Tag Archives: plants



My beautiful niece (Andrea Adams) took this photograph of sunflowers in the evening. To my knowledge sunflowers don’t grow in Israel, I least I never saw them there. Doesn’t really matter; what is important is that God made this flower for us to marvel at its beauty. Have you ever wondered as you look at the beauty of creation, how individuals can disbelieve in God?

In the context of this beautiful photograph, I want to share something that makes me very sad: For years I was a college professor. One place where I taught for 10 years was filled with intelligent, articulate women. Yet, so many of them didn’t believe in God; some were actively hostile toward Him. Currently, I follow their lives and thoughts on Facebook. There is a popular Christian song that asks, “what if you are wrong?”

Reflection: When Christ comes again, he will separate sheep from goats, those who believe in him from those who do not. We are all going to live forever; the question is where?

Copyright September 8, 2016; Carolyn A. Roth


Having trouble with wineberry

Reblogged from Mortal Tree posted on July 20, 2016.

Wineberry (Rubus phoenicolasius) fruits on second year canes, this year being the third year my canes have been old enough to fruit but haven’t. The first two years late frost killed the second year canes (very frost sensitive), the later canes for that year coming up strong.

A dead cane and a live one coming from the same root.

This year frost wasn’t to blame. Leaves grew, buds grew, and I was very excited to finally get fruit. In the heat of summer, after growing some very promising looking buds, they are shriveling up and dying without handing over a single druplet. The first year canes look fine.

The same cane with buds a few months earlier.

They’re even in the really happy guild where I have had success getting fruit from the apple (fruiting again this year) and turnip rooted chervil, among others. From what I’ve read about its culture, this site should be kind to it. It’s an invasive species here in several states, although not in my area (yet). I would prefer to not wait until it intoduces itself as a weed in my area to finally get some fruit.

There is an especially good article here about the wonderful production it maintains in shade. Flavor is supposed to be very good too. I have yet to come across information about it being finicky and never making a solitary fruit.

I have very few theories what the problem could be accept some strange disease which I have yet to find the name of.

I find the canes’ furry red spines rather attractive as a winter and spring interest, and the canes’ premature deaths make more mulch for the guild without my giving any attention to pruning. So why not keep them in hopes some year they will decide they’re ready to fruit? Until then, I thought I’d start the conversation about what seems to be a rare problem.

Reblogged from Mortal Tree, June 20, 2016.



Weary Cedar


This is a Alaskan Yellow Cedar (Compressus nootkatensis, Pendula). I took the picture at the Botanic Garden in Washington, DC last summer. The branches and needles appear to be sagging, but, this is the trees actual shape. It is receiving the right amount of water.

Some days I just don’t look like I’m sagging, I am sagging! I’m tired and if one more person asks me to do something, I am going to explode. Repeatedly, I ask God if He gets tired. I always get the same answer back, “No, I am not tired; I am God.” Can you imagine a being that never gets tired? Who sees and hears all of us, all the time?

God doesn’t get tired of me talking to him, nor even asking him for things. God wants me to depend on him.

Reflection: It is okay to depend on God; in fact He wants it that way.

I love Bible plants along with their symbolism. If you want to learn more about them, read my two books: 1) Rooted in God and 2) God as a Gardener. You can purchase them from my website: Carolyn Roth Ministry at http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com/

Copyright December 16, 2015; Carolyn A. Roth


Hallelujah! Christ Arose

Resurrection Lily

Low in the grave he lay, Jesus my Savior,
waiting the coming day, Jesus my Lord!

Up from the grave he arose;
with a mighty triumph o’er his foes;
he arose a victor from the dark domain,
and he lives forever, with his saints to reign.
He arose! He arose! Hallelujah! Christ arose!

2. Vainly they watch his bed, Jesus my Savior,
vainly they seal the dead, Jesus my Lord!

Up from the grave he arose;
with a mighty triumph o’er his foes;
he arose a victor from the dark domain,
and he lives forever, with his saints to reign.
He arose! He arose! Hallelujah! Christ arose!

3. Death cannot keep its prey, Jesus my Savior;
he tore the bars away, Jesus my Lord!

Up from the grave he arose;
with a mighty triumph o’er his foes;
he arose a victor from the dark domain,
and he lives forever, with his saints to reign.
He arose! He arose! Hallelujah! Christ arose!

