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Walk on any hillside track just now and you are likely to come across a big flat rosette of fleshy dark green leaves, level with the ground, with a posy of mauveish flowers at the heart. Not the most distinguished of plants, noticeable only for a splash of colour, but this is one of botany’s most potent symbols of myth and magic. Mandragora officinarum, Μανφραγόρας, mandrake. Used since earliest times as a soporific, it’s the emblem of Greek anaesthetists, and it’s also an ancient cure for sterility. The huge bifurcated root is said to resemble a human being, and to scream when pulled up; Mary Jaqueline Tyrrwhitt in her book Making A Garden On A Greek Hillside tells how she spent four days trying to dig one out for transplanting and it was as long as her forearm. Lots more mandrake tales on the internet, if you’re interested; here’s a picture I took earlier.