Mandragora autumnalis, european mandrake seeds
Mandragora autumnalis belongs to the family of the Solanaceae, the nightshades. It is native in the Mediterranean region. There it occurs even in very meager areas. M. autumnalis is also known as autumn mandrake and european mandrake. The name “mandrake” means secret. M. autumnalis was once rated as an own species but meanwhile one knows that it is a variation of Mandragora officinarum. M. autumnalis grows as a perennial plant that reaches a height of about 35 cm. The leaves of the autumn mandrake are clustered in a leaf rosette at the ground. The leaves are elliptic and relatively variable in size. The biggest leaves of M. autumnalis get 45 cm long. The leaf edge is curled. The whole leave is wrinkled. The midrib is clearly visible because it is light green or slightly violet, this is a clear contrast against the dark green leaf. The flower is actinomorphic and hermaphrodite. The calyx and the corolla are bell shaped. The flower of the autumn mandrake is whitish including violet. The stamens in the center are clearly visible. The flowers are in the center of the leaf rosette. The flowers of the autumn mandrake appear, as one can already suggest from the name, in September and bloom until November. The fruit of the autumn mandrake is a berry that reaches 4 cm in diameter. They are first green and get orange when they are ripened. The fruit contains several light brown seeds. The fruit is also named love apple. M. autumnalis is the plant of the Greece goddess Aphrodite. She had the second name “Mandragoritis”. Aphrodite is the goddess of love and beauty. One said that the autumn mandrake has an aphrodisiac effect. One also brewed a beer with the autumn mandrake. This beer had a hallucinogenic effect and one believed that one could only understand the world in this state of trance. However this was not harmless. M. autumnalis is highly poisonous! One also used the plant for abortions and to procure a miscarriage. The toxicity is due to the alkaloids M. autumnalis contains. M. autumnalis contains mainly atropine and hyoscyamin. This substances can lead to paralysis of the respiration tract and finally to death. The root of M. autumnalis is a little smaller than the one from M. officinarum. A myth tells that the root looks like a little man and starts to scream very, very loud when it is removed from the soil. For that reason one had to bring a big, black dog when one wanted to repot the autumn mandrake. The dog died instead of the human of the loud scream. All parts of the autumn mandrake are poisonous including the seeds. One should put in away from kids.
Cultivation of Mandrake seeds:
The seeds of M. autumnalis need a pretreatment. They should be first put into water for 24 h. After that they can be planted into the substrate. The seeds in the substrate should be put into the fridge for 4 to 6 weeks. This stratification is necessary for the germination success. At a temperature of about 20°C and constantly moist substrate, germination occurs after 1 month. Alternatively the seeds can be sown outside very early in spring so that they occur a natural cold period. M. autumnalis is winter hardy.
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