Mushroom Hunting


Fairies dance under toadstool or at least that’s what I learned as a child. I’ve never seen a fairy and the Bible doesn’t mention them, so I am not positive that they exist. In fact, the Bible doesn’t even mention toadstools or mushrooms; yet, present day Israelis are wild about mushrooms. Here’s what I learned about one kibbutz that is mushroom crazy:

Every child in Kibbutz Beit Keshet, in the Lower Galilee, knows not to pick mushrooms with a circle around the stalk. The ring indicates that the mushroom is poisonous. One of the first rules in mushroom-collecting is to know when to focus on a small number of mushrooms. You learn to recognize one or two varieties well enough to distinguish between them the way you distinguish between tomatoes and cucumbers. You must be completely certain that you’re not picking poisonous mushrooms.

It’s not only at this tranquil kibbutz that mushroom-gathering is part of the local culture – many people do it, and the past several years have seen several organized mushroom tours in Israel. The tours, run by the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel, teach participants where to find mushrooms and how to distinguish among the different varieties, among other things. Israel has over 400 species of mushrooms.

Mushroom hunting constitutes a kind of longing for a journey to the center of a foggy, dewy European forest, or in my mind, the damp forests of Pennsylvania. Dad was a mushroom hunter. Often after church we kids would go mushroom hunting with him. It seems like we always found some and Mom would fry them in butter; we didn’t know the word “sauté.” We mainly found mushrooms in the Morchella species.

This particular mushroom has a very fancy name–Morchella deliciosa esculenta. The species grows as a creamy yellow or gray brown.

Reflection: I hope that children of this generation never lose the opportunity to go mushroom hunting with their Dad.

I love Bible plants along with their symbolism. If you want to learn more about them, read my two books: 1) Rooted in God and 2) God as a Gardener. You can purchase them from my website: Carolyn Roth Ministry at http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com/

Copyright January 25, 2015; Carolyn A. Roth


Mom Talks to Plants


Do you ever wish that children and others were like this?

Transient Plants and Wicked Men

Laurus noblisSome Old Testament parables tell a complete story, e.g., Jotham’s parable of the trees crowning a king. Others, such as those in Psalm 37 are short and sometimes even appear terse. Whether long or short, each parable has a spiritual message that unfolds through ideas, incidents, or natural objects in the physical world. In Psalm 37 King David included three parables of one to two verses each. These short parables compared wicked, ruthless men to plants.

As we read reading Psalm 37, we imagine an older and wiser King David. He is no longer the brash aspirant to Israel’s throne or a newly crowned king. This King David comes across as a person has seen a wide range of events and people in his life time. David has dealt with his sin of having Uriah killed so he could marry Bathsheba. He knew his daughter was raped and subsequently dealt with the murder of Crown Prince Amnon. King David was deposed at Israel’s king and fought a heart-breaking battle to regain the throne. God, who David adored, told David that his hands were too bloody to build God’s temple.

Many of King David’s words were written as praise or prayers addressed to God (Adeyemo, 2006). In contrast, Psalm 37 is a teaching directed toward all who will listen. The 40 verses contain a number of separate thoughts loosely organized around a central theme. The theme is problems that result when good people see wicked, godless people prosper. Notice, that through David’s psalm God views righteous (good) versus wicked, ruthless individuals differently:
“Do not fret because of evil men or be envious of those who do wrong; for like
the grass they will soon wither, like green plants they will soon die away”
(Psalm 37:1-2 NIV).

“But the wicked will perish: The LORD’s enemies will be like the beauty of
the fields, they will vanish” (Psalm 37:20 NIV).

Psalm 37 begins with a parable in verses 1 and 2. Evil men are compared to grass which will soon withers and dies away. When I lived in San Francisco, plants bloomed all year around because of continuous rain and moisture in the air. It was difficult for me to imagine grass withering and field flowers fading (verse 20). But, sometime I drove across the Golden Gate Bridge and travel up Highway 80 into the Sacramento Valley. In July, August, and even into September and October, the grass along the highway was brown and appeared dead. Few if any wildflowers grew along the highway.

The same was true of David’s Israel. There, the rains came October through March. At that time, the grass was green and flourished. As spring progresses into summer, the grass turned brown from the scorching heat of the sun and paucity of rain. The beauty of the fields to include any wild flowers that grew there, dried and turned brown. David identified that wicked men will vanish like the beauty of the fields (Psalm 37:20), i.e., in the heat of summer with little rain fall, plants turn into brown straw.

David’s third plant parable, verses 35-36, is the most complete. In it David compared wicked and ruthless men to a green tree in its native soil; but, over time these men disappear. In some Bibles (KJV and ESV), green tree is translated as a green bay tree. Characteristics of the bay laurel tree make it a fitting comparison to the transience of wicked, ruthless men.

