FLORA. The Linnean Society, prob. the oldest Botanical society in the world, of Burlington House, London, says that there are in the plant world 111 natural orders. The Royal Horticultural Society, in its Dictionary of Gardening, published in 1951, gives the following explantion for the term “Natural Order”: “E.g., family: a group of one or more genera, having close natural affinity, the term is now more usually applied to a group of families nearly related to one another.”
The R.H.S. also says that genus (genera) is a group of species with common structural characters, which may be supposed to have derived in the remote past from some common ancestor. The main characters on which reliance is placed in defining “genera” are found in the flower, fruit and seed.
The number of species in a genus may be extremely large, or may be only one, so much structurally isolated from its nearest relative as to stand by itself. The name of the genus in designating a plant is placed first and invariably has a capital initial letter.
In this Biblical encyclopedia, the rules of the Royal Horticultural Society’s dictionary have been adhered to. The correct Lat. names have been given in each case, as far as the writer can ascertain them; the generic name has been given, together with the species, and in some cases, the common Eng. name as well.
Of the 111 natural orders recognized by the Linnean Society, some fifty-four are found in the Bible, either in the OT or NT, while a few appear in the Apoc. It must be remembered that the Bible is largely an Eastern book, and the natural orders that are included are those normally found in the Middle E.
In order to cover the whole Flora of the Bible methodically and intelligently, the natural orders are dealt with in alphabetical order.
Classification of Biblical plants
Acanthaceae: The only plant mentioned in this natural order is the Acanthus syriacus, tr. “nettles” (
Amaryllidaceae: Only one plant mentioned is in this natural order—the Narcissus tazetta. This is what is called today a Polyanthus Narcissus, and is tr. as “rose” (
Anacardiaceae: There are three trees that are grouped in this natural order—Pistacia lentiscus, tr. “a little balm” (
Apocynaceae: Mentioned in the Apoc. only, and tr. as “rose” or “rose plant” (
Araliaceae: Only one plant is included under this natural order—the ivy, Hedera helix (
Burseraceae: A natural order of thirteen genera and 320 species, all of which are shrubs and trees which grow in the tropics only. The flowers are generally small and unisexual, the fruits are capsules or drupes, and most of the species produce resins or balsam.
Commiphora abyssinica (synonym C. africana) is a small, thorny tree from which the myrrh is obtained; both the wood and the bark produce a strong scent. This is the Heb. word mōr....It was said originally that the myrrh undoubtedly came from Commiphora myrrha, but C. myrrha was called Balsamodendron myrrha many years ago, and recently the botanists have renamed the plant Canarium— from canari, the Malayan name.
The myrrh found in
Butomaceae: The plant found in this natural order is Butomus umbellatus, the flag mentioned in
Buxaceae: In this natural order is found Buxus longifolia only. This is the box tree of
Capparidaceae: If the word “desire” (
Caryophyllaceae: Only one plant is mentioned from this natural order—Agrostemma githago. This is surely the “corn cockle” (
Chenopodiaceae: There is only one plant in the natural order Atriplex halimus, commonly called the Sea Purslane. Here the reference is to the “mallows” (
Cistaceae: There are three possible entries under this natural order—Cistus salvifolius, C. creticus and C. villosus. It all depends how one trs. the word לֹט, H4320, “myrrh” (
Compositae: There are nine plants that can be included in this natural order. The first is the Anthemis palaestina—the chamomile, with its aromatic leaves and daisy-like little flowers. This is very common in Pal., where the plants are in flower from February to May and June. The plants are dried like hay, and can be burned, as Scripture suggests (
The second in this group, Artemesia herbaalba, the wormwood, mentioned many times (
There is also Artemesia judaica, which is found only in a few parts of Pal. now. It is included because one cannot be absolutely sure to which species Scripture refers.
