April 20, 2024

Magical Botany S

         Welcome to the #AtoZChallenge  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 see all my fellow A to Z bloggers on the Master List of participating blogs HERE.  Take a look, because you’re sure to find something of interest among them!
        To start with, S is for Sanjivani, another magical herb mentioned in Hindu epics.  It grows on a mountain beyond Mt. Meru, and has incredibly powerful healing properties.  Even a whiff of the scent is enough to bring people back from death (or at least, “mostly dead”).  Despite the fact that it glows in the dark, it’s not necessarily easy to identify.  Hanuman, who was sent to fetch some after a battle, couldn’t identify it, and had to bring the whole mountain, just to be sure he got it.  As for humans, they’ve been searching for centuries to find and identify sanjivani in real life, including with considerable state funds in India, but so far it remains elusive.  There are some more mundane herbs that are commonly sold under the name, but they’re not the real mythological thing.
        Another plant that’s certainly useful, if not so miraculous, is the spaghetti tree.  As its name implies, this is the plant on which spaghetti grows.  It can be farmed as far north as southern Switzerland although it cannot withstand hard late frosts.  A healthy adult tree can provide enough spaghetti for an average family, assuming mild winters and no trouble with spaghetti weevils.  The BBC reported a short segment on spaghetti trees on April 1, 1957, and afterwards told the people who enquired about it that they could grow their own tree by placing a sprig of spaghetti in a tin of tomato sauce and hoping for the best.  The spaghetti tree is obviously related to the pasta tree which grows on Neverbelieve Island, a location to which we were first introduced at G.
        Sapient pearwood is a kind of tree that grows in intensely magical areas mostly in the Agatean Empire on Discworld.  It is intelligent and impervious to magic, as well as being fairly impervious to sharp implements.  Like the Greek oaks we saw at O, these magical traits persist in objects made of the tree’s wood, and the most famous products are wizards’ staffs and luggage.  Trunks made of sapient pearwood can scurry around on little legs, defend their owners ferociously, have infinite storage and access to multiple pocket dimensions inside, and find their way back to their owner no matter how often they get lost.  Their one way of dealing with obstacles is to ignore them and smash or chomp straight through.
        Finally, I want to mention Codex Seraphinianus, an encyclopedia of a surreal magical world by Luigi Serafini, of which the first chapter is devoted to the flora of this land.  Because the book is written in an asemic script which is indecipherable, I can’t tell you what any of these plants are called or what fantastical properties they may have.  I can simply file them all under S and share some of the beautiful illustrations, which you can interpret as you will.
        The moral of our S plants is that no matter how appealing or how authoritative, sometimes things that sound fantastic really are just fantasy.  Gardening tip of the day: go ahead and poke a sprig of spaghetti into a tin of tomato sauce and see what happens.  After all, isn’t pretty much all gardening just hoping for the best?  (But remember, it has to be raw.  Once you cook it, it will certainly never germinate.)
        What unusual specialty crop do you wish you could grow in your garden?  Barnacle
geese?  Money?  Never-lost suitcases?  Or just strawberries that the critters never eat?

[Pictures: Sanjivani (actually detail from Gaudi Ragini), painting from India, probably Jaipur, 18th century (Image from Cleveland Museum of Art);

Spaghetti Tree, stills from BBC’s “Panorama” aired April 1, 1957 (Images from BBC.co.uk);

Pasta Tree, illustration from The Land of Neverbelieve by Norman Messenger, 2012;

Sapient Pearwood Luggage, illustration by Kidby? (Image from TerryPratchett.com);

Seraphinianus plants, illustrations from Codex Seraphinianus by Luigi Serafini, 1981.]


Mari Barnes said...

I am very much enjoying this A-Z blog series. It's excellent!

Anne E.G. Nydam said...

Thanks, Mari! I'm so glad you're enjoying it!

Donna B. McNicol said...

Loving the spaghetti and pasta trees. LOL!


Charlotte (MotherOwl) said...

I like your series of unlikely , magigal, man eating, poisonous ... and so on plants and trees. Your spaghetti trees made me smile and think. When I was a small one, my mother told me about growing spaghetti, not on trees, but in the ground, like wheat. I made it into a poem. Normally I do not promote my own blog, but I really like this poem, so here's a link: Spaghetti

Anne E.G. Nydam said...

Donna, I'd love to be able to grow my own pasta!

Charlotte, thanks for sharing your poem. Fun story!