Depictions of the Jesse Tree are based on a passage from the Book of Isaiah Chapter 11.
"And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots" (King James Version).
From the Latin Vulgate Bible used in the Middle Ages: et egredietur virga de radice Iesse et flos de radice eius ascendet (Isaiah 11:1).
Flos, pl flores is Latin for flower. Virga is a "green twig", "rod" or "broom", as well as a convenient near-pun with Virgo or Virgin, which undoubtedly influenced the development of the image. Thus Jesus is the Virga Jesse or "stem of Jesse".
The Tree of Jesse is a depiction in art of the ancestors of Christ, shown in a tree which rises from Jesse of Bethlehem, the father of king David and is the original use of the family tree as a schematic representation of a genealogy. It originates in a passage in the biblical Book of Isaiah which describes metaphorically the descent of the Messiah, and is accepted by Christians as referring to Jesus. The various figures depicted in the lineage of Jesus are drawn from those names listed in the Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Luke.
The subject is often seen in Christian art, particularly in that of the Medieval period. The earliest example dates from the 11th century and in an illuminated manuscript. There are many examples in Medieval psalters, because of the relation to King David, son of Jesse, and writer of the Psalms. Other examples are in stained glass windows, stone carvings around the portals of medieval cathedrals and painting on walls and ceilings. The Tree of Jesse also appears in smaller art forms such as embroideries and ivories.