It is thought that the thistle mentioned in
If the bitter herbs found in
The next plant to be found in this natural order is Saussurea lappa, which is found as the word “cassia” (
The Gundelia tournefortii is best described as a prickly, milky herb with headlets of six to seven flowerets. The leaves are leathery, thick and rigid, having prominent veins; the plants usually are easy to find around Nazareth and Jerusalem, and near the sea of Tiberias. This is one of the plants thought to be the “rolling thing” (
Notobasis syriaca is a very common Palestinian plant found growing on the roadsides and in the fields. The stems are erect and branching, and the leaves are glabrous above and hairy below, and they are edged with spines. The flowerets are tubular. This is one of the thistle-like plants which may find a place in Scripture, being, say, the Syrian thistle mentioned in
Xanthium spinosum is the Burrweed or Clot Burr found at the roadsides, bearing tripartite, green leaves, wedge-shaped at base, with strong yellow spines. This may be the plant referred to in
Cruciferae: It seems that three plants can be included in this natural order in the Bible. First of all the “wheel” (
The second plant is the mustard, the Brassica nigra, and is found in
The third plant in this natural order is Sinapsis arvensis, the nettles found in
Cucurbitaceae: If the gall mentioned in
The second plant found in this natural order is the cucumber, Cucumis sativus (
Cynomoriaceae, sometimes called Balanophoraceae. Cynomorium cocineum is a parasitic plant found in the salt marshes and in the sand dunes, as well as in the Plain of Jericho toward the Dead Sea. It bears a crimson petal-like leaf called a spathe, which makes it very conspicuous. Some people have thought that the roots Job ate (
Cyperaceae: The only plant that is found under this natural order is Cyperus papyrus. This plant was almost a menace along the sides of the Nile in Biblical days, and was the bulrush from which the papyrus paper was made (
Ebenaceae: There is little doubt that the ebony found in
Elaeagnaceae: Though in this natural order there are three genera and about forty-five species, the only one that seems to appear in the Bible is the oleaster, Elaeagnus angustifolia. Elaia means “olive,” and this perhaps gives the connection between the olive tree mentioned in
Fagaceae: Oaks are mentioned again and again in Scripture, starting in
The Holm Oak, Quercus ilex, could also be included because it is a native of the Eastern Mediterranean, being an evergreen tree of good size, often from eighty to ninety ft. high. The acorns are usually 3/4\" long, produced two or three together on a short stalk. There has been a suggestion that Quercus lusitanica should be included, but this is a native of Spain or Portugal. There is a variety infectoria, which is found in Asia Minor, but the only tree the writer has seen is small and elegant, with grayish foliage. It does not therefore seem to fit in with the Biblical descriptions.
Gramineae: This natural order concerns the family of grasses in which there are 400 genera and 5,000 species at least. They are all monocotyledons. The starch seeds sometimes also rich in protein, make a number of species of this natural order valuable food for man and beast. The leaves of some other species are used today for their fiber and for paper making.
The first plant of nine or ten found in the Bible in this natural order is Andropogon aromaticus (synonym Calamus aromaticus), found as the “sweet calamus” (KJV,
A second plant is prob. the Arundo donax, the reed found in
There is little doubt about the next in this list—the “barley” of
Panicum miliaceum is the old Lat. name for the true European “millet.” This is the millet found in
If the “sweet cane” mentioned in
Once again one cannot be absolutely sure about Sorghum vulgare, which is possibly the reed mentioned in
The Triticums are the wheats found again and again in Scripture as corn (
Lolium temulentum is an annual, called the Bearded Darnel, sometimes referred to as tares, which is found in the fields of grain around Jaffa and Jericho.
Iridaceae: Two plants, the writer feels, are included in this natural order: (1) The Crocus sativus, and (2) the Iris pseudacorus.
This is a family of some fifty-seven genera and over 800 species. Most are tuberous or rhizomatous plants of great importance to the gardener.
The Iris pseudacorus is the yellow flag iris which grows three ft. high, and is found in Europe as well as in the Middle E. The flowers are bright yellow and almost scentless. This is presumed to be the lily (
There were numerous irises grown in Pal., but this species is the one that grows by the water side, and so fits the full description in
The shûshan, tr. “lily,” seems similar to the Arab. word sûsan, given to Iris species in Pal.
The saffron (
This crocus is fairly common in Pal. today, and was certainly known to Joshua.
Juglandaceae: The name of this natural order is derived from Jovis glans, i.e. Jupiter’s Acorn. There are sixteen species, all of them deciduous trees bearing walnuts—the common walnut being Juglans regia—a tree which will grow to a height of 100 ft. Not only are the nuts much prized but the wood is classed as one of the best timbers. It is much used for furniture.
This is the tree referred to in
Labiatae: This natural order contains 160 genera and 3000 species, only two of which are found in the Bible. Curiously enough though, the family is widely distributed—particularly so in the Mediterranean region. It is a natural order that contains most of the culinary herbs like marjoram, thyme, savory, rosemary, sage, basil, horehound, and so on.
There are two plants found in this natural order, the first being Mentha longifolia, seen as “mint” (
The second plant is “hyssop,” Origanum maru, called ’ezôb in the Heb. It is a shrubby plant, growing about forty inches high with erect, stiff, hairy branches, and long, hairy, thick leaves. The flowers are purplish, being borne in oblong spikes. It is quite common in Pal. and Syria (
Lauraceae: A family of forty-five genera and 1000 species, mostly tropical and sub-tropical trees and shrubs, usually evergreen—all parts being aromatic. Only two species are found in the Bible—the Cinnamomum cassia and Laurus nobilis.
