Not so Plane Tree


References: Genesis 30:37; Ezekiel 31:8

The plane tree was used by Jacob in an attempt to influence the color of his flock of goats and sheep. Jacob’s story was elaborated several months ago in the blog titled: Crafty Characters and Poplar Tree. In the Bible, plane tree was mentioned only one other time and that was in Ezekiel 31:8.  Ezekiel prophesied against pharaoh, King of Egypt. Ezekiel compared the magnificence of the Assyrian Empire to the plane tree.

Ezekiel said that “no cedar in the garden of God could rival it (Assyria) nor the fir trees equal its boughs; neither were the plane trees like its branches” (Ezekiel 31:8). Ezekiel was making the point that the Assyrian Empire was mighty – one of the mightiest empires to ever exist – yet it fell to the depth of Sheol (Hell). Mighty Egypt and Pharaoh would also fall.

Ezekiel was God’s prophet who was captured with the Jewish exiles and taken to Babylon. When Ezekiel gave this prophecy there were two mighty empires in the world: Egypt on the northeastern corner of Africa and Babylon in the area that is now Persia. Some governments and scholars thought Egypt was indestructible; yet, not too many years after the Babylonian Empire conquered Jerusalem, Babylonian soldiers conquered Egypt.

Plane Tree

Normally, the plane tree (Platanus orientalis), called the oriental plane tree, doesn’t grow in the United States. More often we see the Platanus occidentalis, called the American sycamore, the American plane tree, and occasionally the buttonball. The King James Version of the Bible translated plane tree as chestnut tree; however, the better translation is plane tree. In this blog, I am going to discuss the American sycamore (Platanus occidentalis), rather than the Oriental Plane Tree.

The American sycamore tree commonly grows from 70-100 feet tall; however it can grow as tall as 120 feet or more. It is one of the most massive trees east of the Rocky Mountains. Hardiness Plant Zones are 5-9 with occasional trees found in Zone 4. The canopy can grow 65-80 wide so American sycamore trees aren’t acceptable for planting in small areas. Growth rate is moderate and the tree can grow to 2 feet each year.

The American sycamore tree is handsome particularly when turn yellow-brown in the fall. The tree trunk and bark is distinctive with smooth, pale, and mottled bark that exfoliates. Although the plane tree prefers deep, rich, moist soil, it will grow in about any soil. Plane trees can withstand external pollutants and are ideal for urban landscapes, assuming the tree has space to grow.


Exfoliate is an interesting word. It means to cast off in scales of thin layers. Sycamore trees cast off bark so the trunk and limbs of any significant size look smooth. I wish I could exfoliate in order to cast off some of my foibles and quirks; however, I do just the opposite. The parts of my character and personality that I want to get rid of, are just those parts that seem to cling. I wonder if trying to get rid of the un-beautiful parts of my being is part of Christian maturity, even becoming progressively more like Christ, e.g., sanctification.

Some days I want to rush forward toward Christ-likeness so I can become pure and clean. But total purity and cleanliness isn’t going to happen here on earth,  no matter how much I exfoliate the old and try to put on the new. I’m human, which by definition means that I will never reach perfection in this life no matter how much I exfoliate nor how smooth my skin becomes. Yet, God expects me to struggle as I move forward, as I move nearer to Christ. Do you ever become impatient with yourself and ask, “Why don’t you just make me righteous, God.”

Reflection: Ponder why God doesn’t make you do things to achieve the character here on earth that you will finally achieve in heaven. Do you think God wants us to fail?

I love Bible plants along with their symbolism. If you want to learn more about them, read my two books: 1) Rooted in God and 2) God as a Gardener. You can purchase them from my website: Carolyn Roth Ministry at

Copyright February 20, 2016; Carolyn A. Roth


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