The name of this tree in Hebrew evidently comes from the root word ʽa·rahʹ, meaning “nakedness,” or the word ʽa·ramʹ, meaning “stripped.” At Genesis 30:37, 38 Jacob is described as placing staffs from this tree, along with those of other trees, before the flocks of Laban at Haran in Syria. The staffs were peeled, “laying bare” or revealing “white places.” The plane tree (Platanus orientalis) annually peels off its outer bark in strips or sections, exposing the smooth whitish inner bark beneath.
The plane tree is of stately appearance, growing to a height of seventy feet (21.3 meters) or more, with wide spreading branches and broad dark-green, vine-like leaves affording splendid shade. The girth of the trunk often reaches as much as forty feet (12.2 meters). It was, therefore, a tree worthy of comparison with, but not actually being a match for, the majestic cedar of Lebanon, which Ezekiel used as a figure of the king of Assyria in his message to Pharaoh. (Ezek. 31:8) In all respects, then, the plane tree satisfactorily fits the Biblical description, whereas the “chestnut tree” of the Authorized Version does not. The Vulgate and the Septuagint both give “plane” tree at Genesis 30:37, as do most modern translations.
Plane trees are found along the rivers and streams throughout Syria and in the region of ancient Assyria, as well as to a lesser degree in Palestine and Lebanon.