“I have seen a wicked and ruthless man flourishing like a green tree in its
native soil, but he soon passed away and was no more; though I looked for
him, he could not be found” (Psalm 37:35-36 NIV).

Bay Leaves

In both the KJV and ESV versions of the Bible, green tree is translated as green laurel tree. In Israel, laurel trees are Laurus nobilis, called the sweet bay laurel because bay leaves come from the tree. Laurel trees grew on Mount Hermon, in the Judean and Samarian mountains, and in the Jordan Valley. Although laurel trees grow in a wide variety of soils, they thrive in moisture-retentive soils. The laurel is an evergreen tree that can grow 60 feet tall; however, most are much smaller at eight-to-twelve feet. Left unattended, laurel trees can form a small thicket. One way to identify a laurel tree is to bruise or cut a leaf and smell the sweet aroma; the aroma is of a bay leaf.

One of the most important attributes of laurel trees—and one that King David apparently knew—was that laurel trees thrive where they are planted. They tend to wilt and even die if they are moved repeatedly. Ideally, gardeners plant laurel trees and allow them to grow in place. Laurel trees prefer partial shade. Although they tolerate strong winds, laurel trees haven’t adapted to maritime exposure. The tree is frost-sensitive. A few master gardeners including myself planted laurel trees here in the Roanoke Valley. Although smaller laurel trees tolerated several of our (plant zones seven) winters, all died after a few years. We learned that in the Roanoke valley, laurel trees grow best in protected areas such as next to a building.

King David said that he saw wicked and ruthless men who flourished like a green laurel tree in its native soil. Probably, he was thinking of a mature laurel tree with a broad canopy and numerous branches. This tree never suffered the setback from being transplanting. Likewise, prosperous, wicked men never seemed to suffer set-backs. They achieved wealth and influence, caring little who they step on in the process. In spite of their seeming charmed lives, David noted that later he looked for these wicked men. They were gone. David concluded that wicked men don’t endure; they have no staying power. Perhaps, like a laurel tree wicked men can’t tolerate adversity—they are frost sensitive—and only flourish in a narrow environment.

In the these three parables in Psalm 37, King David went beyond identifying the puzzle of seeing wicked ones prospering. In verse eight David elaborated on advice he gave in verse one. David said not to fret when evil men prosper because fretting leads to evil. When David said evil, he meant anger, resentful, or mimicking wicked and ruthless men’s business practices. Instead refrain from anger and hope in the Lord. When we hope in the Lord we take our bad as well as good times to him. We take our cares and our joys.

The spiritual focus of these parables is: righteous men and women’s incentive to act right (using biblical moral-ethical standards) comes from knowing that ultimate power on earth and in heaven is in the hands of a just God. Even if the righteous person doesn’t experience worldly prosperity, they will be rewarded in heaven for how they acted on earth. In a later Psalm, David averred that the righteous flourish like a palm tree and like a cedar of Lebanon planted in the Lord’s house (Psalm 92:12-14). Righteous men bear fruit in old age and stay both fresh and green.

In contrast to King David’s parables that speak to the transience of wicked men, probably each us have seen such men and woman thrived their entire career, even life. Was David wrong in verses 35-36? What did he mean? MacDonald (1990) wrote that King David may have been stating a general principle. He noted that Holy Scripture often makes sweeping statements; it describes a general, or normal, outwork of spiritual laws. Exceptions don’t disprove the overall principles.

Reflection: Have you studied the behavior of wicked persons? Do they have staying power?

I love Bible plants along with their symbolism. If you want to learn more about them, read my two books: 1) Rooted in God and 2) God as a Gardener. You can purchase them from my website: Carolyn Roth Ministry at http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com/

Copyright: September 12, 2015; Carolyn A. Roth




Balaam’s Aloe Tree Parable

Agarwood tree

The parable of the aloe and cedar trees (Numbers 24:5-7) was included in an oracle; it was spoken. This third oracle given by Balaam named two trees – the aloe and the cedar. In this entry the aloe is emphasized.

Back Story

When the Moabites saw Moses and the Children of Israel approach their country, they were afraid the “horde’ was going to destroy the land, i.e., cut trees for firewood, consume pasture lands needed for their own livestock. Moab wanted to turn the Israelites away from their land. The problem was that Moab didn’t have an army to fight against the Israelites. Until recently, Moab was subject to the Amorites. Moab was only freed when the Israelites conquered of King Sihon and the Amorite army.