Cinnamomum is a genus of about forty species of evergreen trees, all of which would seem to be natives of SE Asia. The Cinnamomum cassia yields “cassia bark,” which is sometimes used as an adulterant in the true “cinnamon,” which is Cinnamomum zeylanicum. The cassia is mentioned in
Laurus nobilis is the Bay Laurel, an evergreen aromatic tree, growing often sixty ft. high. The flowers are small and greenish-yellow, often inconspicuous. The leaves are dark, shining green. This is prob. the green bay tree (
This bay is a native of Pal., and if we accept the word “towering” instead of “spreading” (
Leguminosae: A family of trees, shrubs, perennial and annual plants, diverse in habit. There are about 430 genera and some 7000 species. This is the family which has nodular outgrowths on its roots. These nodules are formed by bacteria which have the power of using the free nitrogen in the air. The plants therefore benefit and further, the nodules may be left behind for the benefit of crops that are to follow. Thus the “legume” plant may be said to enrich the soil at no cost to itself.
There appear to be eight plants in this natural order mentioned in the Bible. The first one is Acacia nilotica, which is one of the plants which some critics suggest may be the answer to the miracle of the burning bush (
The Astragalus tragacantha is prob. the plant referred to under “spices” (נְכֹ֣את,
Cercis siliquastrum is the Judas tree, which can grow to forty ft., but is usually smaller. The flowers are produced directly on the trunk and branches, giving the idea of the tree “bleeding.” The flowers are purply-red or rose. This is the tree that Judas is supposed to have hung himself in, and every year in the spring the trees “bleed,” i.e. produce small blood-like flowers in abundance (
Genista raetam is the white Broom or juniper bush—very graceful indeed. The white sweet-pea-scented flowers are followed by pods about 3/8\" long. Its synonym is Retama raetam. This is prob. the juniper tree mentioned in
Lens esculenta is the lentil mentioned in
Pterocarpus santalinus—the name comes from pteron, “wing,” and karpos, “fruit,” because the pods are surrounded by broad wings. Pterocarpus draco is the Dragon Gum Tree and Pterocarpus indicus is the Burmese rosewood. The P. santalinus is presumed to be the
Since no one quite knows where Ophir is, it is difficult to pinpoint the species of tree referred to, but it may well be the Red Sandalwood. If this is correct, one may certainly add another Legume, Trigonella foenum-graecum from treis meaning “three,” and gonu, “angle,” because the flowers have a triangular appearance. This is the annual fenugreek, which was eaten as a salad by the Egyptians and Israelites. The plant grows up to two ft. high, quite erect, and produces tiny white flowers. Years ago this plant was used in medicine and as a vegetable. It may be the plant referred to in
The fenugreek bears seeds which are eaten, and the writer was told when in Cairo that the plants are cut when on the young side, and are popular even today as salad.
Faba vulgaris is undoubtedly the bean mentioned in
Liliaceae: This is a large natural order, containing over 200 genera and 2000 species distributed all over the world. Most of the species are perennials, but a few are annuals. Most of the members of the family are bulbous, but these are those with corms and rhizomes.
There are ten species mentioned in the Bible, starting with the onion, Allium cepa. It is said that it came originally from Persia. This vegetable was known and eaten in Egypt in the days of Moses.
Allium porrum is the leek—it should now be called Allium ampeloprasum porrum. This is a plant whose main stem is blanched when it can be two ft. or more long and one inch across. This is also the pot leek which is stouter and shorter, say, one foot of ivory white stem, two inches or more thick. The nomadic Israelis longed for vegetables in the wilderness (
Allium sativum is the garlic (
Aloe comes from the Arabian word alloeh. The cultivation of the plants goes back to the earliest of days. There are over 200 species, 110 of them being found in Africa. The aloe mentioned in Holy Writ is Aloe succotrina. It was first introduced into Great Britain in 1697. It was lost in the intervening years, and was rediscovered in 1905 in Cape Province, South Africa, by Dr. Marloth. The stem can be four ft. long, and the flowers on the top are pale red. The leaves are thick and tapered—they are pale or glaucous, sometimes blotched toward the base.
