue flowers, which produces black poppy seeds used in curries and sprinkled on breads. It is translated black cumin in the NKJV (Is. 28:25,27). 2. A plant apparently mislabeled by the KJV in (Ezekiel 4:9). The correct identification is spelt. Also see Spelt. Flag (see Reed Rush). Flax. A plant growing one meter (three feet) tall with pale blue flowers, and used for making cloth. When mature, the entire flax plant was pulled and placed in water to separate the fibers from the stems. It was then laid on housetops to dry (Josh. 2:6), and later woven into linen. Flax was also used as wicks for lamps in Bible times (Is. 42:3). Also see Reed Rush. Frankincense. An aromatic gum resin obtained from the Boswellia tree. These trees are large with small, white, star-shaped flowers and leaves resembling the mountain ash. The gum is obtained by cutting into the bark and collecting the resin from the tree. When this substance hardens, it is gathered and used as incense. Frankincense was part of the sacred anointing oil (Ex. 30:34). It was used in sacrificial offering (Lev. 2:1), as a fumigant during animal sacrifices (Ex. 30:7), and as perfume (Song 3:6). It was a gift to baby Jesus (Matt. 2:11). The trees are native to India, Arabia, and Africa. Palestine probably obtained this product through foreign trade (Is. 60:6). Galbanum. The gum from an herb which grew one to one and one-half meters (three to five feet) high and had greenish-white flowers. Galbanum was the milky substance extracted from the stems which quickly hardened. It was used in perfume and anointing oil (Ex. 30:34). Gall. A bitter, poisonous herb. This may have been the poppy or some other wild poisonous plant. Gall is used figuratively to mean a bitter punishment (Jer. 8:14; 9:15; 23:15) or any bitter experience (Acts 8:23). Gall and vinegar were offered to Jesus on the cross (Matt. 27:34), but He refused the drink. Garlic. A strong-flavored herb, resembling the onion. Garlic was eaten with bread and used to flavor food and is still highly favored today. Garlic was highly esteemed in Egypt and was believed to have been used as wages for the workers who built the pyramids. The Hebrews yearned for garlic after leaving Egypt (Num. 1:5). Gopherwood (see Cypress). Gourd. A fast-growing shrub which grew to a height of three to four meters (10-12 feet). One of Elisha's servants put the fruit of the gourd into a pot of stew (2 Kin. 4:39). The gourd (Jon. 4:6-10); (KJV, NEB) is identified as the plant under which Jonah found shade. Some biblical scholars suggest this may have been pumpkin, squash, or ivy. Many types of wild gourds also flourished in the Mediterranean region. Some of these were poisonous. The decorations used on the Temple called ornamental buds (1 Kin. 6:18; 7:24) are thought to be a type of wild gourd. Grapes. A luscious fruit cultivated on vines. Large clusters of grapes weighing about five kilograms (12 pounds) each (Num. 13:23) have been reported in Palestine. Grapes were used in a variety of ways. They were eaten fresh or dried and were made into wine or vinegar. Dried grapes were called raisins. The first suggestion of grapes in Scripture was in connection with Noah's vineyard (Gen. 9:20). The soil and climate of Palestine was well suited for vineyards, where grapes were grown. They were cultivated here long before the Israelites occupied the land (Gen. 14:18). The vineyards of Palestine produced immense clusters of grapes (Num. 13:20,23-24). Vineyards were hedged or fenced as protection from wild animals (Song 2:15). In each vineyard a tower was erected and a guard placed to protect the vines from robbers (Matt. 21:33). Vinedressers were hired to care for the vines and prune them yearly (Lev. 25:3; Is. 61:5). The grapes were gathered in baskets in September and October with much festivity (Judg. 9:27; Is. 16:10). Provision was made for the poor to glean the fields (Lev. 19:10; Deut. 24:21). The choicest grapes were dried or eaten fresh and the rest were placed in presses to extract the juice (Is. 61:5; Hos. 9:2-4). This was drunk fresh or fermented. Jesus alluded to His relationship with His followers by referring to Himself as the vine and to them as the branches (John 15:5). The fruit of the vine symbolized Jesus' shed blood (Matt. 26:27-29). He also used the vineyard in many of His parables (Matt. 9:17; 20:1-6; 21:28-32; Luke 13:6-9). Hazel (see Almond). Heath (see Broom). Hemlock. A poisonous plant that grows to about two meters (five feet) tall and has small white flowers. Hemlock is referred to only once in the NKJV (Hos. 10:4). Other translations use the more general term weeds. Also see Wormwood. Henna. A plant used to produce a valuable orange-red dye. It was two to three meters (seven to ten feet) tall and bore fragrant white flowers. Solomon compared his beloved to a cluster of henna (Song 1:14; 4:13); (camphire, KJV). Hyssop. A species of marjoram and a member of the mint family. Hyssop was an aromatic shrub under one meter (three feet) tall with clusters of yellow flowers. It grew in rocky crevices and was cultivated on terraced walls (1 Kin. 4:33). Bunches of hyssop were used to sprinkle blood on the doorposts in Egypt (Ex. 12:22), and in purification ceremonies (Lev. 14:4,6, 51-52). David mentioned it as an instrument of inner cleansing (Ps. 51:7). It was used at the crucifixion to relieve Jesus' thirst (John 19:29). The hyssop was very similar to the caper plant. It is sometimes rendered marjoram by the NEB. Ilex (see Cypress). Juniper (see Broom). Laurel (see Bay Tree). Leek. A bulbous vegetable resembling the onion which grows 15 centimeters (about six inches) high. The stems and bulbs of leeks were eaten raw and used to flavor foods. Named with garlic and onions, the leek was a food which the Hebrew people ate in Egypt (Num. 11:5). Lentil. A small annual plant with white, violet-striped flowers. The seeds of lentils grew in pods similar to the pea. During Bible times lentil was threshed like wheat and boiled into a reddish-brown pottage. This was the dish which Esau purchased with his birthright (Gen. 25:34). Lentils could also be used as an ingredient for bread (Ezek. 4:9). Lign Aloe (see Aloe). Lily. A flower with white or rosy-purple blooms measuring up to 30 centimeters (12 inches) across. Many scholars think the lily is sometimes a term applied to flowers in general. Others believe specific types such as the Turks Cap, the Madonna, or the lotus is referred to. The lily was used as an ornament for the Temple (1 Kin. 7:22). The Beloved and the Shulamite used lilies to describe their love (Song 2:1; 2:16; 4:5; 5:13; 6:3). Locust. An evergreen tree growing about 6 to 9 meters (20-30 feet) tall and having small glossy leaves. A native of Syria and Palestine, it bears long pods known as carob or locust beans (Luke 15:16); (husks, KJV). These may have been used for food in dire circumstances (2 Kin. 6:25), (NEB). Lotus (see Lily). (from Nelson's Illustrated Bible Dictionary) (Copyright (C) 1986, Thomas Nelson Publishers) PLANTS OF THE BIBLE (M TO Z) Mallow. A shrub growing one and one-half to three meters (five to ten feet) high and having thick succulent leaves and small purple flowers. The Hebrew word for mallow means "salt plant." It thrived in dry, salty regions especially around the Dead Sea. Although the leaves were sour and had little nutritive value, they were boiled and eaten by the poor in dire circumstances. Mentioned only once in the Bible (Job 30:4), mallow is also translated as salt herbs in the NIV and saltwort in the NEB. Mandrake. A fruit-producing plant with dark green leaves and small bluish-purple flowers. The mandrake is a relative of the potato family which grew abundantly throughout Palestine and the Mediterranean region. The yellow fruit of the mandrake was small, sweet-tasting, and fragrant. It had narcotic qualities and may have been used medicinally. The fruit of the mandrake was also referred to as the "love apple." It was considered a love potion. Marjoram (see Hyssop). Melon. A type of gourd which bears sweet fruit. Both cantaloupes and watermelons may have grown along the banks of the Nile River in Egypt. Melons were used as food and medicine. An intoxicating drink was made from their juice. The Hebrews had become accustomed to eating melons and other tasty foods in Egypt. They looked back on these fondly while in the wilderness (Num. 1:5). This word is translated watermelon by the NEB. Millet. An annual grain-producing grass which was under one meter (three feet) high and produced many seeds. The seeds of millet were smaller than other cereal grains. Millet has been known since ancient times in Palestine and Egypt. It was used for bread (Ezek. 4:9) and eaten raw, especially by the poor. Millet is referred to in several different