Harry Potter Herbology

19th Nov 2021

Harry Potter Herbology

Fans of Harry potter may recall that Harry and his classmates were required to wear earmuffs while repotting mandrake plants in their herbology lesson. This, like much of Rowling's fiction, is based on actual mythology.

First recorded in England in 1578 (Niewe Herball), it already had a long history with the Greeks and Romans and was used as a sedative and a painkiller. However, it was also capable of inducing madness and delirium. It was associated with witchcraft and, along with Henbane and Deadly Nightshade, was said to induce the sensation of flying (don't try this at home!).

Back to the mythology; in medieval times it was considered fatal to pull up a mandrake root, which repeatedly shrieks as it leaves the ground. The uprooter would either run mad or die within days. The standard way around this was to tie the plant to a dog's tail and make the dog heave it up.

Mangragora officinarum has small purple flowers which develop into small apple-like fruits, giving it the other common name of Devil's Apple.

Pictured is the first plant I've managed to grow after some years of trying. I have yet to decide how to repot it safely!