The Hyacinthus orientalis mentioned, is believed by some (S of Sol,
Two lilies should be included in this natural order—Lilium candidum and Lilium chalcedonicum. The former is the Madonna Lily or White Lily. The flowers are pure white, rarely tinged with purple without. The length of the stem varies from two ft. to five ft. It is known to have grown in the E in Biblical days. The Lilium chalcedonicum produces bright scarlet flowers, olive brown at the base. The stems are stiff, and three to four ft. long. Lilium candidum is a poor claimant for inclusion, as a matter of fact, but for the fact that in 1925 the first of the wild candidum lilies was discovered by students—and subsequently others were found growing. It is now therefore worth saying that Lilium chalcedonicum could be the plant in
Ornithogalum umbellatum, commonly called the
Tulipa is named after the Turkish word for Turban, which the flower is said to resemble. It is a genus of over one hundred species of bulbs. A special classification was made by Sir Daniel Hall in his book: The Genus Tulipa (1940).
Tulipa montana, which it is claimed is mentioned in the Bible, has solitary flowers opening nearly flat. They are crimson-scarlet with a small, black blotch. The stems are about five inches long, the bulb about 3/4-inch thick. This is a synonym of Tulipa ursoniana, a native, it is claimed, of Persia. Tulipa sharonensis, which also has a claim to OT reference, has a solitary wide bell as a flower, dark scarlet in color, with a dark olive blotch, narrowly margined yellow. The stem is six inches long, and the bulb one inch thick. This is undoubtedly a native of Pal., and prob. the only tulip that is.
The text referred to in
Linaceae: A family of nine genera and over 150 species, found all over the temperate and warm regions of the world. These are mostly trees and shrubs—several of which are very ornamental.
The only Biblical species is Linum usitatissimum, known as the Common Flax. This is an annual about eighteen inches high, with an erect stem. The flowers are of a beautiful blue color. Varieties have been chosen by man for their value as fiber in the making of linen, and incidentally for the oil content of the seeds, known as linseed oil.
It is agreed that from flax has come the oldest of fibers that makes very good linen. It presumably is the main vegetable material used for cloth in Bib. days. It was common enough for the flax to be blanched on the flat roofs of houses in Pal., as Rahab was doing when she was visited by the spies in Joshua’s days (
Altogether, linen or flax appears in some fifty-three vv. in the Bible, and sometimes two or three times in one verse. It starts in
The good woman (
Loranthaceae: A family of evergreen shrubs and herbs usually with berry-like fruits. There are twenty-one genera and over 700 species in the NT, but only one may be said to be in Holy Writ. Some suggest that the burning bush (
Lythraceae: A family of twenty-one genera and fifty species, found everywhere except in the colder regions. They may be herbaceous perennials, shrubs or trees.
The only plant found in this genus in the OT is Lawsonia inermis, the henna plant—a shrub growing to a height of ten ft. bearing rosecolored flowers in panicles. There is a white variety and a species called miniata, which bears cinnabar-red flowers. The latter was not seen in Pal.
This plant is always cultivated in the E for the production of a dye. Even today, the leaves are imported into Europe for the making of cosmetics.
Actually, in the OT the word “henna” does not appear, but it seems obvious that the word “camphire” (
Moraceae: A family of fifty-five genera and over 1000 species, most of them trees and shrubs, but including some plants whose stems contain milky juice, found in the tropics.
The only three plants in this natural order are Ficus carica, the common fig; Ficus sycomorus, known as the Sycamore fig, and Morus niger, the common or black mulberry. This can grow to a height of thirty ft. with fruit clusters one inch long, dark red, sub-acid and sweet. It is grown in some countries for the fruit, but in Great Britain for the beauty of the leaf and trunk. It is a tree indigenous to W Asia.
The Sycamore fig is said to be the sycamore of the Bible. The synonym is Sycomorus antiquorum. It is sometimes called the mulberry fig—it certainly is not what we today call the sycamore or buttonwood which is Platanus occidentalis. This sycamore fig is found in different texts (
The Ficus carica is the ordinary fig mentioned again and again in the OT and NT. The Jewish nation is pictured as an olive tree. The fruit was considered part of the staple diet of the Israelites (
Myrtaceae: A natural order of some seventy genera and 2800 species, usually growing in sub-tropical and tropical areas. The shrubs or trees are invariably aromatic and evergreen. The flowers are usually showy.
Myrtis communis is the Common Myrtle—a densely-leaved shrub with downy shoots. It can grow fifteen ft. tall. The solitary flowers are small and white and scented when bruised. These are followed by a purple-black berry, half an inch long.
Nymphaeaceae: This is the family of water plants. There are eight genera and over sixty species found almost everywhere in the world except the Arctic regions. The flowers of this family are as a rule striking and beautiful.
Nymphaea lotus is the only species mentioned in the Bible (
It is prob. this lily mentioned in
It is obvious that the children of Israel knew of water lilies which they would have seen in Egypt. It is known as “the bride of the Nile.”