ways in (Ezekiel 27:17). It is translated pannag in the KJV, confections in the NIV, meal in the NEB, and cakes in the NASB. Mint. A sweet-smelling herb which grew to a height of one meter (three feet) and produced spikes of lilac flowers. Mint was used in medicine and to flavor foods. Mulberry. A tree which grew to a height of about eight to ten meters (25-30 feet) and produced red berries. A refreshing drink was prepared from the fruit. Jesus used the mulberry tree as an illustration when teaching about faith (Luke 17:6). It is called sycamine in the KJV and RSV, and aspen in the NEB. The mulberry trees mentioned in (2 Samuel 5:23-24) and (1 Chronicles 14:14-15) are believed to be a species of poplar. Mustard. A plant which grew wild along roadsides and in fields, reaching a height of about 4.6 meters (15 feet). The black mustard of Palestine seems to be the species to which Jesus referred (Matt. 13:31-32; Mark 4:31-32; Luke 13:19). It was cultivated for its seeds which were used as a condiment and for oil. The mustard seed was the smallest seed known in Jesus' day (Matt. 13:32). Nevertheless, Jesus said that if one has faith as a mustard seed, he can move mountains (Matt. 17:20) or transplant a mulberry tree in the sea (Luke 17:6). Myrrh. An extract from a stiff-branched tree with white flowers and plum-like fruit. After myrrh was extracted from the wood, it soon hardened and was valued as an article of trade. It was an ingredient used in anointing oil (Ex. 30:23), and was used as perfume (Ps. 45:8; Prov. 7:17; Song 3:6), in purification rites for women (Esth. 2:12), as a gift for the infant Jesus (Matt. 2:11), and in embalming (John 19:39). According to the Gospel of Mark (15:23), the drink offered to Jesus before His crucifixion was "wine mingled with myrrh." Matthew, however, has "sour wine mingled with gall" (Matt. 27:34). The reference to myrrh in (Genesis 37:25) and (43:11) is thought to be ladanum, sometimes called onycha, from a species of rockrose and not the true myrrh. Also see Onycha. Myrtle. An evergreen tree with dark glossy leaves and white flowers. The leaves, flowers, and berries of the myrtle were used for perfume and as seasoning for food. The myrtle tree had a religious significance for the Hebrews (Zech. 1:8-11) and was a symbol of peace and joy. Queen Esther's Hebrew name (Esth. 2:7) meant myrtle. Nard (see Spikenard). Nettle. Two different plants referred to in the Bible: 1. The nettles mentioned in (Isaiah 34:13) and (Hosea 9:6) are believed to be the true nettle. It is a spiney leaf plant sometimes growing to a height of about two meters (six feet). 2. The nettles referred to in (Job 30:7) and (Proverbs 24:31) are considered by some to be the acanthus, a stinging plant common in Palestine. The nettles of (Zephaniah 2:9) Kjv are translated weeds by the NKJV. Oak. A large tree with a massive trunk that grew abundantly in Palestine and the surrounding countries. Many Hebrew words refer to the oak. Some scholars think these words could have referred to any large tree such as the terebinth or elm. The oak tree was an important historical landmark to the Hebrews. Some specific oak trees are mentioned in the Bible. These include the oaks of Bashan (Is. 2:13; Zech. 11:2), the oak of Bethel (Gen. 35:8), (KJV; terebinth tree, NKJV), and the oaks of Mamre (Gen. 13:18), (RSV; terebinth trees, NKJV). Oak wood was also used in shipbuilding (Ezek. 27:6), and for fashioning idols (Is. 44:14). Also see Tamarisk; Terebinth. Oil Tree. A tree of uncertain identity. Many oil-producing trees mentioned in the Bible could be identified as the oil tree. Many authorities believe the oleaster or wild olive is the tree meant. It grew to a height of about 4.5 to 6 meters (15-20 feet) and produced small bitter fruit resembling an olive. The oleaster yielded an inferior oil which was used medicinally. The oil tree of (Isaiah 41:19) is translated olive tree in the RSV, NIV, NEB, and NASB. Also see Olive. Olive. A fruit-bearing tree about six meters (20 feet) tall with a gnarled, twisted trunk, white flowers, and berries that ripen to a black color. The olive tree grew slowly and continued to bear fruit after reaching a great age. Before it died, new branches sprouted from its roots. The fruit was harvested by beating the boughs of the olive tree with a stick (Deut. 24:20), or by shaking the tree (Is. 17:6). The ripe fruit was