I have recently been contacted by a biologist from Finland who wants to remain anonymous. He has put a lot of work into looking at the Voynich plants, and has come up with some very interesting ideas and detailed discussion. He has agreed that I can post them here.
Many of them are informal and initial opinions, but I feel they are still extremely useful contributions. I’m most grateful to him for his extensive and considered analysis.
Note that he reached his decisions independently and on the basis of biology, not of the language side.
You can use the search box to find particular pages or suggestions quickly.
Voynich page Primary suggestion Comments
1v Atropa belladonna or Scopolia carniolica If all that is painted would be correct: Upright to nodding plant,
leaves entire, hastate to adjoined to stem, fruit possibly dark, capsule
or berry, with prominent calyx. Flowers more or less singly. Not
Asteraceae or Cichoriaceae. Root/rhizome large, thick, horizontal. Two
colours of leaves could refer to different colours or hairiness on lower
and upper side. Leaf arrangment not clear, but not whorled.
- Is a certain species meant or is it a general model of plants (in
- Which parts are correct, which are not?
- Which part is significant to the author (pharmacy effects)?
Atropa belladonna or Scopolia carniolica.
Scrophularia nodosa more far-fetched.
All are pharmacy plants with rhizomes.
2v Nymphaea The figure supposed to be Nymphaea: I looked at the root (actually
rhizome) now. Also it fits well to Nymphaea but also other aquatic
plants. It seems to represent a horizontal rhizome (a modified,
subterranean stem). The round structures in the rhizome correspond well
with scars of earlier leaves etc. The image fits well in an aquatic
plant (The rhizome would grow in the bottom mud). The flower seems to
have at least some imagined features for any plant, however. E.g.
Hydrocharis has similar leaves but difterent roots.
It could be thought that the rhizome and perhaps a separate leaf would
have been at hand, during the painting session, the flower being
somewhat filled-in by imagination. Nymphaea has pharmacy uses.
What I suggest to look for, in 2v, is simply the word WATER (repetition
of same words as in bathing ladies?), perhaps also the combination of
BOTTOM and ROOT, since this is a water plant anyway. Of course "water"
might be avoided by words such as "lake" or "river", but worth checking
3r Polypodium vulgare First thoughts on 3r:
No flowers seen. Leaves or leaflets/lobes very tightly arranged. The
image could represent a lobed or imparipinnate leaf emerging directly
from thinnish roots. Strange dots on leaf margins might represent fern
spores, as might the brown colours.
First bid: Polypodium vulgare. Words to look for: (BITTER-)SWEET (taste
of root), ROOT, ROCK/CLIFF/BOULDER (habitat). WORM (many ferns have been
used as anti-worm drugs).
Secondary choice: other ferns.
4r Linum usitatissimum or Linum catharticum I have not made extensive comparisons with this, but am making direectly
If the image is correct, it seems to represent a thin-stalked herb with
small narrow entire leaves opposite or in tight whorls, may grow a few
shoots per root, its flowers are quite few per shoot, it has a visible
calyx and a capsule fruit which splits in sectors and has some kind of
tip. The plant is shown in fruiting stage, implicating that the flowers
are not interesting for the book
First bid: Linum usitatissimum or Linum catharticum.
If this would be the case, words to look for: SEED (the useful part),
BLUE (flower of L. usitatissimum), SLIMY (seeds when moistened),
FIBER/THREAD/ROPE/CLOTH (products of stem fibers).
4v Polemonium sp. Making a direct guess of 4v without systematic searches:
If the combination of a slender upright plant with large blue radially
symmetric flowers and (im)paripinnate leaves is correct, there are only
My first suggestion is Polemonium sp.
There are mystic star-like structures painted in both flowers and lower
in the shoot. But also these might make sense with Polemonium! In some
stages of flowering the style tips are protruding and form a star-shaped
structure (as do also some other plant genera, howerer). AND the capsule
splits in sectors ans also the calyx may leave star-shaped remains.
Secondary alternative: Delhinium/Consolida etc, but then the flowers
would not be well drawn.
Also the root with curvy contours fits with some Internet images labeled
Not a widespred drug but has been used for pharmacy purposes in the
past. Both the fruits/seeds and roots might have been of interest to the
5r Paris quadrifolia My first guess of 5r: Paris quadrifolia (this has been suggested by
others in the net, as well)
If this plant is aimed, then the fruit would represent a single dark
berry (meaning of pale center unclear - shining?), the sharp-tipped
calyx leaves would fit, as would the general habitus of a straight stem
with a single flower/fruit in the top, and a radiating whorl of
broadish, entire, elliptic to lanceolate leaves with a tip in the middle
of the stem. The leaves curving down is not characteristic but is
possible of course e.g. in a withering plant or as an artistic decoration.