Oleaceae: This natural order contains twenty-one genera and nearly 400 species, generally speaking in sub-tropical areas, or certainly in warm temperatures. Some genera include plants of economic value like the Fraxinus. Most others are ornamental. There is only one plant to be included, Olea europaea. This is the well-known olive, a round-headed, much branched tree often forty ft. high. The flowers are small and white, the berries are oval green or black, containing one long seed each.
The olive is mentioned again and again in Scripture, from
Again the olive tree is used like the fig as a picture of the Jewish nation. It is the symbol of prosperity— the symbol of blessing, strength and beauty.
Kings were anointed with olive oil, even as they are today in Great Britain (
Even the sick can be healed by faith, prayer and anointing with oil (
Palmaceae: A big natural order of 150 genera and over 1100 species, found in the subtropics and tropics. The palms are of great importance economically, and it is said that all the wants of man are produced by members of this natural order, i.e. food, building materials, ropes, baskets, wax, oil, alcoholic drinks, betel nuts for dyeing, and so on.
The Phoenix dactylifera is the palm tree—the date palm, a well-known tree in Pal. in the olden days. Almost every part of the date palm is valuable, the fruit, the stones, the leaves, the trunk, the crown, the branches.
Tāmār, the Heb. name of the palm tree is often given to girls. Absalom’s sister, the beautiful girl, was called Tamar, because this stood for elegance and grace in the estimation of the Jews of her day.
The tree, which can grow some eighty ft. high, stands out often in the plain, esp. as at the apex of this straight up-and-down tree, there is a beautiful large cluster of deeply serrated and feathery leaves.
The custom in the E is to cut off the male inflorescence and hang it in the top of a female tree, to insure complete fertilization.
Pinaceae: A natural order of twenty-four genera and over 300 species, all of which are found in the temperate regions of the world. The family contains many trees of great economic importance, all of them conifers.
Pinus pinea is the Stone Pine or Umbrella Pine, a tree which will grow eighty ft. high, with a long, clean trunk. The cones are produced singly or two or three together, eggshaped, and four to six inches long. These take three years to mature. The seeds found in the cones are large, and contain an edible kernel. In South Africa these are called Donna Ball “pits.” The root system is not very extensive, and many trees are blown over.
Often called Apinus pinea, this tree is much grown in Pal. It is the “green fir tree” referred to in
There are Pinus brutia and Pinus halepensis to be reckoned with, or so some experts have suggested. Pinus halepensis is the Aleppo Pine or Jerusalem Pine, and Brutia is not a separate species, but is a variety of Halepensis. It is true that in the past it was thought a separate species, and so the Royal Horticultural Society’s dictionary has as the synonym for Pinus halepensis brutia—Pinus brutia or Pinus pyrenaica. The variety brutia has a branch system less dense than halepensis, and the cones on the branches point forward. This pine will withstand long periods of drought, and is an excellent tree for places which are too dry for most conifers. The true Pinus halepensis may grow to a height of sixty ft. and the young shoots are gray with a glaucous bloom to them. The cones are short-stalked and point backward on the branches.
Once again the writer searches for the true meaning of such passages as
Cedrus libani is the Cedar of Lebanon, growing up to 100 ft. high. The cones are barrelshaped, four inches by 2 1/2 inches wide. They are beautiful trees and the timber is first-class. The synonym is Cedrus patula.
Tetraclinis articulata comes from the Lat. tetra, “form,” and cline, “bed.” It is a tender, evergreen tree, which seldom grows taller than thirty ft., with erect, feathered branches divided into a fine spray. It bears solitary cones at the ends of the shoots. Its synonyms are Callitris quadrivalvis and Thuja articulata. The wood is yellow or red, quite fragrant, and is often marked prettily. It is used in making furniture for this reason. From its trunk exudes a hard resin called sandarac, which is made into varnish.
This is the thyine wood mentioned in
Cupressus sempervirens comes from the Lat. kus, “to produce” and parisos, “equal.” This indicates that the species grows symmetrically. It is an evergreen tree now used for ornamental purposes when young. The tree grows like a pyramid but when old it spreads. It is interesting to note that the juvenile leaves and the older ones are quite dissimilar.
C. sempervirens is the Mediterranean Cypress. There are two main forms, one very erect, 150 ft. high, and the other spreading. The cones are 1 1/4 inches long and one inch wide, as a rule. The wood is useful for furniture—it is quite fragrant. An oil may be distilled from the leaves and shoots.
