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Bible Plants


Arundo donax. Cane. Poaceae

Plants associated with these wetlands are few yet interesting. Some confusion exists over their identity. Cane (qaneh in Hebrew) is an example. Of the references to qaneh in four books of the Old Testament, the plant most frequently referred to is probably Arundo donax or giant cane. It is ubiquitous where any fresh water is found. Especially evident on hillsides, it marks a place where there is water even if it is below the surface of the soil. Technically, it is not an aquatic plant but rather a species which must grow near water where its feet are wet.

Giant cane can be tall, up to 6m. Stems are unbranched, straight and woody. Because of this, giant cane is used in construction of huts, walls, fences and to make simple flutes or writing pens. It was also used as a measuring instrument, a kind of yard or meter stick in ancient times. An example is the man with the measuring reed in his hand in Ezekiel 40, 41 and 42. Apparently, this is giant cane because of its durability and utility.

In Exodus 30 in the compounding of the anointing oil, the same word is used, qaneh. Clearly a different plant is intended here, a fragrant cane. The word is translated as calamus, referring to Acorus calamus from which a perfume base is extracted.

In the New Testament, the Greek word kalamos, from which the Latin Calamus is derived, is used for cane or reed in such passages as Matthew 11: 48 where a sponge of vinegar was offered to Jesus on the cross and Mark 15: 19 where the reed was used for beating. In both cases, the plant that best fits the description is giant cane due to its length and strength.

Kalamos is translated "pen" in III John 13-"I have much to write to you, but I do not want to do so with pen and ink." With a sharpened point, a piece of giant reed makes a writing instrument. Pens made from cane can still be purchased in Damascus where they are used for calligraphy. Passages in Revelation with the same word refer to measuring like the Ezekiel verses. This likely refers to cane rather than common reed which is not as strong and stiff.

Writing quills for Arabic calligraphy. Made from Arundo donax. Purchased in Damascus, Syria July 2000. Poaceae Flutes made from Arundo donax. Purchased in the market in Aleppo, Syria. June 2000. Arundo donax. Cane. Wadi Rajib, Jordan. Poaceae Arundo donax. Wall made from culms. Fuheis, Jordan. Poaceae