April 2, 2024

Magical Botany F

         Welcome to the April A to Z Blog Challenge!  My theme this year is the Botany of the Realms of Imagination, in which I share a selection of the magical plants of folklore, fairy tale, and fantasy.  You can find out all about about the #AtoZChallenge here.
        In Baltic mythology there is only one day each year (St. John’s Day, aka Midsummer) when it’s possible to find the fern flower.  But if you do happen to find a fern flower you should definitely pick it and save it, because it will provide you with an array of magical powers.  These include clairvoyance, invisibility, ability to speak the language of animals, and ability to see treasures even if they’re hidden or underground.  As you can imagine, that could be pretty useful!
        In a valley on an island far to the east of China grows the Fusang tree, which may also be called Fu Mu, the leaning tree.  The ten suns rest in its branches after the sun goddess has washed them after their journey through the sky (which of course makes the water in the valley boiling hot).  Each day one sun is crossing the sky while the other nine suns hang out in the tree, with the one in the topmost branch being ready to take its turn next.  (In another version there’s only one sun, but ten crows that take turns carrying it, with nine at a time resting in the Fusang tree.)  It is also sometimes considered a tree of life and a world tree, which we’ll encounter more about in due course.  As for its appearance, apparently it has oval leaves and edible purplish-red fruit.  Its bark fiber is useful for paper as well as fabric.  I love the image of a tree with resting red suns as its fruit.  Maybe I’ll have to make an illustration of that someday!
        Devil’s Foot root, Radix pedis diaboli, has no actual magical properties, but it may well seem like it.  Burning the powdered root produces a smoke that causes a most alarming illusion of demonic horror.  As Dr. John Watson described it after he and Mr. Sherlock Holmes unwisely tested it on themselves, “In this cloud lurked all that was monstrous and inconceivably wicked in the universe.  Vague shapes swirled and swam amid the dark cloud-bank, each a menace and a warning of something coming, the advent of some unspeakable dweller upon the threshhold, whose very shadow would blast my soul.  A freezing horror took possession of me.”  They were lucky not to have been driven mad or killed, as most victims are.  The Devil’s Foot was unknown to European botany, but was used as an ordeal poison in the Ubangi country of West Africa.
        Finally, I have a trio of ambient plant-monsters from the on-line role-playing game World of Warcraft.  These are all in the lasher family, of which there are dozens and dozens of varieties, but these are chosen simply to fit into F.  The fel lash lives in Dire Maul, a ruined night elf city in Feralas, while the Farahlon lasher lives in Netherstorm.  These are both fairly fearsome monsters.  The fel lasher, on the other hand, is a small plant creature that, when raised from a seed found in fel-encrusted herbs, is easily domesticated and makes a charming companion pet.
        You should also revisit my post featuring a wide array of Fantasy Fungus, of which there’s a huge and marvelous variety.
        Given the diversity of these F plants, I can’t pull one moral from all of them.  And I guess the moral of that is, much as humans love to make everything fit into our notions of organization, sometimes the world is a little too wild to cooperate.  And yet here we all are, trying to impose the order of the alphabet on our blog themes!  Well, I’m afraid that the gardening tip of the day is: no matter how hard you try, your garden will never grow exactly the way you planned and expected.
       If you’ve got a yard or garden - or a few potted plants - what’s the most unexpected way something has turned out?


[Pictures: Bajka o Kwiecie Paproci (The Tale of the Fern Flower), painting by Antoni Piotrowski, c. 1910 (Image from Agraart);

Fusang Tree, illustration by Siyu Chen from Fantastic Creatures of the Mountains and Seas, 2015;

Devil's Foot Root, illustration by AEGNydam using image from De materia medica, 6th century (See Library of Congress);

Fel lash, fel lasher, and Farahlon lasher, screen shots from World of Warcraft (Images from warcraft.wiki);

“Alice meets the Caterpillar,” illustration by John Tenniel from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, 1865 (Image from Wikimedia Commons).]


Chandrika said...

Fern flower sounds like something I should keep my eye out for ha. Very interesting!


Frewin55 said...

I grew up in Oxford and so the caterpillar on the toadstool is one of my earliest literary memories... Great post!

Anne E.G. Nydam said...

Chandrika, I agree fern flower would be fun to find. Any one of its powers would be cool.

Frewin, did you ever find any mysterious rabbit holes in your childhood?

JazzFeathers said...

The Fusang Tree sounds incredible and beautiful. It gives me a very strong dreamlike vibe.

Anne E.G. Nydam said...

JazzFeathers, I agree about the Fusang tree. It would be cool to see such a thing!