This is the tree in all probability from which planks were cut to make the ark; gopher wood is mentioned in
Juniperus is a genus containing almost fifty species of hardy or half-hardy shrubs and trees, nearly all of them growing in the northern hemisphere. The one species which is found in the southern hemisphere is the Sharp Cedar, Juniperus oxycedrus. This is a tree which grows up to thirty ft. high, with prominently-angled branches, and bearing globose half-inch wide cones, reddish-brown when ripe. An essential oil, which is said to have medicinal properties, is distilled from the fragrant wood of this tree. It is known as Oil of Cade. If this tree is to be included, then it is because of the word עַרְעָ֣ר, tr. heath (
Juniperus sabina is known as the Savin. It is a shrub which may grow to fifteen ft. in height, and the branches are divided into fine sprays. A strong odor is released when a shoot is bruised; this comes from what is known as an oil gland. This oil, which can be distilled, is said to have diuretic properties. The cones look waxy-white. J. sabina is said to grow well in Pal.
Platanaceae: This natural order contains only one genus, Platanus orientalis. There are six or so species which bear unisexual flowers—the sexes apart. The fruits are one-seeded nutlets, packed into round balls. This Platanus orientalis is known as the Oriental Plane, and grows to a height of 100 ft. The fruit balls it bears may be anything from two to six on a pendulous stalk. The tree is extremely longlived.
This plane tree is well-known in Pal., growing chiefly in the valleys and plains. The Heb. word ’armôn tr. “chestnut tree” (
Punicaceae: There is only one genus which contains two species, all of which are deciduous small trees or shrubs. The most popular species is Punica granatum, the pomegranate, which is a very popular fruit in Pal., where it ripens well. The writer has seen it growing to a height of thirty ft., bearing beautiful scarlet flowers 1 1/4 inches across, followed by yellow and crimson fruits, which may be as wide as 3 1/2 inches. The tr. pomegranate is undoubtedly correct. It is mentioned again and again in the OT. The beautiful little colored pomegranates decorated the hem of the robe of the high priest (
Ranunculaceae: This is a very large family containing forty-eight genera with something like 1300 species. They can be shrubs or herbs, and nearly all of them have acrid sap, some of which can cause blisters when handled.
The Anemone coronaria is found in this natural order. It grows today very popular cut flowers—red, blue, violet or yellow. It undoubtedly grew wild in Pal. in our Lord’s time, and esp. on the
The second plant in this large order is Nigella sativa, about which the Royal Horticultural Society says: “said to be the Fitches mentioned in
This Nigella is commonly called the Nutmeg flower and must not be confused with the annual plants called Devil-in-the-Bush, or Love-in-the-Mist. It was cultivated for its aromatic seeds, which even today are used in the E for flavoring curries.
Rhamnaceae: Here we have a natural order of forty genera and 500 species. The great majority of them are found in the tropics. This natural order is closely related to the Vitaceae family.
Paliurus spina-christi in this natural order is a shrub growing to a height of ten ft. as a rule. It bears greenish-yellow flowers and interesting fruits which are one inch wide and look like a wide-brimmed hat. Paliurus bergatus is a synonym of P. spina-christi. This shrub will grow in any ordinary soil and loves full sunshine. The Royal Horticultural Society dictionary says that it is one of the legendary trees from which the crown of thorns was made (
Zizyphus is a genus of approximately forty species of evergreen or deciduous shrubs and trees, living in the warm, temperate or tropical regions. The flowers are invariably small and greenish or yellow. The two species which may be mentioned in the OT are Z. lotus, a deciduous small tree with tiny flowers and ovoidroundish yellow fruits. Z. spina christi is an evergreen with ovate, oval leaves and minute woolly flowers in short clusters. The fruit in this case is black, half an inch wide, and when ripe is edible. Z. lotus is prob. the shady tree mentioned (
The thorns mentioned in
Rosaceae: A family of some ninety genera and 2000 species, which are found all over the world. The Prunus amygdalus communis, often quoted as being mentioned in the OT is really Prunus communis, the almond, a tree which will grow in the E to a height of twenty ft., and produces two-inch long velvety fruits, containing smooth stones in which are the almonds. Almond trees are mentioned in
Some claim that Prunus armeniaca must be included under this natural order. This is the apricot, a tree that will grow thirty ft. high, and produces white or pinkish flowers, followed by delicious yellow fruits, tinged with red. It has a synonym, Armeniaca vulgaris. The only reason that this has any right to be included is that there are those who claim that the tree in
Rosa phoenicia is a strong climbing rose with hooked prickles and white flowers, two inches across. It came to Great Britain from Syria in 1885, and the Royal Horticultural Society’s dictionary thinks that it may have been one of the parents of the Damask Rose. This species of rose should be included, because of two possible references in the Apoc. (
Rubus is a genus of some 400 species, and contains all the members of the bramble family— raspberries, blackberries, boysenberries, and so on. The Rubus sanctus is usually called the Palestinian Bramble, and is closely related to Rubus ulmifolius, a semi-evergreen, spreading shrub, with downy, purply stems, covered with broad spines. The flowers are rosy-red, but the fruits are of no value for food. These, it is thought, may be the thorns and briars found in
Writers of the 1800s have used the term Rubus fruticosus, which was a comprehensive Linnaean term for brambles. Today, however, this so-called species has been split up into many other species and even varieties.
