The Bible Garden
Please enjoy a walk through our garden and learn about local and exotic plants. See how they were and continue to be, an important part of God’s plan through His Word.
Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created. Revelation 4:11
Station 1 -
A view of the Bryce Presbyterian Church
You are looking at the home of the Bryce Avenue Presbyterian Church (BAPC), a congregation of the Presbyterian Church in America. BAPC has served the Los Alamos/White Rock community since its founding in 1975.
Our purpose can be summarized by the statement: "... to exalt the Lord Jesus Christ and make Him beautiful and glorious in the eyes of men and to promote the increase of repentance, faith, and holiness upon earth." J.C.Ryle
Please enjoy a walk through our garden and learn about local and exotic plants. See how they were, and continue to be, an important part of God’s plan through His Word.
Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created. Revelation 4:11
Station 2 -
The Rose Garden
Rosa genus, multiple species, Family: Rosaceae
This church rose garden was established in 1994. Feel free to walk closer to get a better look and to refresh yourself with its fragrance. Our Rose of Sharon is further described in Stations 5 and 8. A rose is a woody, perennial, flowering plant in the family Rosaceae. Wild roses are native to New Mexico and can be some of first vegetation to re-establish after a fire.
Rose hips, which are the fruits produced from the flowers, are an important food source for deer and bears and are high in vitamin C. There are over a hundred species of roses and thousands of cultivars. Rose perfumes are made from rose oil (also called attar of roses), which is a mixture of volatile essential oils obtained by steam distilling the crushed petals of roses. About two thousand flowers are required to produce one gram of oil.
Matthew 26:6-13 Now when Jesus was in Bethany, at the home of Simon the leper, a woman came to Him with an alabaster vial of very costly perfume, and she poured it on His head as He reclined at the table. But the disciples were indignant when they saw this, and said, “Why this waste? For this perfume might have been sold for a high price and the money given to the poor.” But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you bother the woman? For she has done a good deed to Me. For you always have the poor with you; but you do not always have Me. For when she poured this perfume on My body, she did it to prepare Me for burial. Truly I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be spoken of in memory of her.”
Station 3 -
Rocky Mountain Juniper
Juniperus scopulorum, Family: Cupressaceae
Southwest locals often refer to juniper trees as “cedars.” Junipers are coniferous plants in the cypress family Cupressaceae. Cedar trees can belong to the Pinus, or other families. The Rocky Mountain Juniper has berries, not cones, and is not technically a cedar, but may sometimes be referenced as such. The Phoenician juniper, also known as the Phoenician cedar, (Juniperus Phoenicea) is a small tree looking more like a cypress than a juniper.
The Phoenician juniper was the cedar wood used by the Levites during the sacrifices in association with hyssop and scarlet. This is the desert shrub of Jeremiah 17:6 and 48:6.
The mountains of Lebanon were once shaded by thick cedar forests and the tree is the symbol of the country. After centuries of persistent deforestation, the extent of these forests has been markedly reduced. In the Bible, Solomon procured cedar timber to build the Temple in Jerusalem.
The cedar is often used figuratively in the Scriptures. The mighty conquerors of olden days were all compared to the towering cedar, in its royal loftiness and supremacy.
Psalm 92:12 The righteous man will flourish like the palm tree, He will grow like a cedar in Lebanon.
Station 4 -
Prunus armeniaca, Family: Rosaceae
Apricot trees are in the Rosaceae family which includes almonds, cherries, peaches, and many others. The genus is prunus or stone fruits. The origin of the apricot is disputed, as is the identity of the fruit known by the Hebrews as ‘tappuah’. In most English versions of the Bible it is translated as apple since it corresponds closely to the Arabic ‘tuffah’. But neither fruit may have been known in Biblical Palestine. The small crab apple is the wild ancestor of our cultivated fruit. However the apricot was available to the Romans who called it armeniaca, thus misleading many into assuming that Armenia was its place of origin.