Although four is the general number of leaves in P. quadrifolia, whorls
of more leaves do occur, and the painter may mot have aimed to give an
exact number, just the general appearance. Also the nodulose rhizome in
the image has some resemblance to that of Paris.
Paris is poisonous and has been used as a pharmacy plant.
5v Potentilla argentea If this represents a small plant, the habitus and leaves fit quite well
to Potentilla, but then the flowers should be generallly yellow rather
than red. Eg. the pharmacy plant Potentilla erecta has a root which
stains red and this might be symbolised with red flowers as well? But it
has only four petals. Colour difference between upper/lower sides of
leaves would fit better in e.g. Potentilla argentea. A big genus.
Another candidate genus with smallish to middle-sized plants is Geranium.
A candidate family with middle-sized to large plants is Malvaceae,
including Malva, Lavatera and Althaea. E.g. Althaea officinalis is a
6r Drosera sp. 6r seems a mysterious image, but I have a very unsure hypothesis to make:
If this is true, the image is zoomed, to represent plant height of about
5-15 cm. then the sharp lobes of the leaves would represent the
insect-catching sticky hairs. The odd "moss capsules" near the top would
represent capsules of Drosera. The artist surely has some meaning with
the odd bumps on the capsules' sides, looking like sunrises. The
position of these on sides would hint an irregular ("mirror-symmetric")
flower, and I do not get any sure meaning for them. However, the flowers
of Drosera being arranged in a spiral-like inflorescence may in some
stages show structures (remains of various flowerparts) on their upper
6v Ricinus communis Ricinus and some alternative candidates do not grow wild here in north,
so I have not so wide personal experience on their variation in nature,
and I may miss totally some potential alternatives. However:
[re. Ricinus communis] It is very natural to conceive image 6v as a representation of a rather stout plant with palmate leaves (i.e. lobes radiating from a single center) and with big, round, spiky fruits.
Please note the deceptive zooming problem, however: Compare this with the leaves of 16r which you (perhaps correctly) relate with a juniper (in this case, the flowers of 16 r would be male!). 16 r would then be a close-up, width of page being only about 5 cm, while the page of 6v, if Ricinus, would represent e.g. 1-2 metres in nature.
I looked if there is any difference in leaves of 16 r and 6v. With good will, you could see in the supposed Ricinus the central veins of leaf lobes outlined in 6v, and the "needles" of 16r may be a bit more overlapping, more suggestive of individual needles. But a really different meaning remains unsure.
Round, spiky fruits (or similar structures) also occur in:
- Datura (but leaves of datura show only large serration, not a palmate form),
- Castanea (a tree; single leaves are not palmate but might occur in tufts which may look like that)
- Arctium (the spiky things being a modified inflorescense), but in Arctium the leaves are large roundish, not palmate.
All the previous would fit into a stout plant about as large as ricinus.
- If we assume that the artist has zoomed very much, there are several plants which have very small (e.g. 3-5 mm wide) spiky fruits which may attach to furs of animals, e.g. Galium (paired fruits, narrow leaves radiating directly from stem), and several Apiaceae or Boraginaceae, but to me these seem a bit far-fetched. Members of Dipsacus also have structures like Arctium.
But with these comments, and perhaps overlooking some mediterranean plants, Ricinus really IS a very promising and natural candidate for 6v, and we do not need any imaginary additions for that assumption. Even the blue colour in fruits might refer to purple colours which may occur in any part of some Ricinus varieties. The drawing style might hint that the fruit is the emphasized part of the plant, and these (or the seeds inside) might have been stored/sold as a potent pharmacy product.
We can also put it this way: If this image would be presented as Ricinus (assuming it would get some support in the text) no one would notice anything special 🙂
I forgot at least Aesculus hippocastaneum. That should also be considered as a candidate. Palmate leaves (although 6v is more ricinus-like) and spiky fruits. But I would rank Ricinus higher, since the image looks more like a Ricinus.
7r ? Some very preliminary speculation about 7r:
Although this might be taken as a flower, close inspection of the
structure would rather hint towards a tip of a vegetative shoot. Many
alternatives. It would be important to know the zooming level aimed.
Perhaps the shoot tip of some plant (Juniper? other gymnosperm tree?)
has been used as a pharmacy product. The root in the image seems to be
grafted by the artist to the tip.
7v Erigeron acre Early guesses on 7v, no systematic search made:
A hairy (annual?) herb with lanceolate entire leaves
Other members of daisy family which are missing ray flowers? E.g.