In an effort to combat the Israelites, the Moabite king, Balak, sent for the most the renowned seer/diviner in the known world—Balaam. King Balak planned for Balaam to curse the Israelites. In ancient times people believed that cursing a person or people could influence their outcome. God allowed Balaam to go with the Moabites; however, God warned Balaam that he could only speak the words God gave him.

What followed was Balaam offering five oracles, each of which blessed the Israelites. The one parable that included plants compared the Israelites to aloes and cedars planted by God in watered land:

How beautiful are your tents, O Jacob, your dwelling places, O Israel!
Like valleys they spread out, like gardens beside a river, like aloes planted
by the LORD, like cedars beside the waters. Water will flow from their
buckets; their seed will have abundant water. Their king will be greater
than Agag; their kingdom will be exalted.” — Numbers 24:5-7 NIV

Aloe Tree’s Interpretation

In contrast to the aloe of the New Testament which came from an herbaceous plant, Old Testament aloe came from a tree. The Old Testament aloe tree was the eaglewood tree (Aquilaria malaccensis also known Aquilaria agallocha). Likely, Old Testament traders brought its wood from India. Aquilaria species have adapted to live in different habitats, e.g. rock, limestone, sand, well-drained slopes and ridges, and land near swamps.

Aloe is made from agarwood of the eaglewood tree. Only about 10% of mature trees produce agarwood. The fragrant oleoresin that permeates the heartwood of some eaglewood trees is produced in response to a fungal infection. Once the fungus establishes itself on the tree, it turns the woody trunk into a deep brown color. The darker the heart wood, the more valuable the wood. Trees over 50 years old produce the best agarwood. Agarwood is harvested, cut into small pieces, and burned. The result is a distinct aroma described as being a cross between sandalwood and balsam. Linens packed with pieces of agarwood take on the smell of the agar in the same manner as linens packed in a cedar chest take on the smell of cedar.


Balaam heard traders’ descriptions of the majesty of the aloe-producing tree. Something in or about the Israelite encampment resonated with description Balaam heard of the uprightness of the tree. These Israelites came to adult hood as free men and women. They stood upright. They live in the dry, rugged Sinai. They were used to standing upright, looking off into the distance for the first sign of danger to their families or for signs of water and food.

Balaam was smart and knew his craft well. He knew the Israelite history. He knew how they left Egypt. He knew about their 40-year trek in the wilderness. Possibly Balaam compared the 50 years it took the eaglewood tree to produce mature agarwood (aloes) with the 40 years the Israelites wondered in the desert coalescing into a cohesive nation. Another comparison could be that just as only 10% of eaglewood becomes agarwood and sweet smelling aloes so too of all the peoples in the known world, God touched the Children of Israel for his own. This small nation was unique in being God’s chosen people.

Reflection: The spiritual interpretation of Balaam’s parable is: what God has declared blessed, man shouldn’t curse. The opposite is also true, what God has declared as sinful, damaged, and depraved, man can’t declare as valuable and good.

I love Bible plants along with their symbolism. If you want to learn more about them, read my two books: 1) Rooted in God and 2) God as a Gardener. You can purchase them from my website: Carolyn Roth Ministry at http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com/

Copyright September 5, 2015; Carolyn A. Roth


How Do You Know?

Family Circus035 (2)

For Christians, there is a message in this cartoon. It has to do with how we know we are a Christian, living in God’s will, and growing where He wants us to grow.

Christmas Holly = Holy


It’s Christmas, it’s Christmas. Time for holly. These pictures are of the beautiful American holly tree (Ilex opaca) that grows in southeastern United States. This one is in the St. John Church Bible Garden. It is evergreen. These picture were taken on December 12 when the temperature is freezing at night.

Don’t confuse this tree with the holm tree in the Bible. That tree is an evergreen oak (Quercus ilex). Both species take their name from the pointed leaves.


If you want to grow holly trees you need a male and a female. Only the female tree produces the beautiful red berries.


A Christmas carol is The Holly and The Ivy.

Reflection: When I see, or hear, the word holly, I always think of holy. God is holy–pure, just, kind, bright–and I am not. If I were holy, I would want to be like the colors of the holly tree, e.g., vibrant, pleasing to look at, even colorful. I would want people to look at me and smile, as I do when I look at a holly tree.

I love Bible plants along with their symbolism. If you want to learn more about them, read my two books: 1) Rooted in God and 2) God as a Gardener. You can purchase them from my website: Carolyn Roth Ministry at http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com/

Copyright: December 13, 2015; Carolyn A. Roth