Perhaps exceptional apricots were available to Solomon, who wrote in Proverbs 25:11 “Like apples of gold in settings of silver is a word spoken in right circumstances.” This would describe an apricot well. In the New Testament, edible fruits were often used in parables.
Matthew 7:15-17 Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. "You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit.”
Rose of Sharon
ROSE OF SHARON/ CISTUS/ROCK ROSE Cistus ladanifer, Family: Cistaceae
The Rose of Sharon is the national flower of Korea. Note it is not a true rose and not in the same family as our roses in the rose garden. In the Song of Solomon, chapter 2 verse 1, the beloved says "I am the rose of Sharon, the lily of the valley". The King James Version editors translated it as "rose of Sharon"; however previous translations called it simply “the flower of the field”. Possible flowers that it could have been include a crocus, tulip or lily.
This well-known garden bulb with fragrant white flowers occurs very rarely in the Mediterranean type of vegetation of Carmel and Galilee. It was likely not common in Palestine, although in Crete it was frequent in the art and depicted in palace murals. It symbolized purity and grace for the Greeks and Romans from early days.
Prunus armeniaca, Family: Rosaceae
Another look at the Apricot tree. Do you marvel sometimes that a little seed can produce a great tree like this and produce such an abundance of delicious fruit. The pleasures of the harvest are timeless.
Ecclesiastes 2:5 (KJV) "I made me gardens and orchards, and I planted trees in them of all kind of fruits"
In the 17th century, English settlers brought the apricot to the English colonies in the New World. Most of modern American production of apricots comes from the seedlings carried to the west coast by Spanish missionaries. Today, apricot cultivation has spread to all parts of the globe with climates that support it.
Psalm 104:14 (KJV) He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle, and herb for the service of man: that he may bring forth food out of the earth."
The image to the left is an Armenian stamp featuring the apricot. Post of Armenia = www.armenianstamps.com
May Night Purple Salvia
Salvia Nemorosa, Family: Lamiaceae (mint family)
May Night Salvia is a hardy perennial with excellent cold hardiness, drought resistance, and tolerance to heavy clay soils. It blooms in late spring with a profusion of deep purple flower spikes, and may re-bloom later in the summer. Salvia is in the same family as the hyssop, which is referenced often in the Bible. During the Passover, the Israelites struck the posts and lintels of their doorways with a branch of hyssop releasing its aromatic oils, along with the lamb’s blood, as protection from the death angel. During his last moments on the cross, Jesus was offered a sponge with sour wine extended with a fragrant branch of hyssop.
John 19-28-30 After this, Jesus, knowing that all things had already been accomplished, to fulfill the Scripture, said, “I am thirsty.” A jar full of sour wine was standing there; so they put a sponge full of the sour wine upon a branch of hyssop and brought it up to His mouth. Therefore when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.
2nd Rose of Sharon
Cistus ladanifer, Family: Cistaceae
Here is another of our beautiful Rose of Sharon. If you are fortunate enough to be viewing this plant in full bloom in the summer months, take time to enjoy its marvelous blooms which is a timeless pleasure referenced often in Biblical times.
Psalm 19:1 The heavens are telling of the glory of God; And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.
Song of Solomon 2:12 (NIRV) Flowers are appearing on the earth. The season for singing has come. The cooing of doves is heard in our land."
Isaiah 55:12 (NIV) For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands."
Lonicera tatarica, Family: Caprifoliacea
Psalm 96:11-12 Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let the sea resound, and all that is in it. Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them; let all the trees of the forest sing for joy.
Native to Siberia, this honeysuckle is an introduced species in North America. In some locations (not in NM) it is considered a noxious weed. It spreads easily when birds and animals consume the fruits and forms dense thickets, crowding out the native species.
In Illinois, this shrub should not be cultivated because it invades natural areas and reduces biodiversity. Tatarian Honeysuckle can be distinguished from other honeysuckle shrubs by the color of its flowers (when they are pink) and the lack of hairs on its leaves.