enjoyed fresh or the green fruit was often pickled or made into a relish. The best oil was obtained from the green olive fruit. It was used as fuel for lamps (Ex. 27:20), as anointing oil (Lev. 2:1), as an article of commerce (1 Kin. 5:11), and for dressing wounds (Luke 10:34). Olive trees were cultivated in groves or orchards (Ex. 23:11; Josh. 24:13). The most famous olive garden mentioned in the Bible is Gethsemane, meaning "oil press" (Matt. 26:36). Onion. A plant with a large, edible bulb. The onion is mentioned only once in the Bible, as one of the foods the Hebrews longed for in the wilderness (Num. 11:5). The onion was known in Egypt from ancient times. Drawings of the onion have been found on Egyptian tombs. Onycha. A dark brown gum resin which was obtained from the stem and leaves of a species of the rockrose, also known as ladanum. Onycha was used as an ingredient in the holy anointing oil (Ex. 30:34). It was highly valued for its fragrance and medicinal qualities. The rockrose was a bush growing to a height of about one meter (three feet) and having large white flowers measuring eight centimeters (three inches) across. Some scholars believe the substance referred to as myrrh in (Genesis 37:25) and (43:11) was onycha. Palm. A tree which grew to a height of about 18 to 30 meters (60-100 feet) and had long feathery leaves (branches; (Neh. 8:15; John 12:13; Rev. 7:9)). These branches were about two to three meters (six to eight feet) long and grew from the top of the trunk. Also called the date palm, this tree is believed to grow from 100 to 200 years old. Palm branches were considered a symbol of victory (John 12:13; Rev. 7:9). Many places in the Bible were identified by the abundance of palm trees (Ex. 15:27; Deut. 34:3; Judg. 1:16). One of the Hebrew words for palm, Tamar, was often used as a woman's name (Gen. 38:6; 2 Sam. 13:1). Pannag (see Millet). Papyrus (see Reed Rush). Pine. An evergreen tree of uncertain identity. Biblical scholars believe pine refers to either the Brutian or the Aleppo pine (Is. 41:19; 60:13). The Brutian pine grew to a height of about 9 to 11 meters (30-35 feet). It is smaller and has longer needles than the Aleppo pine, which grew to a height of about 27 meters (90 feet). Both trees grew in Lebanon and in Palestine. Bible scholars are not agreed on the identity of the many evergreens mentioned in the Bible. Other trees suggested for these references are the ash, fir, cypress, cedar, or juniper. Pistachio Nut. A product of the pistacia tree, which was about nine meters (30 feet) tall with wide spreading branches. The pistachio nut is about 2.5 centimeters (one inch) long and has a thin, hard outer shell. The smooth husk or skin which shields the green kernel is red. These nuts were sweet and considered a luxury. Jacob included them in the gifts sent to Egypt (Gen. 43:11). Plane (see Chestnut). Pomegranate. A round, sweet fruit about ten centimeters (four inches) across with a hard rind. It is green when young and turns red when ripe. There are numerous edible seeds inside the pomegranate. The pomegranate tree has been cultivated in Palestine and Egypt since ancient times (Num. 13:23; Deut. 8:8). It grew as a bush or small tree, sometimes reaching a height of about 9 meters (30 feet) with small, lance-shaped leaves. The blossoms were bright red. The fruit usually ripened in August or September. Pomegranates were highly esteemed during Bible times. The hem of Aaron's robe was decorated with blue, purple, and red pomegranates (Ex. 28:33-34; 39:24-26). It was listed among the pleasant fruits of Egypt (Num. 20:5). Solomon decorated the Temple with the likeness of the pomegranate (1 Kin. 7:18, 20). A spiced wine was made from the juice (Song 8:2). Poplar. A tree which grew to a height of about 9 to 18 meters (30-60 feet) and had wide spreading branches. The leaves were green with white undersides. Jacob stripped the bark from poplar branches to reveal the white wood. This was supposed to control the color of his cattle (Gen. 30:37). Hosea refers to the Israelites worshiping idols in the shade of poplar trees. This brought God's condemnation for their sin (Hos. 4:13). Also see Willow. Raisin (see Grapes). Reed Rush. Gigantic hollow-stemmed grasses which grew along river banks and in moist areas of Egypt and Palestine. Many different Hebrew words refer to the marsh plants of the Bible. They form