The Mediterranean cypress – cupressus sempervirens – is an evergreen coniferous tree that grows to a height of 35m and can live for 1000 years and more. It is well adapted to the Mediterranean climate of hot dry summers and cool winters, and grows across a wide altitude range from sea level to around 2000m. The wood is fragrant and durable and is used for making harpsichords, coffins and furniture. It was also used to make the doors of St Peter’s basilica in Rome. In classic antiquity the cypress was associated with mourning and death. However when Van Gogh painted cypresses he saw them as trees that linked earth and heaven.
And Jacob dreamed that there was a ladder set up on earth, the top of it reaching to heaven; and the angles of God were ascending and descending on it. Genesis 28:12
My soul can find no staircase to heaven unless it be through earth’s loveliness. Michelangelo
The cedar – cedrus libani – is a native of Lebanon and the eastern end of the Mediterranean. It is coniferous, able to grow in mountainous terrains, can reach a height of 35m and have a life span that can exceed 1000 years. It is often found in parks and gardens as a decorative specimen. It has a hard durable wood with a strong sweet smell – which is said to deter moths. Its resin can be used to produce a type of turpentine.
When Solomon built the first temple in Jerusalem, cedar imported from Lebanon was one of the key building materials used for both beams and joists, as well as for creating carved panelling to,libe the interior walls.
The cedar symbolised purification and protection, incorruptibility and eternal life.
The righteous flourish like the palm tree and grow like a cedar Lebanon. Psalm 92:12
Quietude, which some men cannot abide because it reveals their inward poverty, is as a palace of cedar to the wise … Charles H Spurgeon
The blackthorn – prunus spinoza- is native to Britain, grows to a height of 5-7m and has a life span of about 100 years. It has a dense mass of spiny branches that make it a good hedging plant and provides a safe nesting place for wildlife. Its white flowers come in the early spring before its leaves appear. Hedges white with blossom in a cold spring give rise to the term ‘blackthorn winter.’ These early blooms provide food for bees and other insects. The leaves provide food for numerous moth caterpillars, and both caterpillars and later the blackthorn’s fruit – sloes – provide food for birds and small mammals. Sloes look like a small plum but are hard and have a very sour taste – yet they make a good flavour for gin. The blackthorn wood is hard wearing and strong and traditionally used for walking sticks and tool handles.
Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4: 31-32
Let’s build bridges, not walls. Martin Luther King Jn
The acacia tree is a native of tropical and sub-tropical regions but grows in other cooler climes too. In Australia they are known as wattles. The acacia is part of the pea family and its small fragrant flowers produce podded seeds which are high in protein. The wood is often used for furniture and floorboards, whilst tannins from its bark can be used in making inks. Its resin can be used to make glue, including gum arabica. According to the Hebrew Scriptures the Tabernacle and the Ark of the Covenant (which housed the tablets inscribed with the Ten Commandments) were made of acacia wood – the latter covered in gold.
Acacia honey comes from bees that feed on the black locust or false acacia tree. NB the seeds of this latter tree are poisonous.
Then the cloud covered the Tabernacle, and the glory of the LORD filled the Tabernacle. Exodus 40:34
The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy making wise the simple… More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey, and the drippings of the honeycomb. Psalm 19:7,10
The field maple – acer campestre – is a native British tree. It grows to a height of 20m and can have a life span of 350 years. Its leaves are attractive to aphids and the tree therefore is attractive to many aphid loving insects such as ladybirds. Its wood is hard and dense and is traditionally used in wood turning, carving and for making musical instruments, particularly harps. Like all maples, the sap can be collected and used as a sweet syrup.
The field maple is quick growing and is thus good for hedging.
Pleasant words are like honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body. Proverbs 16:24
In the sweetness of friendship let there be laughter and sharing of pleasures. For in the dew of little things the heart finds its morning and is refreshed. Kahlil Gibran
The hawthorn tree – crataegus monogyna – is native to Britain and grows to a height of 15m. It has a shrubby shape which provides safety for nesting birds. The hawthorn bears white, and sometime pink, blossom in May and hence is also known as a May tree. It can provide food for 300 different insects, and its fruit, haws, are eaten by various birds and small mammals.
The early green leaves can be eaten freshly picked – known as ‘bread and cheese’ or as a salad. Its haws can be made into jellies and sauces. Hawthorn is widely used for hedging and provides good shelter for livestock. The wood is used for carving and for veneers.
Symbolically hawthorn represents hope.
But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:31
Love is a magical shelter where you will feel yourself safe beneath it. Mehmet Murat ildan
There are about 200 types of magnolia. The original species predates the evolution of bees and it is thought that the magnolia’s distinctive large and robust flower had evolved so as to attract, and be fertilised by, beetles.
The magnolia stellata originates from northern Japan. It is a small tree, usually less than 2.5m in height. It bears star-shaped flowers in early spring which appear in advance of its leaves.
Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever. Daniel 12.3
A thing of beauty is a joy forever: its loveliness increases; it will never pass into nothingness. John Keats, Endymion, Book 1
The apple tree – malus domesticus – first grew in Asia, but it is now found in its numerous cultivated forms – over 7500 – throughout the world. The crab apple – malus sylvestris – is native to Britain. It has small, sour fruits and its own range of uses (eg crab apple jelly). Cultivated apple trees vary in height from under 2m to over 10m, and have an average life span of 100 years. The fruits provide food for animals and birds (especially blackbirds and thrushes) as well as humans. Apples are used for cooking and for eating raw, for making into cider, vinegar and spirits, and for jams, chutneys, mincemeats and other preserves. Apple wood is occasionally used for carving.
The apple is associated symbolically with youth and fertility. It is also linked to the sin of temptation although the actual type of fruit eaten by Adam and Eve is not specified in the Book of Genesis.
Strengthen me with raisins, refresh me with apples, for I am faint with love. Song of Solomon 2:5
Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree. Martin Luther
The fig tree – ficus carica -is native to the Middle East and is a member of the mulberry family. It has been cultivated since ancient times and is now found in many parts of the world. It grows up to 20m in height and has a deep root system that enables it to cope with both dry conditions and poor soils. Overtime it develops a large canopy and, having drawn up plenty of water into its leaves, it creates a cool, shady microclimate that benefits both humans and creatures alike. The fig has been cultivated as a crop since ancient days in the Middle East, predating the cultivation of wheat and barley.
The fig tree in the Bible symbolised Israel and its fruitfulness – or not – the wellbeing spirituality and physically of the community
… nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more; they shall all sit down under their own vines and under their own fig trees …. Micah 4:3b, 4a
Peace is not just the absence of conflict; peace is the creation of an environment where all can flourish, regardless of race, colour, creed, religion, gender, class, caste, or any other social markers of difference. Nelson Mandela
The vine – vitis vinifera – is not a tree. In the wild it is a climber that uses trees for support. In cultivation it is pruned to be self-supporting or is trained along wires. Its fruit is consumed both fresh and dried (raisins and currants) and as juice. The juice can be processed to make wine, vinegar and brandy. The fruit is also popular with birds, small animals and insects.
The vine and its fruit has been used symbolically to represent abundance and transformation, and has been involved as a feature or worship since ancient times. In the Hebrew Scriptures, the vine often represents the nation of Israel or the people of God.
For there shall be a sowing of peace; the vine shall yield its fruit, the ground shall give its produce, and the skies shall give their dew; and I will cause the remnant of this people to possess all these things. Zechariah 8:12
We ought to do good to others as simply as a horse runs, or a bee makes honey, or a vine bears grapes season after season without thinking of the grapes it has borne. Marcus Aurelius