April 10, 2024

Magical Botany K

         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.   
        Today’s plants are a dangerous bunch, starting with the dreaded kite-eating tree.  First introduced to the world by Charles Schulz and Charlie Brown in 1965, the kite-eating tree went on to devour not only innumerable innocent kites, but also Schroeder’s piano.  It is unknown how many kite-eating trees actually exist in the world, but they probably lurk wherever there’s an open park and a few hopeful kids.
        Krynoids, however, eat a lot more than just kites.  Their motivation is to eat all animal life on every planet they reach.  Featured in a 6-part serial of Doctor Who in 1976, we learn that Krynoid seeds are an alien life form dispersed through the universe (perhaps by being shot into space by volcanoes).  Once they germinate, the young plants sting nearby animals, thereby replacing their blood with fungus and turning them into plant monsters.  Their ultimate goal is to make plants the masters of all life.  Luckily, so far they’ve been defeated each time they’ve tried to take over Earth.  (Is this sounding a little familiar?  Flashback to Audrey II at the post for A.)
        The Kalpavriksha tree is of divine origin in the mythology of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism.  It (or one of them) grows at the center of paradise on Mt. Meru, and it fulfills wishes for all good things, including food and drink, shelter and clothes, radiant light, and musical instruments.  According to one account it was moved to the divine garden after people abused its power by wishing for evil things.  It has gold roots, silver trunk, lapis lazuli branches, coral leaves, flowers of pearl, and diamond fruit.
        Perhaps one of the most famous of all plants in the Judeo-Christian-influenced world, the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil is also one of the most puzzling.  Planted at the center of the Garden of Eden, yet forbidden to Adam and Eve who were allowed to partake of everything else, scholars have long debated exactly what the phrase “knowledge of good and evil” 
actually means in this context.  Knowledge of everything?  Loss of sexual innocence?  Power of judgement over others?  Recognition and subsequent temptation of evil?  The one thing we definitely know about this tree is that it was no mere apple.  Its fruit must have looked pretty tasty, though.  And after Adam and Eve did eat the forbidden fruit, did they gain the knowledge of everything?  Not noticeably.  But they did become mortal.
        The moral of the tree of Knowledge is, of course, not to disobey divine injunctions.  (Many people have argued that the moral is that snakes and women are intrinsically evil, but the snakes and I reject this view.  So perhaps the real moral is never to trust a moral given to you by someone who has something to gain by demoralizing you.)
        The gardening tip of the day comes from Krynoids: never try to sprout alien seeds, which are bound to make ecological trouble whether they’re Krynoids or just kudzu.  (But at the same time, you can really kind of sympathize with the plants’ point of view…)
        Although the fruit in Eden is always called an apple in English, many scholars think it’s some kind of citrus (along with many other theories).  What fruit do you think would be the best approximation of the forbidden fruit?

[Pictures: Kite-eating Tree, excerpts from Peanuts comic strips by Charles Schultz, March 4, 1968 and January 24, 1969 (Images from ArtInsights);

Krynoid, still from Doctor Who, 1976 (Image from Fandom);

Kalpavrishka, carving from Prambanan temple in Java, Indonesia, 9th century (Image by Anandajoti from Wikimedia Commons);

Tree of Knowledge, detail from “Paradise Bliss” tapestry by the workshop of Jan de Kempeneer, c. 1550 (Image from Wawel Royal Castle).]


15 Minute Classics said...

The kite eating tree is one of my favorite parts of Peanuts. I don't know why, it just always tickles my funny bone.

Karen Packard Rhodes said...

Ah, yes, the dreaded kite-eating tree! The other trees in your post were unfamiliar to me, but it is fascinating to learn about them in your post. I had not heard of even the Krynoids, not being much of a Dr. Who fan (I know; what a shameful revelation!). If I ever encounter a Kalpavriksha tree, should it grant me a musical instrument I would hope it would also grant me the ability to play it! Thank you for fascinating and informative posts.

nursingstories.org said...

Very imaginative and educational. Thanks.

Anne E.G. Nydam said...

15 Minute Classics, I'm glad to remind you of something that makes you smile. =)

Karen, that's an excellent point about the granting of wishes: not much use getting the things if you don't also get the ability to use them well.

Nursingstories, thanks for stopping by!