Sunday, 19 February 2017

Almond Tree - Prunus dulcis

"Prunus dulcis -- Almond Tree in Bloom", drawing by
Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2017

Almond Seeds showing both outer hull and
the hard shell covering the almond "nut"
The almond (Prunus dulcis) is a species of tree native to the Middle East, the Indian subcontinent and North Africa. "Almond" is also the name of the edible and widely cultivated "nut" of this tree.  I placed the word "nut" in quote marks because the fruit of the almond is not a true nut but is, instead, a seed. This type of seed, which is known as a drupe, consists of an outer hull and a hard shell holding the seed within. (see photo above.)

The almond tree is a deciduous tree, growing 4–10 m (13–33 ft.) in height, with a trunk of up to 30 cm (12 in.) in diameter. The young twigs are green at first, becoming purplish where exposed to sunlight, then grey in their second year. The leaves are 3–5 inches long, with a serrated margin. The flowers are white to pale pink, 3–5 cm (1–2 in.) in diameter with five petals, produced singly or in pairs. 

There are still wild almond trees to be found growing in their native region. The fruit of the wild forms of the almond tree contains glycoside amygdalin, "which becomes transformed into deadly prussic acid (hydrogen cyanide) after crushing, chewing, or any other injury to the seed." So, while wild almond species are toxic, domesticated almonds are not. 

Almond trees were domesticated well over 3500 years ago. In fact, domesticated almonds appeared in the Early Bronze Age (3000–2000 BC). A well-known archaeological example of the almond is the fruit found in Tutankhamen's tomb in Egypt (c. 1325 BC), probably imported from domesticated trees in the eastern Mediterranean region. 

The word "almond" comes from Old French almande or allemande which came from the Late Latin amandula, which was derived from the Greek word amygdala (ἀμυγδαλή), meaning almonds. As for the botanical name for this tree, Prunis dulcis, the genus name, Prunus, comes from the Latin, Prunun, meaning Plum Tree and is used to refer to all members of the Plum family which includes the almond tree. The species name, dulcis, comes from the Latin and means “sweet” or “tender”. 

The almond is highly revered in some cultures. The tree originated in the Middle East and is mentioned numerous times in the Bible. In the Hebrew Bible, for example, the almond was a symbol of watchfulness and promise due to its early flowering. 

The most notable mention of the almond is found in Numbers 17 where Levi is chosen from the other tribes of Israel by Aaron's rod, which brought forth almond flowers. According to tradition, the rod of Aaron bore sweet almonds on one side and bitter on the other; if the Israelites followed the Lord, the sweet almonds would be ripe and edible, but if they were to forsake the path of the Lord, the bitter almonds would predominate. 

Almond Blossom Menorah
The almond blossom supplied a model for the menorah which stood in the Holy Temple, "Three cups, shaped like almond blossoms, were on one branch, with a knob and a flower; and three cups, shaped like almond blossoms, were on the other...on the candlestick itself were four cups, shaped like almond blossoms, with its knobs and flowers" (Exodus 25:33–34; 37:19–20). 

Holy card showing
Jesus and Mary with
almond blossoms.

Similarly, Christian symbolism has used almond blossoms as a symbol of the Virgin Birth of Jesus and many paintings often include almond blossoms encircling the baby Jesus.

Portions of the above text were taken from various Internet sources.


Suki observing the world from her chair!
(photo by A.P., 2017)
Well, here we are once again -- Suki taking her after-breakfast nap and me trying to finalize another blog posting.

Suki seems as healthy as usual while I have, sadly, been struck down by another flu-type virus which has left me almost voiceless!

Feeling as I do at the moment, this is probably not a good time to make any long-term decisions regarding my blog.  However, I had been giving it much thought prior to getting ill again and so my mind was pretty well made up before I started getting sick on Thursday.

I have decided, at least for the foreseeable future, that I will only post when I have a new drawing which I want to share. I will, as usual, also share with you the results of my research on the item I have chosen to exhibit -- research which is part of my own particular creative process. The posting may or may not include any comments or stories about Suki or myself -- it will simply depend on how I am feeling at the time I get ready to publish the post.  

Meanwhile, I wish you all the very best -- and I will be in touch again before too long.


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