April 16, 2024

Magical Botany P

         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 about the A to Z Challenge here
        I have a particular soft spot for the peridexion tree, which was described in the earliest Greek proto-bestiaries from the second or third centuries and remained common in the medieval bestiaries.  It grows in India, where apparently the doves are in particular danger of being eaten by dragons.  Luckily for the doves, the peridexion tree not only has sweet fruit, but also repels dragons.  The doves are safe as long as they stay in the tree, since the dragons can’t go too near the tree and are afraid of its shadow.  We don’t know why the tree is so scary to dragons, only that if the doves want to be secure they need to stay among its branches.
        Our next plant was discovered more recently.  Protorbis is a genus of plants like mushrooms in form, color, and opacity.  Unlike mundane mushrooms, however, protorbis can be any size from infinitely small to infinitely large.  According to Leo Lionni, who wrote the definitive work on parallel botany, “Certain specimens in the deserts of New Mexico and Arizona… are as big as the nearby mesas, and are indeed often mistaken for these hills, with their flat tops…  Protorbis is in fact composed of a substance which has only superficially the aspect of stone. If it is struck with a normal geological hammer it emits a high-pitched metallic sound totally at variance with its heavy and opaque appearance...  Apart from P. minor, which disintegrates instantly at the least touch of a hand into the merest pinch of white powder, all specimens of Protorbis may be transported (size permitting), while their conservation requires no special techniques or environmental conditions.”
        I may as well mention one of my own imaginary plants, the pelif trees from which the Tungoldroleth elves of my Otherworld build their homes.  Each pelif tree sprouts new saplings in a circle all around the spread of its crown, so that when the original tree dies, there is a perfect circle of young trees.  The elves use these circles of living trees as frames for wattle and daub walls, with  thatched roofs to cover the middle.
        Finally, a couple of P plants from prior posts.  The flora-fauna hybrid the porcupineapple was featured in my post Of Porcupineapples and Umbrellaphants.  And don’t forget the moon pumpkins discovered by John Wilkins in about 1638.  You can revisit my prior post Moon-Veggies to learn how these giant
pumpkins are used as dwellings by the inhabitants of the moon.  (And while we’re on the subject of living in pumpkins, there’s also the giant pumpkin home of Peter Peter Pumpkin-Eater and his wife!)
        Unlike a number of other flora we’ve encountered so far in this alphabet, the moral of P is that plants can keep us safe and sheltered from the many dangers of the world.  Gardening tip of the day: surround yourself with benevolent plants, and you need fear neither dragons, nor wolves, nor ravening moon-beasts.
        When you think about it, any ordinary house built of wood is taking advantage of the shelter of plants, but setting that aside, how would you like to live in a plant?  A tree house?  A giant vegetable?  A burrow among the roots?  What sounds homiest to you?

[Pictures: Peridexion tree, illumination from Bestiary, c. 1275-1299 (Image from Bibliothèque nationale de France);
Peridexion, illumination from The Ashmole Bestiary, c. 1201-1225 (Image from Bodleian Library);
Peridexion, illumination from Bestiary, c. 1320 (Image from Bodleian Library);

Peridexion, illumination from Bestiary, 13th century (Image from Bibliothèque nationale de France);

Protorbis, illustrations from Parallel Botany by Leo Lionni, 1977 (Images from Ariel S. Winter on Flickr);

Pelif tree house, sketch by AEGNydam, 2024 (see the Otherworld series here);

Peter Peter Pumpkin-Eater, illustration by Billie Parks from Childcraft: Poems of Early Childhood, 1934;

Peter Peter Pumpkin-Eater, (inset) illustration by William Donahey from The Teenie Weenie Man’s Mother Goose, 1921 (Image from International Children’s Digital Library).]


Sue Bursztynski said...

Hi Anne! I can’t help thinking of Enid Blyton’s Magical Faraway Tree, with its top in the clouds and several residents - the Saucepan Man, Silky the Elf and Mr Moonface. And every week, a different land to visit in the cloud on top of the tree. And Pop biscuits and Google buns… who wouldn’t want to live in a plant like that?

But I am certainly intrigued by a dragon-repelling tree!

Sue Bursztynski, visiting from the A to Z Challenge 2024

R Is For Red Skull and Ravonna Renslayer


Anne E.G. Nydam said...

Sue, your description of the Magical Faraway Tree is making me think of something you'll see at Z, so stay tuned...

Ronel Janse van Vuuren said...

Such an interesting mushroom!

Ronel visiting for P: My Languishing TBR: P