The salty tree that killed an invincible prince

Eleanor Konik

Eleanor Konik

Professionally, I teach world history. In my downtime, I enjoy combining storytelling with my love of sharing obscure history and science.


I was writing a scene that takes place in palace courtyard roughly analogous to the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, which I actually don't know a lot about, so I tried to find some pictures and found out about some really cool plants instead. Specifically tamarisk trees, which are beautiful and apparently quite common in the Middle East.

Fun Facts

  • Tamarisk trees are have a "feathery" appearance because of the small, scale-like leaves and the slim branches.
  • In Samuel 22:6, Saul held court under a tamarisk tree atop a hill, providing a highly visible "address" so people could easily find him.
  • Tamarisk trees were used as memorials for great men in Biblical times—including Saul.
  • Tamarisk trees produce pretty pink or white flowers during the winter.
  • Tamarisk trees were mentioned in the Bible, the Iliad, the Shahnameh, and the Epic of Gilgamesh.

Persian Mistletoe

There is a Persian epic poem that involves an otherwise invincible Prince, Esfandiar, who can only be wounded by a tamarisk arrow to the eye. It's really similar to stories like Baldur and the mistletoe or Achilles' heel. [Read More]

Date Companions

A famous piece of Babylonian literature involves an argument between a date palm and a tamarisk, planted beside each other in a king's garden. At one point, the palm makes fun of the tamarisk for being used as a trash can. [Read More]

Bow and Cup

The Saka, a group of nomads from the Eurasian Steppe, used tamarisk wood and ibex horn to create powerful composite bows. They also used tamarisk wood and hemp to create cups. [Read More]

Mail Marker

Since they're very salt-tolerant, tamarisk trees are the only trees found on the shores of the Dead Sea. They even secrete salt, which absorbs water from the air overnight. In the morning, the water evaporates, creating a cooling effect that makes the tamarisk tree very popular as a shade tree. [Read More]

📗 If you found this interesting, you may also enjoy my article comparing religious texts.

💚 If you learned something from this overview, consider forwarding it to a friend and encouraging them to sign up for more overviews of my research into obscure history and science.

🌴 Do you know anything interesting about Biblical trees or the Hanging Gardens of Babylon? Please reach out — I'd love to hear about it, either via email or in a comment where other readers can see.


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