The long flowers resemble a trumpet, which is an instrument thought to represent peace and praise to the Lord. In the same way as a trumpet, the beauty of nature proclaims glory and praise to our Lord.
Moras Alba, Family: Moracea
Luke 17:5-6 The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” And the Lord said, “If you had faith like a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and be planted in the sea’; and it would obey you.
This small to medium tree is native to northern China, and is widely cultivated and naturalized elsewhere, including the United States. The white mulberry is used to feed silkworms for production of silk and as food for livestock. The fruits are also eaten, often dried or made into wine. The mulberry is also notable for the rapid release of its pollen, which is launched at over half the speed of sound. In the New Testament there is a reference to the Sycamine tree, the Greek word for mulberry tree. (Luke 17:6 KJV).
The black mulberry is a stout deciduous tree, growing slowly and attaining a great age. Its gnarled trunk could collapse over time, but the spaces are filled by lesser trunks arising from its base. The piling of stones around the base of the trunk for support of the tree and to encourage growth of new shoots is an old practice. The resulting tree can be very difficult to uproot, which gives understanding and background to the passage in Luke.
Agastache cana, Family: Laminaceae (Hyssop Family)
Psalm 51: 7 Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
This square stemmed plant is in the mint family Laminaceae, which includes the well know Biblical Hyssop plant. The Double Bubblemint is also known as the mosquito plant or Texas hummingbird mint. It is a hardy perennial belonging to the genus Agastache derived from the Greek word meaning "a lot of", and stachy, meaning "spike", which refers to the flower's 12 terminal spikes that decorate the plant. The plant is native to New Mexico and western Texas, where it grows in mountainous areas at altitudes of 6,000 feet.
The plant has obtained recognition for attracting broad-tailed hummingbirds as well as being a natural mosquito repellent. This mint family member has a highly flavored oil that repels many flying insects, including mosquitos. It works in the same way as the citronella. In order to release the mosquito-repelling odor, the plant needs to be crushed and rubbed onto surfaces. Many people apply the contents of the crushed plant directly to their skin. King David referred to the hyssop as a symbol of cleansing in Psalm 51 where he appealed to the Lord to be purified from his sins.
Viburnum carlesii, Family: Adoxaceae
Isaiah 41:19-20 “I will put the cedar in the wilderness, The acacia and the myrtle and the olive tree; I will place the juniper in the desert Together with the box tree and the cypress, That they may see and recognize, And consider and gain insight as well, That the hand of the Lord has done this, And the Holy One of Israel has created it.
Also known as arrowwood, the viburnum is a large genus of plants that come in a wide variety of sizes; some evergreen, mostly drought-tolerant, largely free of diseases, with a strong trend toward deer resistance. There are both American natives and nonnatives to choose from. Some scholars believe that Viburnum titus, a rare shrub of Carmel and now widely cultivated, was one of the trees that ‘shall be set in the desert’ as referenced in Isaiah 41.
Snow Drop Windflower and Snowberry
Anemone Sylvestris, Family: Ranunculaceae (Buttercup family) Symphoricarpos Species, Family: Caprifoliaceae (Honeysuckle family)
Isaiah 40:6-8 All flesh is grass, and all its loveliness is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades, When the breath of the Lord blows upon it; Surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever.
1 Peter 1:24-25 All flesh is like grass, and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls off, but the word of the Lord endures forever.
Although generally found more in North America, these flowers grace the hillsides with their beauty in spring and summer.
Spring in Palestine is also beautiful with the blooming of flowers, but the season is restricted to a few short weeks. The poets and prophets took notice of this and referenced the ‘flower of the field’ or the ‘flower of the grass’ in Scriptures as symbolic of the brief span of human life.
Euonymus alatus, Family - Celastraceae
Acts 7:30-34 “After forty years had passed, an angel appeared to him in the wilderness of Mount Sinai, in the flame of a burning thorn bush. When Moses saw it, he marveled at the sight; and as he approached to look more closely, there came the voice of the Lord: ‘I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob.’ Moses shook with fear and would not venture to look. But the Lord said to him, ‘Take off the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground. I have certainly seen the oppression of My people in Egypt and have heard their groans, and I have come down to rescue them; come now, and I will send you to Egypt.’
