April 19, 2024

Magical Botany R

         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.  If you don’t know about the #AtoZChallenge you can find out all about it here, and thank the organizers for putting it together for us.  And now, diving right in…
        R is for raskovnik, an herb which is neither rare nor remote, but it’s almost impossible to pick anyway, for the simple reason that it’s almost impossible to identify.  According to Slavic folklore, only certain animals can find it: a tortoise, a snake, or a hedgehog, depending on whether you’re in Bulgaria, Dalmatia, or Serbia.  But however hard it may be to find the raskovnik, it’s worth it, because this plant can unlock any sort of lock, and reveal hidden things, especially treasure.  All you have to do is touch the herb to the lock, or walk over the place where the treasure lies, and all is laid open before you.
        The opposite in some ways is red weed, a plant from the planet Mars.  Brought to Earth during the War of the Worlds in the mid-1890s, it spread across Earth invasively, marking the areas that the Martian invaders had conquered.  Its appearance is described by the original chronicler, H.G. Wells, as being a prickly creeper of a vivid blood-red tint.  It has cactus-like branches, but unlike cactus, it grows near water, and indeed water makes it grow so quickly and tumultuously that it entirely chokes the waterways.  It’s not poisonous, but it has a sickly, metallic taste, and it gives off a faint violet fluorescent glow.  On the planet Mars there’s so much red plant life that it’s what gives the entire planet its characteristic red hue, but on Earth, although the red weed initially spread vigorously, it was ultimately wiped out by Earth bacteria.
        The raskovnik may be beneficial, and the red weed may be destructive, but our third plant for the day is simply puzzlingly useless.  According to Douglas Adams,
"The life cycle of ratchet screwdriver fruit is quite interesting. Once picked it needs a dark dusty drawer in which it can lie undisturbed for years. Then one night it suddenly hatches, discards its outer shell which crumbles to dust, and emerges as a totally unidentifiable little metal object with flanges at both ends and a sort of ridge and a sort of hole for a screw. This, when found, will get thrown away. No one knows what it is supposed to gain from this. Nature, in her infinite wisdom, is presumably working on it."
        I can’t resist adding two plant-animal hybrids from Scranimal Island, recorded by Jack Prelutsky.  The radishark is an underwater nightmare whose only thought is to catch and bite its prey, while the rhinocerose is too firmly rooted to chase anyone, and is beloved for its captivating blossom and enchanting scent.
        The moral of R is that nature does what it does, without regard for your opinion.  Nature doesn’t care whether or not you can identify its forms or make use of its products; nature may cause things to grow like fury or die away just as quickly, all without any intervention or effect from your actions.  Which means that our gardening tip of the day is: the one thing every gardener absolutely must cultivate is a spirit of patience and resignation.  You can’t control your garden!
        But if you could choose one plant to be able to grow successfully without fail, what would it be?

[Pictures: Raskovnik (actually European waterclover), plate from Flora von Deutschland, Österreich un der Schweiz by Otto Wilhelm Thomé, 1885 (Image from Wikimedia Commons);

Red weed, illustration (colored by AEGN) by Henrique Alvim Corrêa from The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells, French edition of 1906 (Image from Wikimedia Commons);

Ratchet Screwdriver Fruit, illustration by AEGNydam, 2024;

Rhinocerose and Radishark, illustrations by Peter Sís from Scranimals by Jack Prelutsky, 2002.]


JazzFeathers said...

Loved this post. And loved your final thought... maybe because I am a frustrated gardener! LOL!

Kristin said...

I'm pretty sure if we looked, our garage would be full of ratchet screwdriver fruit.

Frewin55 said...

A very entertaining post - especially the Douglas Adams piece - I have plenty of those in my drawers...
As for what I would like to grow - I have a small and spindly gooseberry bush and I cannot seem to make it thrive and grow large and productive...

Donna B. McNicol said...

What a great selection for the letter R>


Anne E.G. Nydam said...

JazzFeathers, there can be a lot ot be frustrated about in a garden!

Kristin, my parents' basement certainly was full of them and probably some similar related species!

Frewin, I feel your pain. I have a few blueberry bushes that seem to have something go wrong every year. Even when they do produce lots of berries, I never get to eat any of them before the critters do.

Thanks, Donna!