TOYAMA -- A mandragora, which appears as a magical plant in the globally popular "Harry Potter" novel series, has bloomed for the first time at a botanical garden in this central Japan city.
In medieval Europe, superstition had it that if a person heard the sound of the roots tearing when pulling out a mandragora, they would die. Nevertheless, a "courageous" staff member of the Botanic Gardens of Toyama in the city of Toyama pulled a potted mandragora out by its roots and put it on display.
Mandragora plants, or mandrakes, are perennials of the family Solanaceae, native to the Mediterranean coast. They were once used as medicinal herbs for pain relief and other purposes, but they are no longer used due to their high toxicity.
The roots in particular are thick and complex, and often look like humans, which has resulted in many legends and superstitions. In "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets," the root has a face and cries out so loudly that the students wear earmuffs when they uproot the plant in class.
Since many people do not know that mandrakes are real plants, the botanical garden started to grow several of them in pots two years ago. The flower that bloomed this time was purple, with a diameter of about 2 to 3 centimeters.
Yuya Hayase, a technician in the facility's cultivation and exhibition section, who is also a fan of the Harry Potter series, decided to display the roots, thinking that fans would be interested in them. When he pulled one plant out of its pot, he felt nervous even though he knew it was a superstition, but he was able to breathe a sigh of relief upon completing the task, and the plant and its roots were displayed in the style of a magic room. The botanical garden expects that the flower can be seen throughout February.
"We can't travel far due to the coronavirus pandemic now, so please experience the atmosphere of Harry Potter at the botanical garden," he said.
Admission is 300 yen (about $2.60) for adults, and free for high school students and younger, and those aged 70 and older. The facility is closed on Thursdays.
(Japanese original by Ikuko Aoyama, Toyama Bureau)