This deciduous shrub is native to central and northern China, Japan, and Korea. The stems are notable for their four corky ridges or "wings".
The common name "burning bush" comes from the bright red fall color. It is a popular ornamental plant in gardens and parks due to its bright pink or orange fruit and attractive fall color. The species gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit. This plant is an invasive species of woodlands in eastern North America, and its importation and sale is prohibited in the states of Massachusetts and New Hampshire.
Prunus virginiana, Family - Rosaceae
Luke 8:11-15 - Now the parable is this: the seed is the word of God. Those beside the road are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their heart, so that they will not believe and be saved. Those on the rocky soil are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no firm root; they believe for a while, and in time of temptation fall away. The seed which fell among the thorns, these are the ones who have heard, and as they go on their way they are choked with worries and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to maturity. But the seed in the good soil, these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance.
The wild chokecherry is often considered a pest, as it is a host for the tent caterpillar, a threat to other fruit plants. However, there are more appreciated cultivars of the chokecherry, having more palatable, fruit.
For many Native American tribes chokecherries were the most important fruit in their diets. The bark of chokecherry root was used to ward off or treat colds, fever and stomach maladies. Chokecherry is toxic to horses, moose, cattle, goats, deer, and other animals with segmented stomachs (rumens), especially after the leaves have wilted. The shrub can take the place of more productive or palatable plants.
New Mexico Olive
Forestiera neomexicana, Family - Olieacea
Habakkuk 3:17-18 - Though the yield of the olive should fail, And the fields produce no food,Though the flock should be cut off from the foldAnd there be no cattle in the stalls,Yet I will exult in the Lord, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.
The New Mexico Olive is as close as we can get in the southwest desert to the Mediterranean Olive tree, being in the same family, but the fruit is not the same table quality. For the New Mexico Olive to produce fruit there needs to be both a male and female tree in close proximity.
The true olive tree is clearly one of the star plants in the Bible, being an important source of food, fuel and oil; a mainstay of the Israel culture. The anointing of people and objects with olive oil has a long history and sacred significance. The Mount of Olives is certainly one of the most famous locations, and the place ‘Gethsemane’ means oil-press. Paul talks of grafting wild olive branches to cultivated olive branches in Romans 11:17-24. The nation of Israel symbolizes the cultivated olive trees from which God has broken off some of the branches. In their place he has grafted in faithful Gentiles, likening to formerly useless wild olives, to partake of the richness of the cultivated tree. Paul uses this analogy to accentuate the richness of God’s grace in the salvation of the Gentiles. A failed yield of olives in those time could be disastrous.
Iris sibirica, Family - Iridaceae
Job 12: 7-10 "But now ask the beasts, and let them teach you; And the birds of the heavens, and let them tell you.“Or speak to the earth, and let it teach you; And let the fish of the sea declare to you. "Who among all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this,
In whose hand is the life of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind?
Iris is a genus of 260–300 species of flowering plants with showy flowers. It takes its name from the Greek word for a rainbow, which is also the name for the Greek goddess of the rainbow, Iris. The iris flower is of interest as an example of the relation between flowering plants and pollinating insects. The shape of the flower and the position of the pollen-receiving and stigmatic surfaces on the outer petals form a perfect landing-stage.
The insect then comes in contact with its pollen-covered surface only after passing the stigma. Then in backing out of the flower it will come in contact only with the non-receptive lower face of the stigma. Thus, an insect bearing pollen from one flower will, in entering a second, deposit the pollen on the stigma; in backing out of a flower, the pollen which it bears will not be rubbed off on the stigma of the same flower. This insures cross pollination from one flower to another. An ingenious design!
Artemisia absinthium, Family - Asteraceae
Revelation 8:11 The name of the star is called Wormwood; and a third of the waters became wormwood, and many men died from the waters, because they were made bitter.
