The Mandrake, Mandragora officinarum, is a plant called by the Arabs luffâh, or beid el-jinn (“djinn’s eggs”).
Mandrake is the common name for members of the plant genus Mandragora belonging to the nightshades family (Solanaceae).
Mandrake contains deliriant hallucinogenic tropane alkaloids such as atropine, scopolamine, apoatropine, and hyoscyamine.
The roots sometimes bifurcate, causing them to resemble human figures. Their roots have long been used in magic rituals, and today are valued by members of neopagan religions such as Wicca and Germanic revivalism religions such as Odinism.
The roots of Mandrake were supposed to bear a resemblance to the human form, on account of their habit of forking into two shoots which form a rough figure of a human.
In the old Herbals we find them frequently figured as a male with a long beard, and a female with a very bushy head of hair. Many weird superstitions collected round the Mandrake root.
It was common belief in some countries that mandrake would only grow where the semen of a hanged murderer had dripped on to the ground.
And it was believed to cause death to whoever dug it up, as the plant would let out a shriek upon being dug up, which none might hear and live.
Therefore if you would dig up a Mandrake you should either do it from a distance using string, or tie the string to your dog and let him pull it up. Of course, then the dog would die from the terrible scream from the plant.
In J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, the author makes use of the legend of the mandrake’s scream, and anyone tending mandrakes wears earmuffs to dull the sound.
As an amulet, it was once placed on mantel to bring luck and happiness. Bryony roots were often cut into fancy shapes and passed off as Mandrake.
Small images made from Bryony roots, cut to look like the figure of a man, with millet seed inserted into the face for eyes, were sold to the foolish and uneducated.
They were known as puppettes and were credited with magical powers.
Italian ladies were known to pay as much as thirty golden ducats for these artificial Mandrake amulets.
Through macro photography, Joni Niemelä is able to capture the minuscule beauty of things that we might normally miss.
The Finnish photographer has recently turned an eye towards the carnivorous plant Drosera, which is more commonly known as a “Sundew” — a moniker referring to the droplets that collect on the plants, akin to a morning dew.
Those condensation-like beads, however, aren’t from water.
They’re the result of the plant luring, capturing, and digesting insects.
In Niemelä’s gorgeous images, the extremely close vantage point allows him to highlight the tiniest parts of the Sundew, and their individual droplets shine with exquisitely-speckled details.
Having such a shallow depth-of-field also abstracts parts of the composition. While the plant (or plants) are often in focus, the diffused areas bathe the portraits in brilliant greens, blues, and magentas.
“Sundews have always fascinated me, and I have been photographing these alien-like plants for several years now,” Niemelä says. “My first first photo series Drosera was mostly bright and vibrant, so I wanted to have some contrast to that in my second series of Sundews.
I think the colors and the mood of Otherworldly Blues reflect aptly the true nature of these carnivorous plants.”