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Bible Plants

Euphrates and White Poplar

Two different poplars are mentioned in the Scriptures, the white poplar and the Euphrates poplar. White poplar, Populus alba, is familar in North America because it is often planted as a rapidly growing shade tree. The younger portions of the stem are usually a bright white; leaves are covered with dense hairs beneath but the upper surface is dark green. In Israel, the white poplar is often common along rivers and is frequent along the Banias, one of the sources of the Jordan; it is also widely planted. The white poplar may be the tree referred to in the genetics experiment of Jacob in Genesis 30:37.

The second poplar is the Euphrates poplar, Populus euphratica, which forms a conspicuous part of the vegetation of the lower Jordan River as well as the Aravah. In the sections of the Euphrates River I have examined in northern Syria, P. euphratica is the most common tree. It forms dense stands along the banks, likely clones formed from runners of a parent tree. The leaves are polymorphic, that is, different leaves on the same tree or even the same branch may have strikingly different shapes.

The bark of this tree, unlike its close relative the white poplar, is not white nor do the leaves have a white undersurface. It can tolerate relatively high salinity. Common in many parts of the Middle East, it is assumed that the Euphrates poplar is intended in Psalm 137:1-3 where the captives hung their harps on the "willows" of Babylon.

The commonly planted "weeping willow" was given its name, Salix babylonica, after this portion of scripture. However, it is apparently native to China and never grew in Bible lands.

Euphrates Poplar

Populus euphratica Jordan Valley, Jordan. Salicaceae Populus euphratica Jordan Valley, Jordan. Salicaceae

White Poplar

 Populus alba. White poplar.Tell Dan, Israel. Salicaceae Populus alba. White poplar. Salicaceae

Poplar and Poplars References