This plant is closely related to our native sagebrush, and the Mediterranean equivalent Artemisia herba-alba is thought to be the plant translated as "wormwood" in English language versions of the Bible.
Wormwood is mentioned with the implication of bitterness in the Old Testament and is the "name of the star" in the Book of Revelation 8:11 that falls into the waters, making them undrinkably bitter.
Hemerocallis species, Family - Asphodelaceae
Matthew 6: 28-30 And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith!
Flowers typically last no more than 24 hours. The flowers of most species open in early morning and wither during the following night, possibly replaced by another one on the same stalk the next day. Some species are night-blooming.
2nd New Mexico Olive
Forestiera neomexicana, Family - Olieacea
Gen. 8:11"Then the dove came to him in the evening, and behold, a freshly plucked olive leaf was in her mouth; and Noah knew that the waters had receded from the earth". The olive tree symbolizes faithfulness and steadfastness. Psalms 52:8 "But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God; I trust in the mercies of God forever and ever." No matter what the conditions: hot, dry, cold, wet, rocky, or sandy, the evergreen olive tree will live and produce fruit. It is said that you can never kill an olive tree. Even when cut down or burned, new shoots will emerge from its roots.
Here is another look at the New Mexico Olive tree. One of our missionaries, upon hearing of our Bible garden, told us that for sure we needed an olive tree in our garden. Winter temperatures get too cold in the White Rock climate for the true Mediterranean Olive, Olia europeae, to thrive, so we got the next best plant which is in the same family, but adapted to the New Mexico climate. The olive trees of the Bible are still plentiful around the countryside and are known for their tenacity.
They grow in almost any condition: on terraced hills or in valleys, in rocky or fertile soil. They can thrive in great heat with a minimum of water, and are virtually indestructible. Some grow from root systems 2,000 years old, yet the olive producer has to wait fifteen years for his first good harvest. It was an olive leaf that a dove brought to Noah's ark after ‘The Flood’
Berberis fendleri, Family - Berberidaceae
Isaiah 7:23-24 And it will come about in that day, that every place where there used to be a thousand vines, valued at a thousand shekels of silver, will become briars and thorns. People will come there with bows and arrows because all the land will be briars and thorns. As for all the hills which used to be cultivated with the hoe, you will not go there for fear of briars and thorns; but they will become a place for pasturing oxen and for sheep to trample.
Barberry is a shrub found in the Los Alamos ponderosa woodlands. The plant can grow up to six feet in height, but is generally only a foot or two high in our area. The flowers are yellow and the fruit is an oblong red berry ripening in late summer or autumn. The berries are edible but very sour, and rich in Vitamin C.In our Bible garden, this is the plant representing the curse of thistles and thorns which is a concept continued throughout the entire Bible.
The barberry is conveniently located next to another of our sinister wormwood plants described in Station 17. Prickly plants represent the bad and useless as in Luke 6:43-44. For no good tree bears bad fruit… for figs and not gathered from thorns, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. And of course Paul talked of his “thorn in the flesh” in 2 Corinthians 12:7.
Station 20, 21
Prunus glandulosa, Family - Rosaceae
The word almond in Hebrew is ‘shaqed’, which means waker or watcher and refers to the early flowering of the tree.
Jeremiah 1:11 The word of the Lord came to me saying, “What do you see, Jeremiah?” And I said, “I see a rod of an almond tree.” Then the Lord said to me, “You have seen well, for I am watching over My word to perform it.
Before Jeremiah’s time, it was an almond twig that sealed the authority of Aaron when it flowered and fruited overnight in the Tabernacle (Numbers 17:1-8) And the great golden lampstand of the Tabernacle was ornamented with almond designs.
A native to China and Japan, the dwarf flowering almond was introduced in the early 1800s. It is a tough shrub with spectacular early spring flowers, no fall color, and no fruits. The closely related Biblical wild almonds may still be found here and there in Palestine. Goats grazing them keep them small in size. The cultivated almond, Prunus dulcis, are grown in the Mediterranian for their nuts.
