Where Can I Find Bible Plants in Pasadena?

Sycomore fruit and leaf LA ARboretum

Last month garden writers assembled to fill our hearts with fortitude and the forward progress that comes in gathering together. The Garden Writers Association Annual Symposium is a joyful congregation of writers of all sorts—blogs, books, garden news columns, garden catalogs, etc.—along with those who represent the full range of our writing material: plant propagators, growers, tool manufacturers, compost producers, “good dirt” providers, seedsmen and women, and the gardens and trade associations who promote them.

Our garden-writing rally took place in Pasadena, California, where autumns are warm and rainless summers leave us much to learn about plants that are “water savvy,” a term I first heard from keynote speaker Adam Schwerner, and an endearing word I will develop in a future blog.

For now, let me repeat my pleasant rebuke from last year:

If you have a trade association, join it!

Enjoy fellowship on common ground with your colleagues.

If you want to associate with fellow gardeners, join ours!

Social media makes us all broadcast journalists to some degree, and the hope and goodness in gardening is a story we each have a part in stewarding well.

Are there Bible plants in Pasadena?

The vibrant, vividly clean city of Pasadena is nestled next to the San Gabriel Mountains, east of Los Angeles. I was won over on my triumphant entry (triumphant over the LA traffic to get to Pasadena, that is!) to the convention center area with a prominent planting of date palms along Arroyo Parkway.

Date Palms on Arroyo Parkway Pasadena

Date palms add a flourish to an otherwise mediocre median. Learn more about date palms in the Plant Guide.

The righteous will flourish like a palm tree
Psalm 92:12 NIV

Our garden adventures took place east of Pasadena, with a full morning at the L.A. County Arboretum, and a just-above-balmy afternoon tour and evening reception at the Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Balm of GIlead marker Huntington Botanic GArdens

Balm of Gilead marked in the Huntington Botanical Gardens Herb Garden, although a dispute among scholars about Scripture’s actual “balm” is referenced in God’s Word for Gardeners, page 854


Enduring Trees

The L.A. County Arboretum was originally incorporated in 1948 from private ranchland, and first open to the public in 1955. An area of the land, mainly Tallac Knoll, was “devoted to plants of the Bible,” wrote gardening author Leonid Enari in “Plant Portraits Sycamore [sic] Fig” in LASCA Leaves, September, 1974. Naturally well-adapted to California’s endless summer and strand of sun-filled days, trees from the Holy Land have endured since their planting now over 50 to 60 years ago. Tallac Knoll rises in the northwestern corner of the Arboretum’s 127 acres. Along the way to the hilltop, many more Bible plants have found an American home.

Plane tree plant tag LA Arboretum

In the “plains” of Bauer Lawn at the LA Arboretum, Platanus orientalis stands tall, a Promised Land species of plane or sycamore tree.

Jacob, however, took fresh-cut branches from poplar, almond and plane trees and made white stripes on them by peeling the bark and exposing the white inner wood of the branches.
Genesis 30:37 NIV

Plane tree canopy LA Arboretum

Canopy of the sycamore trees












Passing by Baldwin Lake, papyrus grows lush and fluffy in the sunshine.

Papyrus at lagoon edge LA Arboretum

Papyrus in full glory at the water’s edge of Baldwin Lake.

The burning sand will become a pool, the thirsty ground bubbling springs. In the haunts where jackals once lay, grass and reeds and papyrus will grow. Isaiah 35:7 NIV

Continuing on to the Herb Garden at the base of Tallac, two designs of quadrant pathways are anchored by species from Scripture.

topiary bay laurel LA Arboretum

The Herb Garden is anchored by four corners of impressive bay laurel topiaries.


Pomegranate tree quad LA Arboretum

Four pomegranate trees bursting with fruit accentuate another quadrangle crossroads in the Herb Garden, with a brick water well marking the center point.

plentiful pomegranates LA ArboretumUntil now, the vine and the fig tree, the pomegranate and the olive tree have not borne fruit. “‘From this day on I will bless you.’”
Haggai 2:19 NIV

The Herb Garden is also abundant with evergreen dwarf myrtle shrubs.

Dwarf Myrtle over 5 ft tall

Dwarf myrtle, a diminutive variety of Myrtus communis, is planted abundantly in the Herb Garden…though hardly dwarf! It grows taller than me.


He was standing among the myrtle trees in a ravine.
Zechariah 1:8 NIV







A rare sighting of caper bush was also a delight!

caper bush mounded in full sun LA Arboretum

Caper bushes mound gracefully and endure a full sun exposure easily.

caper flower and buds detail

Caper is a sort of hidden plant in the Bible, translated as “desire” (or lack thereof, in Ecclesiastes 12:5) due to the supposed aphrodisiac qualities of the pickled flower buds.