Ruscaceae: Sanders Encyclopaedia (1955) states that Ruscus aculeatus is in the natural order Ruscaceae or Liliaceae. Ruscus itself is a genus of four evergreen sub-shrubs with creeping root stocks. The species thrive in shady places. R. aculeatus is the Butcher’s Broom, which is found all round the Mediterranean region, and is really lovely when covered with red berries. Unfortunately, there seem to be more male forms than female, and so the brilliant, berried types are seldom seen. It is the Heb. word sillôn tr. “brier” or “pricking briar,” which gives an indication, for some claim this Heb. name to be similar to sullaon, the name the Arabs give to the extremely prickly stiff Butcher’s Broom, this being of course Ruscus aculeatus, which is well-known in Palestine, and can be seen around Mount Carmel. The problem is that the Heb. word in
Rutaceae: This is a family of 100 genera and 900 species, most of which are found in South Africa and Australia. They are usually shrubs or trees, and several of them are useful because they yield oil.
Ruta chalepensis, synonym R. angustifolia, is a sub-shrub, growing to 2 1/2 ft., bearing yellow half-inch wide flowers. It is well-known in the Mediterranean regions.
Ruta graveolens is called the Herb of Grace, commonly known as Rue, and is an acrid evergreen shrub, semi-woody, growing to a height of three ft. with erect shoots. The flowers are 3/4 inch wide, and of a rather dull yellow color. The leaves have a very strong odor, and in Great Britain are often used in claret cup.
Ruta chalepensis is included, because it is said to be a common plant in Pal., but Ruta graveolens seems to the writer to have precedence, because it is the herbal rue used even today, and it is herbs to which our Lord refers (
Salicaceae: This is a family of two genera only, but with 330 species, all of which are shrubs and trees. The flowers are catkinlike, and generally appear before the leaves. The poplars produce catkins that hang, and the willows catkins that hold themselves upright.
Salix alba is the white willow with pendulous branches of beautiful shape. The young shoots are silky and the catkins often two inches long.
The weeping willow is, of course, Salix babylonica, which may grow fifty ft. high, with its branches hanging down, and looking extremely beautiful in the winter as well as in the summer (see
The willows of
In the case of the willows mentioned in
Salix acmophylla is another species which likes to grow near water, and is found in Pal. It was once thought to be a variety of safsaf. The branches are reddish, and the catkins erect, oblong and cylindrical.
If, however, the willows mentioned in
Populus alba is considered by some to be the green poplar that Jacob took (
Solanaceae: A natural order of seventy genera and 1800 species, rarely trees. Large numbers of the family are of importance economically—for instance, the potato, the tomato, the capsicum, the aubergine, and even tobacco. Two Biblical plants are to be included in this natural order.
Lycium europaeum is the Boxthorn, and within the genus there are a hundred species of shrubs, usually thorny. Most of them bear bright red fruits profusely. It is thought that L. europaeum occurs in Scripture, whose synonym is L. mediterraneum. This is a rambling, spiny shrub, bearing globose fruits, and is found in the Mediterranean region. Is this the bramble mentioned in
The Mandragora officinarum is the Mandrake or Devil’s Apples. There are three species of perennials within this genus, no one of them very beautiful. All of them, however, seem to have legends attached to them. The Royal Horticultural Society’s dictionary states that Mandragora officinarum is the Mandrake of
Amid the arguments about the true tr. of the word shāmîr (
Styracaceae: This natural order contains six genera and about eighty species of trees and shrubs. Most of these are found in Mexico, Texas, Java or Japan, but Styrax officinalis is definitely popular in the Mediterranean region. This is a small tree or shrub which can grow to a height of twenty ft. bearing pendulous clusters of fragrant white flowers. The stems yield a fragrant resin when punctured, known as Storax.
It has been claimed that the sweet spice called Onycha (
Tamaricaceae: This natural order comprises four genera and 100 species of small trees or shrubs, usually heath-like, often found by the seaside or in desert places.
Tamarix aphylla is one of the species that may be mentioned in the OT, its synonym being T. articulata. It is a small tree or bush, some twenty ft. high, bearing pink flowers one-eighth of an inch across. It was called at one time Tamarix orientalis.