Exodus 25:33-34 Three cups shall be shaped like almond blossoms in the one branch, a bulb and a flower, and three cups shaped like almond blossoms in the other branch, a bulb and a flower—so for six branches going out from the lampstand; and in the lampstand four cups shaped like almond blossoms, its bulbs and its flowers.
Red Crepe Myrtle
Lagerstroemia indica, Family - Lythraceae
The myrtle tree is mentioned several times throughout the Old Testament. The prophet Isaiah uses the myrtle tree to illustrate life and fertility, as he prophesies it growing instead of a plant that symbolizes death and drought.
Isaiah 55:13 Instead of the thorn bush the cypress will come up, and instead of the nettle the myrtle will come up, and it will be a memorial to the Lord, for an everlasting sign which will not be cut off.
The myrtle tree is always green and has a strong root system that keeps it going even during dire times. Even when cut down to a stump, its roots cause it to sprout again.
Job 14:7-9 For there is hope for a tree, when it is cut down, that it will sprout again, and its shoots will not fail, though its roots grow old in the ground and its stump dies in the dry soil, at the scent of water it will flourish and put forth sprigs like a plant.
When situations around us appear to be hopeless with no sign of getting better, we can draw from the Spirit of God within us, who is able to sustain us with the assurance that we are His, reminding us of His word and that what He has spoken will come to pass.
John 7:38 Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’”
Pinus Ponderosa, Family - Pinaceae
The Ponderosa Pine is one of the most common trees in the Los Alamos area. There were pine trees in Biblical times, however of a different species. In Nehemiah 8:15, the verse lists several trees, one of which could have been a variety of pine tree. A different word in Isaiah 41:19 and 60:13, probably again indicates the pine; a noble emblem of the promised prosperity of the church. Several varieties of pines abound upon Mount Lebanon, the largest of which is the sunobar kubar; also found on several sandy plains of Palestine. Its wood is much used for beams and rafters.
Many homes and structures were burned in the Cerro Grande and Las Conchas fires of 2000, and 2011. There were catastrophic loses of homes, personal property and forest resources. But there was also the coming together of a community in new and marvelous ways. There was generosity, compassion, caring, and helping hands in abundance. These qualities of the human spirit didn’t get burned up in the fire, and have led to the healing and rebuilding still going on today.
1 Corinthians 3:11-15 For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.
Spanish Gold Broom
Cytisus purgans, Family - Leguminaceae, Subfamily - Fabaceae
The Spanish Brooms are a group of evergreen, semi-evergreen, and deciduous shrubs in the subfamily Faboideae of the legume family. Many brooms (though not all) are fire-climax species, adapted to regular stand-replacing fires which kill the above-ground parts of the plants, but create conditions for regrowth from the roots and also for germination of stored seeds in the soil. Spanish Broom species are considered noxious invasive species, as they are quickly crowding out native vegetation, and grow most prolifically in the least accessible areas. In Biblical times these type of plants were the successional species that came back after the land was ravished by war, fires, and overgrazing, much like our familiar pattern of locusts, aspens, oaks and shrubs becoming the new climax vegetation rather than the previous evergreen forests due to changing climate patterns.
Joshua 17:18 but the hill country shall be yours. For though it is a forest, you shall clear it, and to its farthest borders it shall be yours; for you shall drive out the Canaanites, even though they have chariots of iron and though they are strong."
Centranthus ruber, Family - Valerianaceae
Also known as Keys of Heaven, this is a perennial plant taking the form of a shrub or an herb, depending on conditions. The flowers are small in rounded clusters, typically brick red or purplish red and with a ‘heavenly’ fragrance.
When Jesus was talking to his disciples in Caesarea Philippi, He asked: Matthew 16:15-19 “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.”
In the book of Acts, Peter figures prominently in the “opening of doors” to three different groups of people so they can enter the Kingdom. God’s will is that sinners be granted access to heaven through the righteousness of Christ.
