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Symbolism of trees

Symbolism of a Tree | New Depictions

Trees are both ancient and wise.  They have been around to witness the rise of humankind and they harmoniously help keep balance with Mother Earth.  Supporting all human life, symbolism of trees show up in almost every culture.  Some meanings are universal while others are specific in certain groups of people.  Trees symbolize transformation and eternal life.  Growth, death, and rebirth are embodied in their seasonal death and their renewal of life with spring foliage.  Trees have many meanings and artists have depicted a multitude including the olive tree, symbolizing peace, the Tree of Life, symbolizing interconnectedness, and the juniper bush, symbolizing chastity, only to name a few.

The Olive Tree

The Olive tree, revered in many cultures is a symbol of life, peace and happiness. A ubiquitous symbol of a dove carrying an olive branch has been known as a peace messenger. It is mentioned frequently in the Bible in the context of blessings, fruitfulness, and health. In the Old testament a dove returns to Noah and the Ark with an olive branch, a sign that land is near and the flood at an end. Below artist Vincent Van Gogh paints the olive trees.

The Olive Trees by Van Gogh

Van Gogh painted several of these trees mostly in Saint-Remy-de-Provence in 1889.  He painted the trees with heavy-loaded brush stokes symbolizing the excessive power and spiritual force that he believed resided in nature. 

Tree of Life 

The tree of life does not belong to one specific culture, it is referenced all over the world for centuries.  The symbol spread in various ways, and has many different names, the Tree of Knowledge, the Eternal Bayan Tree, or the Tree of Immortality. It carries significance in both religious and spiritual philosophies. It is a symbol connecting heaven and earth and the underworld, an interconnection between all living things.  Below Gustav Klimt depicts the all encompassing tree.

Tree of Life, 1905 by Gustav Klimt

The swirling branches create a mythical symbolism suggesting perpetuity of life. The intricate outlay of the swirling branches that twist, turn, and spiral is an expression of life's complexities.  As in many depictions of the tree, the branches reaching for the sky, and the roots digging into the earth, create the connection of heaven and earth.

The Juniper

The Juniper is a symbol of protection and purification.  It could be a sign of someone constant in your life who protects and guards you.  The Juniper is believed to have the ability to cleanse and make us pure and true to ourselves.  

Ginevra de' Benci by Leonardo da Vinci

Leonardo Da Vinci paints a daughter of a wealthy Florentine banker. The juniper bush represents chastity, which was considered one of the most important moral standards for women in the Renaissance. It is interesting to note that the most common juniper is dioecious, meaning the male and female plant differ and to be able to fertilize, they both must be planted near each other.  

From healing to protecting, the different meanings of trees will touch each and every person.  The trees have seen many things throughout time and we can learn a lot from them.  The next time you're walking outside, take a moment to appreciate nature. 


External Links

“Olive Tree Symbolism.” Israel Olive Bond,“The Universal Symbolism and Importance of Trees Throughout History.” The Living Urn,
"Olive Tree Symbolism." The Norfolk Olive Tree Company,
Caron, Matt. “7 Ancient Interpretations Of The Tree Of Life.” Sivana East, 1 Dec. 2018,
"Meaning of the Tree of Life." One Tribe Apparel, 30 January 2019
"Juniper tree Symbolism and meaning." Treesymbolism, 25 March 2020
"Ginevra de' Benci by Leonardo da Vinci." Trip Improver, 14 June 2018

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