Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Real Plants from the Potter Universe

This is a post I've wanted to write for years. It was a trip to Alnwick Gardens, and the poison garden in particular, that spurred the idea when Mam and I took the tour back in 2014(?) and spotted a Mandrake! Obviously, there are many trees, plants and the like sprinkled throughout the magical world of Harry Potter, ie. different wand woods such as Holly, Hawthorn & Walnut and things like Aloe Vera, Mistletoe & Nettle that we all recognize. However, there are also many that you may have mistaken as fictional that do indeed exist.
After Jake and I revisited Alnwick Gardens in late 2015 I jotted down notes as the start of a draft post...and as you can see it's been pushed back and pushed back until now! So now, finally, you can read on to find out about some magical plants that you may just find at the bottom of your garden!

Mandrake [genus Mandragora]
Mandrakes are probably one of the most well-known plants in the Potter Universe and are famously used in the production of Restorative Draught which revives those who have been petrified. The form of their roots resembles a baby and they can cause fatalities with just their 'cry' once fully grown.

Now in 'real life' they are real. They are still called Mandrakes and indeed, they are pretty darn toxic! This was the plant that is housed in the Poison Garden at Alnwick Gardens and if I remember rightly, it is one of those that is enclosed by a cage - eek! It has a vast history including mentions in the bible, uses in legendary witchcraft as well as ancient medicine as surgery anesthetic due to it making you unconscious. Mandrake roots also still kind of look like ugly babies haha.

Other uses include/d -
Relief of rheumatic pains when applied externally.
Taken orally for depression, convulsions and 'mania'.
Hallucinogenic and narcotic. Causes delirium when taken in large doses internally.

Devils Snare [Datura stramonium] 
Devils Snare, Devils's deadly fun...but will sulk in the sun! Devils Snare hates sunlight! However, the real thing, which goes by many names, is actually native to North America and grows in warm and moderate surely it can't hate sunlight? I dunno. Anyway, by that rhyme you should remember this plant as the vine 'net' that caught the 3 friends as they fell through the trapdoor in The Philosopher's stone. It has the ability to constrict you with its tentacle-like vines and will only kill you faster if you struggle!

In real life Datura stramonium / Devils Snare / Jimson Weed is not much like ithe magical counterpart, being a friend to those of us who have breathing difficulties and was used to treat asthma in the past (instead of squeezing the breath out of you)!  Just as the Mandrakes, Devils Snare has good and bad effects depending on dosage and is very toxic, though unlike mandrakes, it's apperance is nothing like that which exists in the Potter universe.

Other uses include/d -
Analgesic painkiller used for surgeries and setting bones.
Algonquin, Navajo, Cherokee, amoung other indigenous people, used it in ceremonys for the hallucinations it caused.
To create visions were the taker can 'communicate' with higher/supreme/devine beings.

Dittany [Origanum dictamnus] 
If you unluckily got splinched while apperating in the wizarding world, you'd want some Essence of Dittany for sure. Shown and/or mentioned a few times in the books/movies you may remember Hermione using it on Ron when he got spliched disapperating after the infiltration of the Ministry of Magic, on Harry when he was bit by the snake in Godricks Hollow and to heal the burns they recieved upon touching the tresure in Bellatrix's vault.

Muggles, specifically those from Greece, may also be quite familar with Dittany as it's a perrienial that wildly grows only on the mountainsides etc in Crete! Just like the magical plant it is also a therapeutic healing plant but sadly it is apparently a threatened plant species.

Other uses include/d -
Considered to symbolize love, people would risk their lives to climb mountainsides to procure the pink blossoms that grow on the dittany plant and give it to those they admired.
These days its exported for use in perfume, to flavor particular alcholic drinks and pharmaceutical drugs.
Ancient Greeks are said to have used it to heal wounds (like in HP!), help stomach pains and even inducing menstruation - which is a whole other thing to research haha.