Quercus gambelii, Family - Fagaceae
Gambel Oak flourishes in full sun on hillsides with thin, rocky, alkaline soil where competition from other plant species is limited. It is well-adapted to locations where wet springs and hot, dry summers create conditions conducive to wildfires. After a fire, Gambel oak quickly re-establishes itself from root spouts. The plant is also quite drought tolerant.
The Palestinian oaks are often grazed down, but when protected, may grow into a large tree, unlike other oak species in the Mediterranean that remain as a shrub. Perhaps the largest and most famous tree of this species is Abraham’s Oak at Mamre. After separating from Lot, Abram moved his tent, and came and dwelt by the oaks of Mamre, which are at Hebron, and there he built an altar to the Lord. The successor oaks at the site today are held in reverence by Christians, Muslims and Jews.
Genesis 13:18 Then Abram moved his tent and came and dwelt by the oaks of Mamre, which are in Hebron, and there he built an altar to the Lord.
Artemisia tridentata, Family - Asteraceae
Commonly called "big sagebrush", Great Basin sagebrush or just "sagebrush." This is an aromatic shrub from the family Asteraceae, which grows in arid and semi-arid conditions, throughout a range of cold desert, steppe, and mountain habitats in the Intermountain West of North America.
Sage in the Bible generally refer to the Palestine and Judean sages (Salvia palaestina, or S. judaica) or Jerusalem Sage (Phlomis viscosa), Jagged leaved sage (Eremostachys laciniata), and Purple top sage (Salvia horminum). All are unrelated and in a different family than our western U.S. Sage. The Salvias listed above may have been among the bitter herbs eaten with the Passover lamb. The golden seven branched lampstand, the menorah, detailed in Exodus 25 has been likened to the Palestine and Judean sages, but not all Jewish botanists agree.
Exodus 12:8 They shall eat the flesh that same night, roasted with fire, and they shall eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs.
Exodus 25:31 Then you shall make a lampstand of pure gold. The lampstand and its base and its shaft are to be made of hammered work; its cups, its bulbs and its flowers shall be of one piece with it.
Gleditsia triacanthos, Family - Fabaceae
Not to be confused with the pesky insects that plagued Egypt in Biblical times, the locust plant can be almost as obnoxious if you try to hike through areas that have recently burned and you encounter these sharp thorned plants. Although this variety is thornless, the native New Mexico locust has numerous sharp thorns, and is one of the first vegetation to re-establish on severely burned soils. Locusts can grow very tall and robust, but eventually shade themselves out, and are replaced by other trees and shrubs. They thrive in direct sun and do well with limited topsoil. Plants in the legume family can fix nitrogen in the soil, thus preparing the way for other species.
Many prickly plants occur in cultivated and disturbed ground. This was likely true even back in Biblical times. Today these are often considered noxious weeds, but back then the thorny plants were an important source of fuel. The peasant farmer was likely glad to be rid of such prolific and unproductive plants. In an almost treeless country where fuel is hard to come by, many of the thorny plants provided more heat and fuel than the annual plants. They burn readily with a bright and noisy flame as Solomon observed and wrote about in Ecclesiastes.
Ecclesiastes 7:6. For as the crackling of thorn bushes under a pot, so is the laughter of the fool;
Not seeing anything here? In one teaspoon of soil there are more life organisms than in our largest cities. Just as in life, there is more going on below the surface that we don’t see or understand. In nature there are intricate ecosystems that are all interdependent. The same is found in our bodies where we each have an amazing design with different parts, and every part has a different function, such that we each operate as a unique person. The Bible references how the body of Christ is made up of individuals who have different gifts and different functions, and all have an important part to play in God’s design.
1 Corinthians 12:18-26- But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired. If they were all one member, where would the body be? But now there are many members, but one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; or again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.”
On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary; and those members of the body which we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor, and our less presentable members become much more presentable, whereas our more presentable members have no need of it. But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.
