Voynich plant on f100r – broccoli?

Below is an email sent to me by Dr. Ramiro Gianinazzi, Switzerland. I thought it was interesting so he gave me permission to post it. It refers to this plant on f100r:



Dr. Ramiro Gianinazzi writes as follows:

“In the folio 100 is illustrated a plant which looks like a vegetable of the “brassica oleracea” family (especially broccoli).

In Italy, what is named today “broccoli”, has been used for centuries, at least since the Roman Empire period. Boccoli is the result of a selection, made by human, known in Latin language as “brachium” or simply “brassica”.

In the late medieval period, broccoli was widely used in some geographical regions influenced by the Roman civilization (including eastern territories of the Mediterranean sea and even further to east). Because it was the result of a selection, so a “new product”, it’s supposable that its Latin name followed the geographical spread so absorbed by some local languages. Shall also be considered that the pronunciation of brachium and brassica may be different than Latin (and so its writing) because the evolution and adaptation of a foreign word into another language.

[To f]igure out whether the manuscript language could have absorbed in its vocabulary the word “brachium” or “brassica” (or mutations of these words) is very difficult at the moment. Even if the word became part of the manuscript language, the original meaning may have changed, perhaps referring to a similar vegetable or a group of vegetables.

However, despite which is the unknown language or dialect, it is clear that the author/s trained to a certain level in western manuscripts and likely knew some Latin. Additionally, it is very possible that the scholars/scribes of the that region knew the Latin name “brachium” and/or “brassica”.

Looking at the unknown word just above the illustrated plant, it can probably be split at least into two parts. Now, please split both words “brachium” and “brassica” into two parts as follows:

– “bra”, “chium”
– “bra”, “ssica”

Kindly image to split the unknown word into two parts and match these two parts with “bra”-”chium” and “bra”-”ssica”.

Visually speaking, the first part of the unknown word looks like “bra” and it seems to match both brachium and brassica.The second part of the unknown word seems to have relationship with “chium” of brachium more than “ssica” of brassica. Please see the attachment.

Key points:
1. broccoli is made by human so linguistically a quite particular case
2. in Latin this vegetable is known by two names and both names begin with “bra”
3. visually, “bra” seems to match the first part of the unknown word. The second part of the unknown word seems that could have relationship with the two Latin words.

Given the above, I believe it’s worth considering to analyze this case…..

Dr. Ramiro Gianinazzi, Switzerland”


  1. Julie

    If you look at the root part of the plant which in this case happens to be the trunk, then Google juniper tree, you will match this to juniper. Also that particular text is not the plant name.

  2. Not to be contrary, but I would love to see the sources Dr. Gianinazzi used for his information on broccoli.

    Brassica oleracea does indeed date back to Roman times, but it should be noted that the same species of plant (modernly) includes cabbage, kale, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and collard greens.

    While I have seen many medieval depictions of all of the other cultivars of Brassica oleracea (including some very modern-looking cauliflower), I have yet to see a painting or illustration of broccoli that predates the 17th century.

  3. Interesting. Medieval broccoli was probably different in some ways from the modern type, which has a single strong taproot. That in the manuscript appears to have very long, fine, roots (though what might be imagined an early stage of infection by clubroot fungus).

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