Monkshood / Wolfsbane [Aconitum]  
Mainly known by the species Monkshood or Wolfsbane, Aconite is a magical potion ingredient that we hear mentioned by Proffesor Snape in the Philosiphers Stone in his first worlds to Harry.
It can help to limit, though not completely rid, werewolves of their symptoms.

''For your information, Potter, asphodel and wormwood make a sleeping potion so powerful it is known as the Draught of Living Death. A bezoar is a stone taken from the stomach of a goat and it will save you from most poisons. As for monkshood and wolfsbane, they are the same plant, which also goes by the name of aconite.''

 Native to the Northern Hemisphere, Aconite goes by the same names and is extremely toxic. It's blue/purple flower can look nice but with other names such as devil's helmet and queen of all poisons allude it's use as a deadly poison.

Other uses include/d -
Poisons for hunting such as arrow tips or lances to paralyze whales :(
Used for many years in traditional Chinese and Hindu medicines. As well as other homeopathic medicines for things such as anxiety and more.
Mentioned many times in literature/tv/movies from Greek mythology up until present day. Eg. Midsomer Murders, 1931's Dracula The Vampire Diaries & more.

Other mentions go to the following:

Knotgrass [Polygonum] 
Knotgrass appears in a few of the Harry Potter books/movies as it is an ingredient of the Polyjuice Potion.
Mugglewise, Polygonum is a genus of many plants in the buckwheat and knotweed family. It can be cooked and eaten and used to treat UTIs.

Fluxweed [Cuphea viscosissima] 
Another ingredient of the ever famous, human form altering, Polyjuice Potion.
In real life it is the Cuphea viscosissima plant, also called blue waxweed, clammy cuphea or tarweed. It has no real uses but with it's sticky stem and purple flower it is pretty and very common in North America.

Wormwood [Artemisia absinthium] 
Mentioned in the same paragraph shown above by Snape to Harry, Wormwood is used in the Draught of Living Death, Elixir to Induce Euphoria, and the Shrinking Solution.
You'll probably recongnize the non-magical version of Wormwood as being absinthe! Causing kidney failure and epileptic-like convulsions if too much is taken, it is an ingredient in the alcholhic drink Absinthe as well as a flavoring in other wines and spirits.

Woah, this ended up a lot lengthier than expected haha! It was a subject that I personally found pretty interesting and thought some other Potterheads might too. I hope you did and there wasn't too much waffling on ;) Have you ever taken/eaten/drank any of those mentioned in this post?? I have used Aconite before!
If you're interested in having a peek at the Poison Garden that originally inspired this, check it out here > Exploring Northumberland // Alnwick Gardens Part 2.


  1. I absolutely adore this blog post Danielle, this is so, so cool and I love the way you structured it! I've always wondered how much inspiration J.K Rowling took from real plants and botany for her magical ones, so this was very cool and I'm so glad you went through with writing and sharing this. I can definitely see how your trip to Alnwick inspired it too. Love it! - Tasha

    1. Aw thanks so much Tasha! It took a lot of time and work so I'm glad you enjoyed it!! Super interesting subject isn't it?


  2. This is awesome! I always knew Mandrake was a real plant but it's cool to learn about so many others!

    1. It's quite interesting isn't it?! I enjoyed putting it together.


  3. I love this post! I had never really fully thought about plants from the magical world coming from the muggle world - I know, naturally, elements of the story would be taken from real life, but I'm very much someone who doesn't like the magic spoiled y'know. Having said that, I don't feel like you spoiled it all - such an insightful and thorough post!

    1. Thank you!
      Oh I didn't even think that it could possibly ruin the magic...oops!! I hope I didn't and I'm glad you enjoyed it :)


  4. This is an awesome post!! I love shit like this :D

    1. Thank you! I'm glad people have enjoyed it too because it was pretty much just something I was super interested in haha.


  5. This is really interesting! I think I sorta knew a lot of the plants were loosely based on real ones but I didn't know to what extent ! Thansk for sharing :D

    1. I'm happy you think so too ;) Yeah JK took so much inspiration from the muggle world I shouldn't have been as surprised, but I was proper into researching this haha.

      Thank you!



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