Mentha spicata, Family - Lamiaceae
Spearmint is an herbaceous, rhizomatous, perennial plant used for its aromatic oil, referred to as oil of spearmint. Spearmint grows well in nearly all temperate climates and the leaves can be used fresh, dried, or frozen. The leaves lose their aromatic appeal after the plant flowers. The herb mentioned below in Luke 11:42 was likely horsemint, Mentha longifolia, rather than Spearmint. Dried, powdered mint leaves were used by the Pharisees for tithing. This bitter herb was eaten at the Passover and is still eaten at Paschal feasts today. The synagogues in our Lord’s days had sprigs of mint sprinkled on the floor, so that the fragrance arose when people walked on them and crushed them.
Take a leaf and crush it in your fingers and smell the rich mint fragrance. Feel the stem and notice the distinct square feel of it rather than a normal round stem. This is characteristic of the mint family.
Luke 11:42 But woe to you Pharisees! For you pay tithe of mint and rue and every kind of garden herb, and yet disregard justice and the love of God; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others.
Elaeagnus angustifolia, Family - Elaeagnaceae
The Russian Olive is a thorny shrub or small tree sometimes called a Persian olive. It is native to Asia but now widely established in North America. Its common name comes from its similarity in appearance to the real olive tree (Olea europaea), in a different botanical family, Oleaceae.
Over the past century, Russian olive was widely planted throughout the United States as an ornamental and windbreak tree and has since escaped into natural areas. The tree is problematic in the Southwest because it favors riparian communities and other moist environments. As populations increase, Russian olive crowds out desirable native riparian trees such as cottonwood and willow, thereby reducing flora and fauna species diversity. Because of its ability to colonize streambanks, Russian olive can alter the natural flooding regime and reduce availability of nutrients and moisture. However, along with saltcedar (Tamarix spp.), Russian olive trees potentially serve as nesting habitat for the endangered southwestern willow flycatcher.
The Russian olive can fix nitrogen in its roots, enabling it to grow on bare mineral substrates. Even though the Russian olive tree is considered a noxious weed in New Mexico, one has to admire its hardiness and ability to thrive in the harshest of environments, sort of like a Christian.
Psalm 1:1-3 How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night. He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers.
Vitis labrusca, Family - Vitaceae
No plant is mentioned more times in the Bible than the grape and its products, chiefly wine, but also raisins and vinegar. Along with the olive tree and the fig tree, grape vines were often used as symbols of the fertility of the Promised Land of Israel. Constant attention to the maintenance of the vineyard is necessary, since failure to prune and hoe makes the vines yield sour or wild grapes. Much of the maintenance and planting was done by women in Old Testament times. Pruning of the vines takes place during winter dormancy and helps to ensure that the coming fruit is of good quality, otherwise there would be too many clusters of fruit to be nourished by the roots, resulting in only poor grapes. Jesus used this familiar task in His parables;
John 15:1-5 “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing
Pinus edulis, Family - Pinaceae
The Pinyon pine is well known in New Mexico in our widespread pinyon-juniper habitat zones. The Pinyon tree has many physiological adaptations in times of draught so that it can survive in the hotter, dryer climates better than most other conifers.
The Jerusalem or Aleppo pine (Pinus halepensis) was never a common tree in Israel due to its stringent ecological requirements, although it is now planted by the millions in modern Israel. Like our Western pines, the Israel pines experience a similar pattern of stresses that threaten the species. Our Western pines are stressed by draught and then attacked by bark beetle or spruce bud worm, and then subject to catastrophic fires.
In Israel, the Jerusalem pine can create thick stands, then subject to their equivalent epidemic of the scale insect, the Matsucoccus josephi and the caterpillars, Thaumatopoea wilkinsoni. Again, the dead and dying trees are very susceptible to fire. With adequate water, the sap of the pine trees can often push the intruders out and create a defense. Just as a person is more susceptible to disease when stressed, so are the plants and trees. The Christian needs to stay well-nourished in God’s word to stay spiritually healthy in our stressful world.
Ephesians 6:10-11 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.