More commonly known as the Liquidambar styraciflu in Northern America, the sweetgum provided medicinal balm and salve in the Middle East. Its rich foliage would have provided shade in the hot weather.

Lebanon cedar

The Cedrus libani belongs to the pine family and is mentioned in many ancient texts. In Psalm 92:12, the tree is a symbol of righteousness. On Mount Lebanon there are 400 trees that are said to be 2,000 years old and the cedar tree is the emblem of Lebanon.


Also known as the shittah tree, the shittim wood from this tree is said to have been used to build the Arc of the Covenant. The tree itself grew in the Jordan valley and the Sinai desert. The tree's wide canopy would have brought a little relief from the soaring desert temperatures.

Jericho balsam

This desert date tree produced an oily gum which you may have heard referred to as the "balm of Gilead." It is a much-valued tree as the oil from the fruit was used to make soaps and oils. A spiky, thorny tree, it is not the most elegant of trees.


The durable wood from the Cupressus sempervirens was used to make houses and ships. It is believed the both Noah's Ark and the first doors of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome were made of cypress wood.

Fig tree

While fig leaves are associated with covering up the more intimate parts of the human body, the fruit from these trees made up a substantial part of the local diet. Either eaten fresh or dried, figs were seen as a sign of prosperity. In the Bible Jesus actually cursed a fig tree when He was hungry and saw it was barren of fruit.

Olive tree

Olive trees appear many times in the Bible and were another valuable source of nutrition at the time of Jesus -- and still today. As olive trees produce oil, fruit and wood they were a valuable trading commodity. The Garden of Gethsemane had a small olive grove and the Aramaic meaning of the name suggests it had an oil press on the site. The short evergreen tree is still popular today, growing in gardens and plant pots across the world.