Mythical Plants
of the Middle Ages

by James L. Matterer


Civilizations as early as the Chaldean in southwestern Asia were among the first to have a belief in plants that never existed, and the practice continued well beyond the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. Originally, this was done to disperse the mystery surrounding certain seemingly-miraculous events and to symbolically embody in a physical form various aspects - wealth, happiness, fertility, illness, etc. Later, people began to invent "nonsense plants" to enliven the tale of an otherwise boring voyage, and with the invention of the printed book, to entertain readers who loved to believe in such fables. Even spices, which were an important element of Medieval food, commerce, trade, & society, were given exotic & incredible backgrounds. The fabulous trees and fauna discussed here are just a small example of the many fantastic plants our medieval forebears believed in. As will be evident, trees, because of their longevity and immensity, have been foremost among the plants considered sacred, mystic, or mythical.

Mythical Plants of the Middle Ages is based on the writings of Ernst & Johanna Lehner and William A. Emboden.


Bohun Upas - the Tree of Poisons

The Tree of Knowledge

The Tree of Life

The Amber Tree

The Mysterious Origin of Spices

The Apple of Sodom & the Zieba Tree



Visit our companion site
Fantastic Fish of the Middle Ages

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If you enjoy the illustrations in Mythical Plants of the Middle Ages, then you should also enjoy these sites:

A Feast For The Eyes | Fantastic Fish of the Middle Ages
Medieval Macabre | Medieval Woodcuts Clipart Collection
Tales of the Middle Ages | Tacuinum Sanitatis

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© James L. Matterer