Figs, Dates, Laurel, and Myrrh: Plants of the Bible and the Quran

In the words of the author, this book is the result of a twenty-year project, “to study every plant mentioned in the Bible and the Quran growing in nature; to learn how local people still use these plants today; to compare current uses with how people used these plants in ancient times; to establish what controversies, past and present, surround these plants’ identities; and generally, to assimilate all I could about this remarkable assemblage of plants.”

An American botanist, Musselman studied the plants in their native habitats, from southern Turkey to central Sudan and from Cyprus to the border of Iraq. In the Bible’s Book of Deuteronomy, the region is described as “a land of wheat and barley; of grapevines, fig trees, and pomegranates; of olive oil and honey.” And in the Quran, “He positioned the earth for all the creatures: There are fruits of all kinds on it, and date-palms with their clusters sheathed, grain—with husk, and fragrant grasses.”

More than one hundred plants cited in the Bible and the Quran are described in terms of their botanical characteristics, habitats, and traditional uses together with quotations from the scriptures. The text is illustrated with color photographs by the author to show each plant with its characteristic features—trees, flowers, fruits, seeds, herbs—as well as plants in cultivation and in their natural habitats.

The author knows the plants firsthand after living and working in several Arab countries. During his travels he learned from farmers and shepherds who continue to use the plants from the Bible and the Quran as they were used in ancient times. Musselman’s personal experience and insights into the plants, the people, and the region make this a readable and relevant book for our times. For those gardening with the plants of the Mediterranean, the book will be a treasured resource.

Katherine Greenberg, garden designer
Lafayette, California