Architectural Ornament in Plant Forms
The gods were often identified with trees–the oak with Zeus, the laurel with Apollo, myrtle with Aphrodite, and so on. With its roots below ground and its branches lifted to the sky, trees linked the earthly plane of human experience to the those of the underworld and the heavens.
However, the Greeks did not originate tree worship. In ancient China, shrines to divinities were often installed at the roots of trees remarkable for their size and beauty. The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil figured prominently in the Garden of Eden and was also an essential component of paradise in Sumerian, Persian, Hindu, Chinese, and Japanese cultures.
The trees native to lands of the ancient world were a popular source of ornament. The evergreen laurel or bay tree signified honor and victory as well as renewal and resurrection. Its leaves and berries, were woven into decorative wreaths like the one in the drawing below.