I’ve uploaded the twentieth video in the series ‘Poisonous Plants 1-2-1’. I think I’m getting the hang of condensing plant stories into the short format and this latest is, probably, the best example of that.
A mandrake root not adhering to the stereotype
Mandragora officinarum, mandrake, has so many stories that, in 1934, C J S Thompson, the honorary curator of the historical collection in the museum of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, produced a 233 page book ‘Mystic Mandrake’ dealing just with this one plant.
What’s interesting is that almost all of this abundance of folklore is based on a false premise that the root always looks like the human form.
It makes appearances in many works of fiction, most recently in one of the Harry Potter books where the idea of the plant screaming when pulled up is exploited.
The story I like most concerns what Leonard Fuchs, in his 1542 book ‘De Historia Stirpium Commentarii Insignes’ (often abridged to ‘De Historia Stirpium’), called the mountebanks and fakers who created false mandrake roots to profit from people’s gullibility. It’s the last story in the video.
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