At university I gave a presentation on the plants of harry potter and I thought that maybe some of you would like to read about it. So I present to you…
Plants historically have often been steeped in superstition. Many plants have supposed miracle or magical properties. Working in the reverse the 7 book saga in the magical world of harry potter has loads of plants mentioned. Many of these are real genuine plants and the properties listed in the books aren’t as far fetched from the truth as you might think. I’ll give a couple of examples.
Who can forget the shrieks of a Mandrake! In the books mandrakes when picked up have tiny human like people blow that have a shriek. They were believed as in the books to be used to treat petrification. There are still some traditions now which take the mandrake root and carve it into a face to ward off bad spirits. The roots are narcotic and hallucinogenic but can be used for pain relief. Below is a classic scene from the harry potter films involving mandrakes!
In the story devils snare is a slimey plant that hates the sunlight. It winds round our favourite character like a snake. In real life it can also be found under the name of Jimsons Weed and is nothing like the story suggests. The flowers open at night and has been found to have powerful hallucinogenic properties. So maybe JK took some of this to create her own version? Below is the video of that wonderful scene.
I won’t go on about this guy too much as this is a poisonous plant and will be appearing in the collection in a few weeks. I will say that it appears in harry potter as a common potion ingredient. Although here in the real world it often comes under the name of aconite or Aconitum and was traditionally used as a poison that went on the head of arrows. It was also used to kill wolves giving it its name.
The whomping willow is a feature in the stories of harry potter and pops up on a number of different occasions. Willow itself is an incredible plant that is used for so many different things. It has medicinal properties and led to the creation of asprin as we know it now. Its also used as charcoal in art as well as in many religious festivals. The whomping willow is an enchanted tree as if willows aren’t enchanting enough, I could keep going on about how great willow is but I think I’ll save that for another day! As a treat I thought I would leave the whomping willow at its best below!
Thats all of the examples for now but there are many more I could have chosen from. To conclude this post merely highlights how diverse and inspiring plants can be. I like to think that JK along with inspiring a generation of wizards and witches also inspired some botanists as well!