Flanking a stone walkway that alludes to caper’s adaptability to rock gardens and its growth on the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem, caper bushes mound and spill over the pathway border.







A Humble Tree Rises

In perhaps the most elegantly situated planting in the world for this species, on the central perch of Tallac Knoll, a sycamore fig tree stands in beautiful symmetry and poise. This unusual tree was planted at the Arboretum in 1953.

Sycomore Fig LA Arboretum

The humble reputation of Ficus sycomorus was emphasized in God’s Word by the livelihoods of the poor prophet Amos (Amos 7:14) and the wretched tax collector Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-8).

Sycomore figs grow directly from the trunk and main branches, giving the tree's structure an odd appearance.

Sycomore fig fruits grow directly from the trunk and main branches, giving the tree’s structure a peculiar appearance.

The notoriety of this planting brings to mind a sweet Word from the Lord on being steadfast, as sycamore figs were generally considered a more humble species in ancient times, eaten by those of modest means, disdained for the more desirable Ficus carica varieties. Enjoy the irony that this formerly lowly fig is now “lifted up” in prominence!


Sycomore fruit and leaf LA ARboretum

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.
1 Peter 5:6 NIV

The Huntington

Gutenberg Bible on vellum Huntington Library

The Huntington Botanical Gardens literaly has the Bible in the gardens,with a rare copy of the Gutenberg Bible on vellum housed in the Library located in the middle of the garden grounds.

The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens was established out of the estate and collections of Henry and Arabella Huntington, formed in 1919 as a nonprofit educational trust. The Huntingtons acquired treasured artwork and manuscripts throughout their lives, and the development of botanical gardens matches the prestige of their collected creative works.



The well-ordered entry at the Huntington greets all who enter with the strength of evergreen myrtle and its delicate, sweet floral sprays.

garden bench agains dwarf myrtle hedge Huntington Botanic Gardens

Dwarf myrtle hedges offer a happy green backdrop to a garden bench.

Instead of the thornbush will grow the juniper, and instead of briers the myrtle will grow. This will be for the Lord’s renown, for an everlasting sign, that will endure forever.
Isaiah 55:13 NIV

Dwarf myrtle hedges Huntington Botanic Gardens

Dwarf myrtle hedges surround the entry area flower beds at Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

myrtle blossom detail Huntington Botanic Gardens

Sweet beauty in dwarf myrtle blossoms













Moving from the entrance, education and visitor center (and an outstanding garden gift shop!) towards the library, art collections, and gardens, one passes through an ornamental grasses planting with a distinctly Persian garden design form.



Huntington Botanical Gardens Persian garden-style rill

The Persian garden design of a central watercourse, and other design attributes, are discussed in devotions on “Palace Gardens,” in God’s Word for Gardeners Bible, see pages a-17 & 18.


The Huntington cultivates an Herb Garden as well, with most of the species at the nearby LA Arboretum—bay laurel, pomegranates, caper bush, plus a whole garden of date palms. Below are few more Bible plants to spy.

olive shoots at Huntington Botanic Gardens

Olive trees send up new, vigorous shoots continually.

your children will be like olive shoots around your table

Psalm 128:3 NIV



Hyssop at the Huntington Botanic Gardens

The most likely species for hyssop in the Bible is Origanum maru, also called O. syriacum

Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.

Psalm 51:7 NIV

Arbor Vines

Finally, one is never far from grapevines in California!

Grapevine trellis at LA Arboretum

These branches span a trellis near the Garden for All Seasons at the L.A. County Arboretum featuring edible plants.

grapevine arbor at Huntington Botanic Gardens

Evening sun on a grapevine arbor offers sheltered seating.

‘…In that day each of you will invite your neighbor to sit under your vine and fig tree,’ declares the Lord Almighty.
Zechariah 3:10 NIV





Enjoy more information about these gardens online at www.arboretum.org & www.huntington.org

A special thank you to Richard Sculhof, CEO of the Los Angeles County Arboretum, for guiding me to the scyomore fig tree.



Photo Credits: © 2015 Shelley S. Cramm

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3 Responses to Where Can I Find Bible Plants in Pasadena?

  1. Kim October 9, 2015 at 12:33 pm #

    This is my favorite article so far. And I love the pictures

  2. James Stephens January 16, 2017 at 1:18 am #

    Fantastic. So happy to find this article on plants in the Bible. Wonderful. Thank you for your hard work.

    • Shelley Cramm January 16, 2017 at 3:04 pm #

      James, thank you for writing and so glad you enjoyed it!

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