Poplar (לַבנֶה, libneh; Sept. στυράκινος, in Ge 30:37; λεύκη, in Ho 4:13; Vulg. populus), the rendering of the above-named Hebrew word, which occurs only in the two places cited. Peeled rods of the libneh were put by Jacob before Laban's ring-streaked sheep. This tree is mentioned with the oak and the terebinth, by Hosea, as one under which idolatrous Israel used to sacrifice.
Several authorities, Celsius among the number (Hierob. 1, 292), are in favor of the rendering of the A. V., and think the "white poplar" (Populus alba) is the tree denoted. The Hebrew name libneh, being supposed to be derived from לָבִן (to be white), has been considered identical with the Greek λεύκη, which both signifies "white" and also the "white poplar." This poplar is said to be called white, not on account of the whiteness of its bark, but of that of the under surface of its leaves. It may perhaps be so designated from the whiteness of its hairy seeds, which have a remarkable appearance when the seed-covering first bursts. The poplar is certainly common in the countries where the scenes are laid of the transactions related in the above passages of Scripture (comp. Belon, Obs. 2, 106). Rauwolf also mentions the white poplar as abundant about Aleppo and Tripoli, and still called by the ancient Arabic name hatur or her, which is the word used in the Arabic translation of Hosea.
Others, however, have been of opinion that libneh denotes the storax-tree rather than the white poplar. Thus, in Ge 30:37, the Sept. has ῥάβδον στυρακίνην, "a rod of styrax;" and the Greek translation of the Pentateuch, according to Rosenmüller, is more ancient and of far greater authority than that of Hosea. So R. Jonah, as translated by Celsius, says of libneh, "Dicitur lingua Arabum Lubna;" and in the Arabic translation of Genesis lubne is employed as the representative of the Hebrew lib Nehemiah Lubne, both in Arabic and in Persian, is the name of a tree, and of the fragrant resin employed for fumigating which exudes from it, and which is commonly known by the name of storax. This resin was well known to the ancients, and is mentioned by Hippocrates and Theophrastus. Dioscorides (1, 79) and Pliny (Nat. Hist. 12, 17 and 25) both speak of the storax. Pliny says, "That part of Syria which adjoins Judaea above Phoenicia produces storax, which is found in the neighborhood of Gabala (Jebeil) and Marathus, as also of Casius, a mountain of Seleucia. I… That which comes from the mountain of Amanus, in Syria, is highly esteemed for medicinal purposes, and even more so by the perfumers." Dioscorides describes several kinds, all of which were obtained from Asia Minor; and all that is now imported is believed to be the produce of that country. But the tree is cultivated in the south of Europe, though it does not there yield any storax. It is found in Greece, and is supposed to be a native of Asia Minor, whence it extends into Syria, and probably farther south. It is therefore a native of the country which was the scene of the transaction related in the above passage of Genesis. From the description of Dioscorides, and his comparing the leaves of the styrax to those of the quince, there is no doubt of the same tree being intended: especially as in early times, as at the present day, it yielded a highly fragrant balsamic substance which was esteemed as a medicine, and employed in fumigation. From the similarity of the Hebrew name libneh to the Arabic lubne. and from the Sept. having in Genesis translated the former by sty-tax, it seems most probable that this was the tree intended. It is capable of yielding white wands as well as the poplar; and it is also well qualified to afford complete shade under its ample foliage, as in the passage of Ho 4:13. We may also suppose it to have been more particularly alluded to from its being a tree yielding incense. "They sacrifice upon the tops of the mountains, and burn incense upon the hills, under the terebinth and the storax trees, because the shadow thereof is good."
Storax (στόραξ) is mentioned in Ecclus. 24:15, together with other aromatic substances. The modern Greek name of the tree, as we learn from Sibthorpe (Flor. Graec. 1, 275), is στουράκι, and is a common wild shrub in Greece and in most parts of the Levant. The resin exudes either spontaneously or after incision. This property, however, it would seem, is only for the most part possessed by trees which grow in a warm country; for English specimens, though they flower profusely, do not produce the drug. Mr. Daniel Hanbury, who has discussed the whole subject of the storax plants with much care (see the Pharmaceutical Journal and Transactions for Feb. 1857), tells us that a friend of his quite failed to obtain any exudation from Styrax officinale, by incisions made in the hottest part of the summer of 1856, on specimens growing in the botanic garden at Montpellier. "The experiment was quite unsuccessful; neither aqueous sap nor resinous juice flowed from the incisions." Still Mr. Hanbury quotes two authorities to show that under certain favorable circumstances the tree may exude a fragrant resin even in France and Italy. The Styrax officinale is a shrub from nine to twelve feet high, with ovate leaves, which are white underneath; the flowers are in racemes, and are white or cream-colored. The white appearance agrees with the etymology of the Hebrew lib Nehemiah The liquid storax of commerce is the product of the Liquidambar Orientale, Mill. (see a fig. in Mr. Hanbury's communication), an entirely different plant, whose resin was probably unknown to the ancients. SEE STACTE.