a large order of plants, such as flax, flags, bulrush, cane, calamus, and papyrus. Reeds and rushes grew anywhere from one to six meters (3-20 feet) high and had long, narrow leaves. A cluster of white flowers formed at the top of each stem. The reeds were used in various ways, including walking sticks, fishing poles, musical instruments, and pens. People also used them for weaving baskets, mats, and for other domestic purposes. Moses' basket was woven from reeds. Papyrus, a particular reed, was used to make paper. Reeds were a symbol of weakness. Jesus refers to them as shaking in the wind (Matt. 11:7). A reed was placed in Jesus' hand as He was mocked by the Roman soldiers (Matt. 27:29). Rose. The name of two different plants of the Bible: 1. Most authorities think that the rose referred to in (Song of Solomon 2:1) and (Isaiah 35:1) is not what we know as the rose today, but a low-growing bulbous plant producing from two to four yellow flowers on each stalk. This flower is noted for its fragrance. Other scholars have suggested the mountain tulip, anemone, saffron, or crocus as the flower in question. All of these flowers grew wild in Palestine. This particular flower is translated crocus by the RSV, NIV, and NASB (Is. 35:1) and asphodel by the NEB (Song 2:1; Is. 35:2). The flower we call the "Rose of Sharon" is a native of China and is not the one mentioned by Solomon (Song 2:1). 2. The rose of (Ecclesiastes 24:14; 39:13) (NEB) is thought to be the oleander. This shrub grows to a height of about 3.6 meters (12 feet) and has pink or white flowers. Rue. A garden herb growing one-half to one meter (two to three feet) high with gray-green foliage and clusters of small yellow flowers. Rue had a strong odor. It was valued for its antiseptic and disinfectant qualities. It was also used to flavor foods. Rye (see Spelt). Saffron. The product of many varieties of crocus, a flower which grew from a bulb and produced light-blue flowers. Crocus blooms were gathered, dried, and pressed into cakes of saffron. Saffron was used as a coloring for curries and stews. It was also used as a perfume for the floors of theaters and for weddings. Solomon was the only Bible writer to refer to saffron (Song 4:14). Salt Herb (see Mallow). Saltwort (see Mallow). Shittah Tree (see Acacia). Shittim Wood (see Acacia). Spelt. An inferior kind of wheat. Although the bread made from this grain was of a poorer quality than that made from wheat, spelt was preferred over barley by many in the ancient world. The KJV translates this word as rye in (Exodus 9:32) and (Isaiah 28:25), and as fitches in (Ezekiel 4:9). Spelt was sown later than wheat. It thrived in poor soil and under adverse conditions. Spikenard. A costly oil derived from the dried roots and stems of the nard, an herb of Asia. This oil was used as a liquid or made into an ointment. Solomon praised the fragrance of spikenard (Song 1:12; 4:13-14). Spikenard was imported from India in alabaster boxes. These were stored and used only for special occasions. When household guests arrived, they were usually anointed with this oil. Jesus was anointed on two occasions as an honored guest (Mark 14:3; John 12:3). Many spikes grew from a single nard root which produced clusters of pink flowers. The stems were covered with hair, giving them a woolly appearance. Some translations of the Bible refer to spikenard as nard. Stacte. A resin believed to be an extract of the stems and branches of the storax tree. Stacte was highly prized as perfume and as incense. It was one of the ingredients of anointing oil (Ex. 30:34). The storax was a small, stiff shrub growing to a height of about 3 to 6 meters (10-20 feet), which grew abundantly in Lebanon and throughout Palestine. Its leaves were dark with grayish-white undersides. In spring the storax flowered profusely with highly fragrant white blooms which resembled the orange blossom. Straw. The dried stalks of various grains such as spelt, barley, millet, or many kinds of wheat. Straw could also include stalks of wild grasses. Straw was mixed with grain and used as fodder (Gen. 24:25; Judg. 19:19; 1 Kin. 4:28). The Egyptians mixed straw with clay for stronger bricks (Ex. 5:7). Sycamine (see Mulberry). Sycamore. A huge evergreen tree growing to a height of about 12 to 15 meters (40-50 feet) with a trunk circumference of over 6.5 meters (20 feet). The trunk forked near the