Tamarix tetrandra is a glaborous shrub, growing twelve to fifteen ft. high, with tiny pink flowers packed into cylindrical spikes, usually two inches long. Possibly the shrub underneath which Hagar cast the child (
Typhaceae: A natural order of one genus and possibly fifteen species, all of them being marsh plants. The flowers are closely crowded with the male blooms above and the female blooms below.
The Biblical plant is the Small Reed Mace, Typha angustata, which grows four ft. high, producing dark green leaves half an inch or so wide, convex beneath and channeled above toward their base. The flower spikes are brown.
The reed mace is sometimes called Cattail from the “Olde English”—“Cattes Tayles.”
If the plant were the true Cattail, it would be Typha latifolia, growing eight ft. high. This, it is claimed, is the reed with which our Lord was smitten (
Umbelliferae: This natural order has approximately 180 genera and 1400 species. Most of these grow in the northern temperate regions, but some are distributed in the Middle E. The flowers are invariably produced in compound umbels, hence the name of the natural order.
In this natural order the first is Peucedanum graveolens, an annual with yellow flowers in a large umbel. It was originally called Anethum graveolens, and is found under this name in some books. This is undoubtedly the anise mentioned in
Coriandrum sativum is an annual which grows about eighteen inches high. The name comes from the word “coris”—a bug. This alludes to the unpleasant odor of the leaves. The flowers are pale mauve or white and the fruits globose. The seeds are used in flavoring sweets or candy, in bread, mixed spices, some curry powders, and alcoholic drinks like gin. The seeds smell unpleasant when unripe, but the odor disappears when they are dried. The seed is mentioned in
Cuminum cyminum is a half hardy annual herb with aromatic fruits that are used in flavoring. It produces a pink or white flower, grows six inches high, and is known to have been popular in the Mediterranean region. To the uninitiated, it is a member of the “carrot family,” and the seeds are larger than those of the caraway. They were and are still used in Pal. as a spice or flavoring. Sowing the seeds is mentioned in
Though Ferula is a genus of about eighty species of herbaceous perennials, only one appears to be mentioned in Scripture, Ferula galbaniflua. This bears yellow flowers on short, thick stalks, and the little fruits that follow are oblong and elliptic. The special gum, galbanum, exudes from the lower part of the stem, as well as from the bases of the leaf stalks. The name “galbanum” is found in
Commercially, an incision is made in the young stem three inches above ground level, and as a result, a milky juice appears which in a short time hardens and becomes the galbanum used commercially as an anti-spasmodic in medicine, as well as for certain varnishes. It is not known for certain whether this plant grew in Pal., or whether the galbanum was imported from Persia.
Urticaceae: This is a natural order of over forty genera, containing 500 species, the great majority of them tropical shrubs, trees and herbs. The word “urtica” comes from the Lat. “uro,” “to burn” because the plants are largely stinging nettles. The perennial nettle is Urtica dioica, and the dwarf annual nettle is Urtica urens. Urtica coudata is found in waste places in Pal., having erect branching stems. It bears small, greenish flowers. As these three nettles are found in Pal., it is wondered whether they are those referred to in
Valerianaceae: In this natural order, there are eight genera and 350 species. The flowers are usually numerous but small, and they are often showy. The only Biblical plant that seems to fall into this natural order is the Nardostachys which gets its name from nardos (a fragrant shrub), and stachys (a spike). This is a genus of two species and the spikenard mentioned in
This Nardostachys jatamansi bears rose purple flowers in a small terminal panacle. The plant was not grown in Pal., but was imported in sealed alabaster boxes as a delicious perfume. It is found growing in the cold, dry upper areas of the Himalayan mountains, and was given the name Jatamansee—spelled in this way by the Hindus in their country. It is the roots and woolly, young stems that are carefully dried and made into an ointment or perfume.
Vitaceae: A natural order of eleven genera and 450 species of shrubs, most of which are climbers. These are widely distributed in the sub-tropical and tropical regions. The flowers are small and regular, but sometimes uni-sexual. The fruit is a berry.
If the unprofitable vines mentioned in the Bible are the ornamental types, then Ampelopsis orientalis is prob. the one referred to, since this grows in Pal. and Syria, bearing tiny, red fruits resembling red currants. Its synonym is Vitis orientalis, because it was thought at one time to be a member of the Vine genus.
Zygophyllaceae: A family of twenty-six genera and 250 species, all of which grow in the warmer regions. Rarely are they annuals, occasionally are they herbs, but usually they are sub-shrubs or shrubs. Generally speaking, the flowers are solitary, though occasionally there are two together. The fruit is generally a capsule, hardly ever a drupe or berry.
Balanites aegyptiaca has hermaphroditic, green flowers. The leaves are woolly, and the plants as a whole are found in desert places, esp. between Jerusalem and Jericho. It has been thought that the balm in