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Harry Potter: Plants, People, & Potions: Plants


This libguide is in conjunction with the National Library of Medicine's traveling exhibit, Harry Potter's World, hosted at UCSD 5/6-6/16/12

Muggle Plants in the Stories

Just like the historical scientists, J.K. Rowling used real world plants in the details of her story.  We've highlighted 4 plants you might you might find in both your world and Harry Potter's world.

Muggle Plants in a Magical World

Which of these plants will you find in the Harry Potter stories?

Test your recollection of herbology in the Harry Potter stories.

Which of these "plants" are mentioned in the stories?

Only about 20% have found the right answer so far.  Think you know what the answer is?

7/15/2012:  It is a little trickier than I thought, so I'll add a clue.  If cabbage is confusing you, then remember what Hagrid was fetching in Diagon Alley?  Flesh eating slug repellent.  They were eating the cabbage.  Does that change your answer?

Which of these plants will you find in the Harry Potter stories?
Bubotuber: 1 votes (3.57%)
Geranium: 0 votes (0%)
Aconite: 0 votes (0%)
Puffapods: 0 votes (0%)
Cabbage: 0 votes (0%)
Devil's snare: 6 votes (21.43%)
Abyssinian shrivelfigs: 0 votes (0%)
All of the above: 6 votes (21.43%)
All but the geranium: 12 votes (42.86%)
Only the devil's snare: 3 votes (10.71%)
Total Votes: 28

The Renaissance and Natural Sciences

Hortus Sanitatis


Historically, scholars believed that studying plants could provide clues as to how nature works which would lead to a great understanding of life. In 1491, publisher (editor) Jacob Meydenback compiled earlier writings into the Hortus Sanitatis.

Hortus Sanitatis, 1491 Courtesy National Library of Medicine

This single volume catalogued hundreds of plant species and their uses, including those of the poisonous mandrake. (Yes, mandrakes are real.)  In the 15th century, many believed that mandrake roots resembled the human figure and possessed magical powers including the fatal scream fictionalized in Harry Potter. All parts of the mandrake is poisonous.  However, historical botanists and physicians recognized the mandrake’s medicinal value and sometimes used small doses of the plant as an anesthetic.

The Biomedical Libraries display has a reproduction of this text.  Stop by to see it or even, check it out once it is off display.

The Hortus Sanitatis represented the current understanding of plants and animals of that time.  It is a fun perusal of some of the crazy imaginings of what unfamiliar creatures and plants looked like.  For example, the video below shows one text of the hortus sanitatis wiith a reader's (perhaps, former owner) corrections to the "star fish"