Styrax officinalis, Official Storax,
Hebrew: לבנה רפואי, Arabic: اميعة

Scientific name:  Styrax officinalis L.
Common name:  Official Storax
Hebrew name:   לבנה רפואי
Arabic name:  اميعة
Plant Family:  Styracaceae, לבניים

פרחים, צמחי בר, צמח בר, פרחי ישראל

Life form:  Tree
Stems:   Up to 1–4 m high; bark resinous
Leaves:  Alternate, entire
Flowers:  White
Fruits / pods:  capsule or drupe, 12-14 mm; Seeds sphric-ovoid, light brown, smooth
Flowering Period:   April, May, June
Habitat:   Mediterranean maquis and forest
Distribution:  Mediterranean Woodlands and Shrublands, Semi-steppe shrublands, Montane vegetation of Mt. Hermon
Chorotype:  Mediterranean
Summer shedding:  Perennating

Styrax officinalis, Official Storax, לבנה רפואי

Derivation of the botanical name:
Styrax, called "storax", στύραξ, by Pliny; derived from a Semitic (Arabic) name of assthirak.
officinalis, derived from opificina, shortened to officina, originally a workshop, later a monastic storeroom, then a herb-store, pharmacy or drug-shop.
The Hebrew name: לבנה, libneh , styrax, birch; related to Arabic lubna, Ethiopian leben; these words probably derive from לבן, laban (= white) and literally mean, ‘the white tree‘, compare English birch literally ‘the white tree‘.
  • The standard author abbreviation L. is used to indicate Carl Linnaeus (1707 – 1778), a Swedish botanist, physician, and zoologist, the father of modern taxonomy.
  • Storax (Styrax officinalis), the Hebrew word 'nataf'- נטף . Nataf /'stacte' is a synonym of tzori (means 'a liquid drop) - its gum is obtained by making incisions in the stems and branches and the spice Stacte is used in the holy incense: Exodus 30:34.
    Styrax officinalis is a good-sized shrub or small deciduous tree with white spring blooms, that look like snowdrops, are exquisitely scented and have bright orange anthers. These flowers hang from the underside of the branches, and leaves are along the top.
  • Poplar is the rendering of the Hebrew word libneh, a tree which exudes milky-white gum, which occurs in Genesis 30:37 and Hosea 4:13.
  • Pliny, Book XII. LV: "The region of Syria beyond Phoenicia nearest to Judaea produces styrax in the part round Gabala and Marathus and Mount Casius in Seleucia. The tree has the same name; it is similar to a squince. Its tears have a pleasant, almost pungent scent, and inside it resembles a reed, and is full of juice."
  • H.B.Tristram (1822-1906), in the Natural History of the Bible mentions: "Stacte.- This Greek word signifying a drop or exudation, is employed in Ex.XXX. 34 to express the Hebrew nataf, which bears the same meaning. In Job XXXVI. 27 it is used to express a drop of water; inExodus it is the same name of one of the ingredients used in preparing the holy incense. The best authorities identify it with the gum of the Storax tree (Styrax officinale). This is a very beautiful, perfumed shrub, which grows abundantly on the lower hills of Palestine, and has by some been taken for the 'poplar' of Scripture from its white hue. It can scarcely be called a tree, though it is a large shrub. The bark is very smooth and pale-coloured, the leaves single, ovate, and with a smooth white film on the under side. The blossoms are very like those of the orange in colour, size, and perfume, but grow most abundantly in small spikes of four or five. Nothing can be more lovely than the appearance of the Storax in March, when covered with a sheet of white bloom, wafting its perfume through the dells of the Carmel and Galilee, where it is the predominant shrub, and contrasts beautifully with the deep red of the Judas tree growing in the same localities..."

    Bible resources:
    1. Exodus 30:34
      Then the LORD said to Moses, “Take fragrant spices — gum resin, onycha and galbanum—and pure frankincense, all in equal amounts.
    2. Ecclesiasticus 24:21
      "And I perfumed my dwelling as storax, and galbanum, and onyx, and aloes,
      and as the frankincense not cut, and my odour is as the purest balm"

    Israel Wild Flowers and Native Plants of Palestine

    Styrax officinalis, Official Storax, לבנה רפואי