April 4, 2024

Magical Botany G

         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 all my fellow A to Z bloggers on the Master List of participating blogs here.  Check them out; you’re sure to find something of interest and entertainment among them!  
        For G, we’re starting all the way back when Zeus gave Hera the gift of a tree that grows golden apples.  She kept it in the Garden of the Hesperides at the far west of the world, guarded by a dragon.  Even so, these apples were stolen on several occasions, most notably as one of the labors of Hercules.  But the species must have spread, because golden apple trees appear with some frequency in European fairy tales, usually growing in the garden of a king, and usually subject to theft of their precious fruits.
Magical birds are the most fr
equent culprits, and princes and other heroes always have to figure out how the golden apples are being stolen, and put a stop to it.
        Gul-e-Bakavali is a magical flower in Indian (originally Persian) folklore.  Literally it means “flower or rose of Bakawali,” who was a daughter of the king of the Jinn.  With some similarities to the golden apple fairy tales, a prince stole the flower for his father, because among its various magical properties the gul-e-bakavali has the power to cure blindness.  (The prince and Bakawali end up madly in love, but many adventures ensue before the happily-ever-after.)  We don’t know what the flower looks like, only that it was delicate to view and most pleasing in fragrance.
        Our next plant, on the other hand, is not pleasing at all.  Hungry grass, also called féar gortach, grows in Ireland.  Anyone who steps on a patch of this cursed grass is doomed to insatiable hunger forever.  Perhaps needless to say, this is a sort of fairy plant, but  it isn’t easy to recognize, which makes it especially dangerous.  It’s not known whether the fairies plant it deliberately out of malice, or whether it grows naturally out of the buried corpse of a person who died unshriven.  In any case, I know of no cure, but I suspect that prayers and blessings are your best bet.
        And for another bonus scary plant, here are the giant curly ferns of the Land of Neverbelieve, an island explored by Norman Messenger.  These plants have suction pads on their tentacle-like fronds, and are quick to grab any unfortunate creature who brushes past.  Once seized, it’s impossible to get free without help.
        You can take a glance back at one more, the Green Man, in a previous post.
        The moral of today’s flora is that magical plants seem to cause trouble more often than not.  Whether they’re especially dangerous or especially marvelous, they still have a tendency to attract an awful lot of danger and strife.  Best to grow only ordinary plants in your own garden, lest all manner of questing adventurers start breaking in.  Gardening tip of the day: perhaps you could consider surrounding your golden apple orchard with giant curly ferns as protection.
        Do you have a garden?  And if so, do you have a problem with thieves?  Personally, I’m in a constant battle with the evil chipmunks who steal my golden tomatoes (sungold, to be specific).

[Pictures: Garden of the Hesperides, illustration by Arthur Rackham from Comus by John Milton, 1922 (Image from Wikimedia Commons);

Gul-e-Bakavali (actually, detail of portrait of Prince Shahriyar), painting by Mughal artist, c. 1625-1700 (Image from Royal Collection Trust);

Hungry Grass (actually Spiked Flote Grasse), wood block print from The Herball by John Gerarde, 1597 (Image from Internet Archive);

Giant Curly Ferns, illustration from The Land of Neverbelieve by Norman Messenger, 2012.]


Donna B. McNicol said...

The curly ferns are so pretty!

Frewin55 said...

Good luck with the Chipmunks...
(Things you never thought you'd never say in a comment LOL)

suesconsideredtrifles said...

Our daffodil bulbs have vanished. We suspect field mice.

Kristin said...

When I had a garden in our last house, we had it fenced against deer. Outside of the garden fence was the fenced yard where our two dogs roamed, keeping chipmunks at bay. Here squirrels ate all the tomatoes, or took bites out of all of the tomatoes in my sister's garden and those of her neighbors. One man had what looked to me like a chicken coop, fenced in and a fenced roof too, it was his garden.

Anne E.G. Nydam said...

Donna, they may be pretty, but looks can be deceiving!

Frewin, I appreciate the thought, no matter how funny it sounds!

Sue, I thought daffodils were supposed to be safe from critters, so you must be doubly cursed. My condolences.

Kristin, I wouldn't even mind sharing if they just took what they need, but this business of picking tomatoes, taking one bite, and discarding them... Who says humans are the only wasteful animal!

Ronel Janse van Vuuren said...

I've always liked the idea of golden apples.

Ronel visiting for G: My Languishing TBR: G
Ghastly Ghouls