5 seeds of Mandragora officinarum, common Mandrake seeds
Mandragora officinarum, seeds of common mandrake
Mandragora officinarum belongs to the family of the Solanaceae, the nightshades. It is native to the Mediterranean region. There it occurs even in very meager areas. Mandragora officinarum is better known as common mandrake. The mandrake is known for a long time. Already the Egyptians used it. M. officinarum grows as a perennial plant that reaches a height of about 35 cm. The leaves of the mandrake are clustered in a leaf rosette at the ground. The leaves are elliptic and relatively variable in size. The biggest leaves of Mandragora officinarium 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 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 appear at the end of April or at the beginning of May, depending on the weather. The fruit of the 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 root of the mandrake is a thick tape root that can get 60 cm long. From the tape root emerge in addition lateral roots. A myth tells that the roots look like a little man. If one digs out the root to repot the plant, the little man will scream very, very loud. This scream is deadly. In recent time this myth was again told by the author of Harry Potter. There the young magicians had to repot the screaming mandrakes. In the story of Harry Potter the mandrake was used in magic elixirs against bad and evil magic. The mandrake is one of the most famous herbs of the witches. One associates automatically magic with that plant. M. officinarum is highly poisonous. In former times it was used to kill people. The toxicity of the mandrake is due to the alkaloids it contains. The mandrake contains amongst others atropine and hyoscyamin. Those substances lead to paralysis of the respiration tract and in the end to death. All parts of the mandrake are poisonous, including the seeds. One should keep them away from kids!
Cultivationof common mandrake from seeds
The seeds of Mandragora officinarum 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 (Substrate should be kept moist). 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 in fall. M. officinarum is winter hardy to a certain degree. It should be put into the house during winter. Alternatively one can leave the plant outside and put a protection around. Due to the extremely long root the adult plant should not be repotted anymore.