Cistus incanus, Cistus creticus, Cistus villosus,
Soft-Hairy Rockrose,
Hebrew: לוטם שעיר, Arabic: لبّـاد أحمر

Scientific name:  Cistus incanus L.
Synonym name:  Cistus creticus L., Cistus villosus L.
Common name:  Soft-Hairy Rockrose
Hebrew name:  לוטם שעיר
Arabic name:  لبّـاد أحمر
Plant Family:   Cistaceae, לוטמיים

Cistus incanus,Cistus creticus,Cistus villosus, Soft-Hairy Rockrose, לוטם שעיר

Life form:   Chamaephyte
Stems:  Very much branched, short and crowded, pubescent, sticky stems
Leaves:  Opposite, entire
Flowers:  Pink
Fruits / pods:  Loculicidal capsules
Flowering Period:   March, April, May, June
Habitat:  Batha, Phrygana
Distribution:  Mediterranean Woodlands and Shrublands, Semi-steppe shrublands, Montane vegetation of Mt. Hermon
Chorotype:   Mediterranean
Summer shedding:  Perennating

פרחים וצמחי בר, לוטם שעיר

Derivation of the botanical name:
Cistus, from kisthos or kistos, "the rock-rose" (Carl Linnaeus).
incanus, "very gray, hoary".
creticus, from the island of Crete.
villosus, shaggy, hairy; hairy.
The Hebrew name Hebrew לוטם, lotem , Aramaic לוטמא, lotma, is identified with Greek ladanos and Latin ladanum, the rockrose - an evergreen shrub of the Cistus genus. In Israel we can find the Cistus incanus/ creticus/ villosus and the Cistus salviifolius. The Cistus ladaniferus that produces the much coveted resin, does not grow in Israel. Ladanum resin was sought after for its aromatic properties as incense, but mostly as medicine.
  • The standard author abbreviation L. is used to indicate Carl Linnaeus (1707 – 1778), a Swedish botanist, physician, and zoologist, the father of modern taxonomy.
The Hebrew word “Lôt”, Greek, στακτή, is "ladanum", Cistus incanus. Cistus creticus or Cistus incanus is identical with the Arabic ladan, whence the Latin and English names of the gum, Ladanum, obtained from the Cistus.
Cistus incanus really might have provided the very "balm" which Jeremiah associated with Gilead.
The association of the balm as desired in Egypt as well as throughout Israel is a unifying factor in Jeremiah's metaphoric thinking. When the Daughter of My People was exiled in Babylon, she longed for the Balm of Gilead, and this longing was that of a people in exile for the things and places of their lost homeland. The association of the Balm of Gilead with exiles and lamentations begins early (the Ishmaelite balm traders took Joseph into exile in Egypt).

Gilead matches today to the northwestern part of the Kingdom of Jordan. David fled to Mahanaim in Gilead during the rebellion of Absalom (2 Samuel 17:27). Gilead is later mentioned as the homeplace of the prophet Elijah (I Kings 17:1).
In ancient times parts of Gilead were covered with forests. It is said that species of Cistus were widespread and more common throughout Gilead and used as a medicine, what could be the balm of Gilead.

Most Cistus species have aromatic foliage but some species also exude a highly aromatic gum or resin, called ladanum or labdanum, a gold-colored essential oil with the penetrating odor of ambergris, which has been used in incenses since ancient times and it was also used for embalming and aphrodisiac purposes. Nowadays it is a valuable ingredient of perfumes and as incense in Eastern churches. Ladanum and other extracts from cistus also have a long history of use in folk medicine.

The gum is secreted from glandular hairs on the leaves and young stems, especially under hot sunshine. It was gathered by allowing goats to graze on and among the plants; the ladanum adhered to their beards, which were then cut off.
Tournefort (1656-1708), a French Botanist, has given a detailed description of the mode of obtaining ladanum. He relates that it is now gathered by means of a Aasavronjpmv or kind of flail with which the plants are threshed. When these thongs are loaded with the fiagrant and sticky resin they are scraped with a knife. The substance is then roiled into a mass, in which state'it is called ladanum or labdanum.
It was known to the Greeks as early as the times of Herodotus (484 BCE-ca.425 BCE) and Theophrastus (370BCE - about 285 BCE).
According to H.B.Tristram (The Natural History of the Bible) "the Cistus has been supposed to be the "Rose of Sharon" of Cant.II.1, though it is scarcely characteristic of the plain, being rather the plant of the hills". And Tristram continues: "Mount Carmel especially abounds of the Cistus, which in April covers some of the barer parts of the mountain with a glow not inferior to that of the Scottish heather".
Numerous pollen grains of the Cistus creticus were found on the Shroud's of Turin surface. Dr. Avinoam Danin, a botany professor at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, indicates that such pollen grains serve as "geographic and calendar indicators" demonstrating that the origin or provenance of the Shroud was definitely the Holy Land, and more specifically an area in and around Jerusalem.

Bible resources:
  1. Genesis 37:25
    As they sat down to eat their meal, they looked up and saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead. Their camels were loaded with spices, balm and myrrh, and they were on their way to take them down to Egypt.
  2. Genesis 43:11
    Then their father Israel said to them, “If it must be, then do this: Put some of the best products of the land in your bags and take them down to the man as a gift—a little balm and a little honey, some spices and myrrh, some pistachio nuts and almonds.
  3. 2 Chronicles 28:15
    The men designated by name took the prisoners, and from the plunder they clothed all who were naked. They provided them with clothes and sandals, food and drink, and healing balm. All those who were weak they put on donkeys. So they took them back to their fellow Israelites at Jericho, the City of Palms, and returned to Samaria.
  4. Jeremiah 8:22
    Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then is there no healing for the wound of my people?
  5. Jeremiah 46:11
    “Go up to Gilead and get balm, Virgin Daughter Egypt. But you try many medicines in vain; there is no healing for you.
  6. Jeremiah 51:8
    Babylon will suddenly fall and be broken. Wail over her! Get balm for her pain; perhaps she can be healed.
  7. Ezekiel 27:17
    “‘Judah and Israel traded with you; they exchanged wheat from Minnith and confections, honey, olive oil and balm for your wares.

Cistus incanus,Cistus creticus,Cistus villosus, Soft-Hairy Rockrose, לוטם שעיר

Information and photos of wild flowers (Israel flores silvestres)