ground, and the branches grew outward. The leaves of the sycamore, sometimes called the sycamore fig, were heart-shaped, resembling the leaves of the mulberry. The fruit was similar to the true fig but was inferior in quality. These yellow figs grew in clusters close to the branches. Sycamores were trees of the plains (1 Kin. 10:27) and could not tolerate colder climates (Ps. 78:47). The sycamore was the tree which Zacchaeus climbed to gain a better view of Jesus (Luke 19:4). Tamarisk. A small tree with thick foliage and spikes of pink blooms. It provided ample shade for desert travelers (1 Sam. 22:6). The word for tamarisk is translated tree, grove, or oak by the KJV. Tares. A poisonous grass resembling wheat, but with smaller seeds. The tares were usually left in the fields until harvest time, then separated from the wheat during winnowing. Jesus used tares growing with wheat as a parable to illustrate evil in the world (Matt. 13:25-30,36-40). Tares is translated weeds in the RSV and NIV, and darnel in the NEB. Teil (see Terebinth). Terebinth. A large spreading tree which grew to a height of about 6 to 8 meters (20-26 feet) with reddish-green leaves and red berries in clusters. The terebinth is mentioned several times in the Bible. It is sometimes translated as teil (Is. 6:13), elm (Hos. 4:13), or oak (Gen. 35:4) by the KJV. Thistles Thorns. General terms for any spiney plant. Such plants are characteristic of arid and desert regions, Some of these were brambles, briers, thorny bushes, small trees, weeds, and prickly herbs. They grew abundantly in Palestine and other Bible lands, especially along roadsides, in fields, and in dry places. The most noted use of thorns in the Bible was the crown of thorns placed on the head of Jesus on the cross (Matt. 27:29). This was done by the Romans as a form of mockery. Some of the thorns and thistles were annuals, scattering their seed in autumn. The industrious farmer would destroy the plants before he seeded (Matt. 13:7). Many of them were used as fuel for ovens (Ps. 58:9; Eccl. 7:6; Is. 33:12). Thorny shrubs were used as hedges to guard fields and vineyards (Prov. 15:19; Mark 12:1). The prophet Micah declared that even the most upright person is "sharper [more destructive] than a thorn hedge" (Mic. 7:4). Thyme (see Citron). Vine (see Grapes). Watermelon (see Melon). Wheat. The most important cereal grass mentioned in the Bible. This was the bearded variety belonging to the genus Triticum. It was cultivated in Bible lands from early times (Gen. 30:14). Egyptian wheat was the many-eared variety called "mummy wheat." This was the wheat of Pharaoh's dream (Gen. 41:5-57). It was also depicted on Egyptian monuments. Wheat was sown after barley in November or December. It was usually broadcast and then either plowed or trodden into the soil by oxen or other animals (Is. 32:20). This grain was used for bread (Ex. 29:32), and was also eaten parched (Lev. 23:14; Ruth 2:14). It was used in ceremonial offerings (Lev. 2:1; 24:5-7) and as an article of commerce (Ezek. 27:17; Acts 27:38). When corn is mentioned in the Bible, it refers to wheat, as corn was not known in Bible times (Ps. 72:16; Matt. 12:1; Mark 4:28). Jesus compared His death to a grain of wheat which must die to produce fruit (John 12:24). Willow. A tree which grew to about 9 to 12 meters (30-40 feet) and had reddish-brown bark; narrow, pointed leaves; and flowers or catkins which hung downward. Willow branches were used to construct the booths for the Feast of Tabernacles (Lev. 23:40). The Israelites hung their harps on willows while in Babylon. Some biblical scholars think the willow mentioned in the Bible was actually the poplar or Euphrates Aspen. The word for willow is consistently translated as poplar by the NIV. (Isaiah 44:4) is translated poplar by the NEB and NASB as well. Also see Poplar. Wormwood. A woody shrub covered with small green leaves, with greenish-yellow flowers growing in clusters. Wormwood grows in the desert regions of Palestine and Syria. This plant is mentioned many times in the Bible. It had a bitter taste and a strong aroma (Jer. 9:15). Wormwood was used symbolically to refer to any calamity or bitter experience (Deut. 29:18; Prov. 5:4; Amos 5:7; Rev. 8:10-11). An intoxicating drink could also be made from this plant (Lam. 3:15). Wormwood is sometimes translated as bitter weeds or hemlock (Amos 6:12), Kjv.