April 18, 2024

Magical Botany Q

         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.  Be sure to check them out!
        I’ll begin with another plant from my own books.  Quercia is mentioned in the Kate and Sam Adventures, although she isn’t a character who appears in her own right.  The toad Grimm tells the following anecdote about her: “Haven’t you ever heard of the dryad Quercia?  Very famous old dryad, ‘Queen of the Forest’ folks used to call her.  Her oak was the biggest and oldest tree in the woods.  She always used to tell a story about when she was still in her acorn before she’d sprouted, all enclosed in that tiny black space, squashed too tight to move.  She said when she was inside that dark acorn she’d promised herself, ‘If I ever get outta this place, so help me, I’m gonna get me a green lace gown and go dancing every day.’  And she did, too, at least in the summer.”  Obviously she was really more of a hamadryad (see H) than just an ordinary dryad.
        You may guess from the Latin name of our next tree, Quercus Nicholas Parsonus, that it’s also some kind of oak, but in fact its common name is the walking tree of Dahomey.  This mighty tree
strolls through Nigeria, perhaps swaggering a little as it crosses the border into Zaire, hops through the tropical rain forests, trying to find a quiet grove where it can jump around on its own, sprints up to Zambia for the afternoon, achieving speeds of up to 50 miles per hour…  Quercus Nicholas Parsonus was introduced to the world by David Attenborough, in a sketch by Monty Python’s Flying Circus, but I can’t show you a picture of the tree itself because in fact Attenborough and his team never did catch up with it.
        Because Q is always a difficult letter for the English language, I’m rounding out today’s post with three Aztec herbs.  These are all mentioned in the Codex de la Cruz-Badianus, an herbal written in both Nahuatl and Latin in 1552.  I’m assuming that most if not all of the plants in the book are actually based on real plants, but I don’t know their identities, so I’m going by their listed properties and declaring that some of them must be magic!  For example, both quauh-yayahual and quauh-yyauhtli are used to aid “those harassed by a tornado.”  Quauh-yyauhtli is also good for those struck by lightning, so it’s definitely a useful plant for storm-prone areas - especially magical areas where the storms seem to have intents and purposes of their own!  The quauh prefix, by the way, defines these plants as woody.
        Perhaps even more magical is the quetzal-ylin, which (along with many other flowers and leaves - not to mention precious stones and various body parts of animals) is an ingredient in a complicated potion “for relieving the fatigue of those administering the government and discharging public offices.”  Quetzal can mean either green or feathery (just like the bird), and ylin may be alder, so it’s worth making an effort to identify this plant for modern use.  I’m sure that if we could recreate that magic potion it would be very popular, and you can certainly trust the Aztecs to be experts in dealing with government bureaucracy!
        The moral of the first two Q plants is that you should never assume you know what other people get up to in their spare time.  Trees are more busily active than you may suppose, and other people may be, as well!  The gardening tip of the day comes from our 
other Q herbs: sometimes the weather seems to have a malicious spirit of its own, so plan accordingly.
        What’s your favorite sort of weather?

[Pictures: Quercia, sketch by AEGNydam, 2024 (See Kate and Sam and the Chipmunks of Doom here);

Quercus Nicholas Parsonus, still from “The Walking Tree of Dahomey” sketch, Monty Python’s Flying Circus, 1974 (Image from Fandom);

Quauh-yayahual, Quauh-yyauhtli, and Quetzal-ylin, illustrations from Libellus de Medicinalibus Indorum Herbis by Martin de la Cruz and Juan Badiano, 1552 (Images from Academia).]


15 Minute Classics said...

I hate when a tornado harasses me. I'm just trying to go to work, and a gang or tornadoes on the other side of the street start catcalling and trying to blow up my kilt. Next time, I'll chuck some quauh herbs at them.

kajmeister said...

Had never heard of Quercia, but now I have to figure out how to name-drop her reference as often as possible! Also, aren't the Aztecs great for so many Qs? My Q will also be an Aztec reference. I am chagrined to say that, so far, I am barely finishing letter N -- yikes!

Charlotte (MotherOwl) said...

I remember seeing the episode with the eloping tree. Thanks for reminding me. My favourite weather - sunshine!

Anne E.G. Nydam said...

15 Minute, rowdy tornados are the worst, am I right? ;)

kajmeister, you've never heard of Quercia because I made her up -- but I'd be delighted if you started referencing her! As for being behind, you can do it! Better late than never!

Charlotte, wishing you plenty of sunshiny days. =D