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Residents Association MagazinearrowSummer 2003 - 10

A new author, resident in Broadstone - Tom H Ratcliffe

shittim-wood treeIt was a bright, sunny, calm and cloudless day in May 1999. I sat reclining in my garden, breathing in the air that was pregnant with the fragrance of beautiful flowers swaying in the gentle breeze; the songs of happy and contented birds echoed through the trees. Closing one's eyes, my thoughts began to construct an idyllic environment in which a galaxy of colour and the forces of nature were co-existing in perfect harmony. I wondered what it must have been like in the Garden of Eden before all was spoilt through man's disobedience. It was then I realised the time had come to fulfill a long-cherished objective, to write a book that would cover every plant, fruit and product mentioned in the Bible.

Biblical bulrushIn addition to preparing the text and acquiring pictures for the book, I've been growing a few unusual biblical plants in my garden. Incidentally, if one has a greenhouse that can be heated during the winter months, it is possible to grow all the plants listed in the Bible. I managed to grow the 'Shittim-wood' tree (Acacia seyal) of which the 'Ark of the Covenant' was made; also the 'Mandrake' plant (Mandragora officinarum) the fruits of which are said to possess an aphrodisiac drug. The biblical Bulrush (Cyperus papyrus), used to build the little ark in which Moses was hidden from the murderous hand of Pharaoh, King of Egypt, was also successfully grown. Pictures of the above plants, together with others I have grown, appear in my book which has recently been published.

mandrakeThe plant subjects covered in my book are set in the alphabetical sequence of their common names. By the middle of the year 2000, I had reached the subject of 'Oaks'. I had heard and read a lot about the 'Abraham Oak' in Hebron, and wondered how such an Oak could still exist. According to the biblical record, it is 3900 years since Abraham sat under or by the Evergreen Oaks of Mamre. The authoritative word of plant scientists and botanists is that such Oaks have a maximum life span of no more than 500 years. That being so, the 'Abraham Oak' in Hebron today cannot possibly be the original tree, but may well be an offspring of the original. I decided to visit Israel to see and photograph as many biblical plants as possible. It was wonderful to see the great Evergreen Oaks on Mount Carmel.

bramble thornWhile in Israel, I was anxious to see and photograph the 'Christ Thorn' Zizyphus spina-christi, the 'bramble thorn' used to form the 'crown of thorns' that in mockery was placed on the head of the Lord Jesus. One day we travelled to Chorazin at the north end of the Sea of Galilee to view some ancient ruins. While in Chorazin, I spotted the very plant I had been looking for, the 'Christ Thorn'. The plant was a tangled mass of long, very thorny growths with yellow to orange coloured fruits the size of lemons. Unfortunately, all the fruits were on the north side of the bush away from the sun. I determined to cutout one or two fruit-bearing branches and place them in the bush on the south side before taking a photograph. Not having a sharp knife, I had great difficulty severing a branch; however, having travelled so far, there was no way I was going to leave Chorazin without securing a suitable picture for my book. I eventually achieved my objective, but not without pain, for my hands and arms were severely lacerated by the 5 cm long thorns. The picture of the 'Christ Thorn' appears on page 31 of my colour illustrated, hard back book: 'Bible Plants, Fruits and Products' ISBN 1872734 26 X. £16.95. Telephone enquiries (01202) 699722.

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Last Updated: 20th February 2004