Where Can I Find Bible Plants in Pittsburgh?

Acacia leaf detail Rodef Shalom Biblical Botanical Garden

What a marvelous weekend I enjoyed with fellow garden writers at the Garden Writers Association Symposium in Pittsburgh. There is a sort of madness in our souls when it comes to gardening! It was exciting, engaging and encouraging to be with those who work as I do to communicate the grand (and humbling!) story of gardening.

If you have a trade association, join it!

Enjoy fellowship on common ground with your colleagues.

And 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 Pittsburgh?!

Despite the difference in climate and exposure between this northern city and the Holy Land, Pittsburgh had many plants from God’s Word tucked among its city gardens. Enjoy a few snapshots and be inspired to spy Bible plants wherever your travels take you.

Rodef Shalom Biblical Botanical Garden

First Stop: Rodef Shalom Biblical Botanical Garden

I came here before the symposium began, eager to see one of the largest Bible gardens in America, and spent a tranquil morning on this holy ground at the Rodef Shalom Temple.

Peace be on Israel  

Psalm 128:6

Cedar of Lebanon at Rodef Shalom

Enter the sheltered garden by passing through a pair of cedar of Lebanon trees, a threshold of splendor and majesty.


cedar of Lebanon detail of needles Rodef Shalom garden

A true Cedrus bears its needles in tufts.













Also greeting the garden guest –

date palm fronds at Rodef Shalom Biblical Botanical Garden

A young date palm gives an up-close view of its mighty fronds.


Citron Tree at Rodef Shalom Biblical Botanical Garden

Citrus medica or citron is one of the four species in the celebration of Sukkot each fall, also known as Feast of Tabernacles. Citrons look like their lemon relatives but have a thicker rind and more fragrant scent. They represent fruitfulness in God’s salvation.

“Sukkot remembers and celebrates the next chapter of the tale of God saving the People from bondage in Egypt and leading them through the desert into a new and fruitful land. It is a part of the tale of our salvation. It is our history: our common experience with Grace.”

— William Joseph Moran III, “The Trees of Hadar,” Seed, Spade and Sword: The Bible in Context

But you, mountains of Israel, will produce branches and fruit for my people Israel, for they will soon come home.

Ezekiel 36:8

Dandelions are a Bible Plant

How many gardens celebrate dandelions? Put away the weedkiller and start eating these greens in salads and soups!


Papyrus detail at the Rodef Shalom Biblical Botanical Garden

Papyrus abounds along the water’s edge in the Rodef Shalom Biblical Botanical Garden








pomegranate bud and fruit

Pomegranate bud and forming fruit, one of many fruit trees in God’s Word. See our Plant Guide for bringing this drought-tolerant delight to your garden!



Common Elements: Castor Beans, Grapevines & Figs

Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens is another garden must-see when in Pittsburgh! Additionally, our group was welcomed at many private residential gardens, another bonus for traveling with garden writers. These unique plants and features were found in more than one garden.

Castor bean at Rodef Shalom Biblical Botanical Garden

Castor Bean – the plant attributed to making pouting Jonah happy (Jonah 4:5), with beautiful hints of red in its broadleaves, stems and blossoms soon to be “beans.”


Castor Bean plant at Phipps Conservatory

Castor Bean plants have poisonous parts, so use caution and choose wisely in locating them. Here is another beautiful specimen at Phipps Conservatory beyond the barrier in the East Room.

Grapevine leaves catching the light

Grapevine arbor covers part of the pathway at Rodef Shalom Biblical Botanical Garden



Joseph is a fruitful vine, a fruitful vine near a spring, whose branches climb over a wall.

Genesis 49:22

grapes and grapevines catch the light

Deep green leaves shelter growing grape clusters yet catch the light in the most dazzling way, creating a portico entry to the Children’s Discovery Garden at Phipps


I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit

John 15:5



Fig Tree in Newington Gardens greenhouse

Fig trees are favorites of northerners, finding winter protection in greenhouses like this one at Newington Garden, a treasured stop on our tour.



Fig tree with hyssop-like blossoming oregano

In the Children’s Discovery Garden at Phipps Conservatory, a fig nestles with hyssop-looking oregano blossoms. Both of these hardy-for-sure-in-Zone 8 plants enjoy perennial status (so far) in the sheltered outdoor garden “room” between conservatory buildings.


 Discovering the Unexpected

Maidenhair fern grows everywhere in the Phipps indoor gardens, and who would expect such a misty, water-lover to be found in the dry lands of Israel?


Maidenhair fern is a delicate groundcover at water's edge

En Gedi, an oasis near the Dead Sea, hosts a few verdant beds cooled by a year-round waterfall, filled with maidenhair fern.


These are just a handful of photos to show that wherever you go, ready to embrace new adventures or not, you will find a reminder of God’s ever-presence in the landscape.

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

Joshua 1:9



Top Photo Caption: ©2014 Shelley S. Cramm Acacia wood was called upon for most of the Tabernacle furniture (Exodus 25-26). Its delicate leaves offer a surprising amount of shade to desert travelers.

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4 Responses to Where Can I Find Bible Plants in Pittsburgh?

  1. Judy Davidson August 16, 2014 at 4:38 pm #

    The photos of the Bible plants are just absolutely gorgeous!! And the Bible passages you picked are so perfect. Thank you, Shelley.


    • Shelley Cramm August 20, 2014 at 2:59 pm #

      Thank you,Judy! It was a joy to be there and so glad to share it with you. Thank you for being a faithful reader!

  2. Mel October 28, 2015 at 4:56 am #

    Thank You Shelley for your time spent with GOD in HIS HOLY WORD, your website and tools are a value to any gardener, etc. May many be called because of your work in the kingdom of GOD!
    My husband and have 5 acres in the Midwest, we enjoy organic gardening, it restores a persons spirit being so near to HIS creation.
    There is definitely a direct parallel with GOD’S love’ and care for raising HIS 
    children up and starting a life from a seed; water, sun, food, good soil, pruning. Reaping a.harvest!
    I pray that I may use this work to draw my husband closer to GOD with the scripture’s
    you have shared here.
    PSALM 91
    May the LORD’S face shine upon you because of your time well spent in HIS garden

  3. Shelley October 28, 2015 at 12:40 pm #

    Thank you for writing, Mel, and so happy to hear you have found value at garden in Delight. Amen to everything you said! We have so much to know about God through our gardens. Come back and visit often. We love the Midwest!

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