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ntroduced Photo: Ramesh Raju
Common name: Mandrake, Satan's Apple, Love Apple, Devil's Apple • Hindi: Bhagener, लकमनी Lakmani • Tamil: Katal jati, Katavjate • Telugu: Mantrika, Saitanu Pandu, Prema Pandu, Deyyapu Kaya • Kannada: Lakshmana • Urdu: Luffah • Sanskrit: लक्षमण Laksmana, Putrada, रक्तवॆन्दु Raktavindu
Botanical name: Mandragora officinarum    Family: Solanaceae (Potato family)

Mandrake is a narcotic herb, native to SE Europe. The plant has a long tap-root that is usually split up into two parts, resembling a human form. Immediately from the crown of the root arise several large, dark-green leaves, which at first stand erect, but when grown to full size a foot or more in length and 4-5 inches in width - spread open and lie upon the ground. They are sharp pointed at the apex and of an unpleasant odor. From among these leaves spring the flowers, each on a separate foot-stalk, 3-4 inches high. They are somewhat of the shape and size of a primrose, the corolla bell-shaped, cut into five spreading segments, of a whitish color, somewhat tinged with purple. They are succeeded by a smooth, round fruit, about as large as a small apple, of a deep yellow color when ripe, full of pulp and with a strong, apple-like scent. In recent times, the seed of the plant was brought to South India, by some plant lovers. According to European legends, when the root is dug up it screams and kills all who hear it. Literature includes complex directions for harvesting a mandrake root in relative safety.
Medicinal uses: In ancient times it was used as a narcotic and an aphrodisiac, and it was also believed to have certain magical powers. In large doses it is said to excite delirium and madness. Mandrake was used in as an anesthetic for surgeries in the Middle Ages, a piece of the root being given to the patient to chew before undergoing the operation. The plant is even mentioned in Genesis.

Identification credit: Ramesh Raju
Photographed in Andhra Pradesh.
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