Hieracium pilosella?? Shoot fits well but then the "flowers" might be
badly drawn and represent e.g. rhizome tip leaves.
Boraginaceae such as Myosotis, Cynoglosssum etc.?? Leaves fit but then
the flowers would be badly drawn.
11r Salix herbacea and Salix
11r is a difficult one. The first impression is that of some cushion- or
carpet-forming perennial plant of dry or alpine environments. The part
of(pharmaceutical?) intrest to the artist would seem to be the roots.
Bluish colours on such plants occur e.g. in Lamiaceae (such as Thymus),
Saxifraga (S. oppositifolia), Loiseleuria (Alpine/Northern), and Silene
acaulis (Alpine/Northern), but having these in combination with the
roundish and toothed leaves illustrated, is difficult with the plants
mentioned above. Maybe the painter has something wrong.
Two perhaps surprising candidates come from the willows (Salix): There
are (at least) two alpine creeping salixes, Salix herbacea and Salix
reticulata which have rounded leaves quite similar to the image. In this
case, the "flowers" illustrated would be female catkins which in these
species nave often various shades of red or purple.
I am not aware of medicinal use of specifically these two willows but
certainly these have similar pain-relieving substances than other
willows. If 11r would really illustrate these willows, the artist would
have got material from alpine environments.
There may be more southern Mediterranean plants which I no not know about.
11v Rhododendron ferrugineum 11v is a mysterious image, just very first thoughts of it, to inspire
The tight "bush" has been painted very schematically or symbolically, it
could represent nearly any tree or bush, "minishrub" (Ericaceae) or even
a smaller plant if zoomed. We do not know which character - if any - is
wrong or exaggerated, which is more right.
The blue "flower" in the top is quite a mystery too. What is the artist
trying to illustrate? If the plant is of the size of a bush, the flower
seems unproportionally big. On the other hand, if we assume that the
flower is of normal size, then the plant must be very small, e.g. type
of Saxifraga oppositifolia.
The coloring the leafs with alternating colors may just be an artistic
method to clarify the density. BUT if informative, it leads to my best
candidate thus far: Rhododendron ferrugineum, which is an alpine bush
AND has rusty undersides of leaves AND has showy (albeit more
One thing seems to differ from many other illustrations, and may convey
some information: The base and the higher branches: It seems that the
branch illustrated is just one branch of a larger bush which branches
near the ground, others cut away for clarity. This would also fit in
e.g. Salix with pain-relieving properties. Also the branches just below
leaves convey the same information of a branching bush. The "flower"
might also refer to some kind of a young shoot tip, or a dark color
reaction in a broken twig or anything else the artist may have observed
So, my best guess at the moment is Rhododendron. I have not searched for
its potential uses. The poisonous plant Daphne mezereum is much more
far-fetched. (long leaves, paler purple flowers in spikes, not so dense).
14v Urtica dioica, U. urens and
14v looks strange if it is understood to represent the entire plant. My
first guess however is that it illustrates only a detail which the
artist has "grafted" directly with the root system.
The leaves are illustrated as strongly serrate and the flowers (if they
represent flowers) seem to be in clusters andto be very small and
modest, perhaps wind-pollinated. Also note triplets of small dots in
When searching for such combinations, one genus rises up as a strong
candidate, namely, nettles (Urtica). The habitus is different and this
alternative can really be only explained by taking the image as a detail
of the plant.
Three species at least should be considered, Urtica dioica, U. urens and
U. pilulifera with round flower clusters. U. urens (and according to an
Internet source also U. pilulifera) is annual and does not have the
illustrated branching rhizome. However the rhizome of the common nettle
U. dioica would fit very fell to the image and has been used for
The tree dots in each cluster do not find a clear interpretation in case
of Urtica, since its flower parts come in groups of four.
damascena or Nigella arvensis
16v shows another mystery plant with a large, star-like, "hypnotizing"
flower. The brown, circular, spiny structures in the middle are
a) If we assume that BOTH the flower AND fruits are more or less
correct, the first guess might be Nigella species such as Nigella
damascena or Nigella arvensis. In this case, the fruits would be seen
from below, and the tiny venation may represent the veins of the fruit
as well as thread-like upper leaves.
This does not prevent keeping even some other folios of the VM
interpreted as Nigella (note also the cultured Nigella sativa). In this
case similar words could occur in both Nigella pictures.
b) If we put an emphasis on the special fruits and allow the flower to
be imagined by the Artist, there are naturally more alternatives. Spiny,
curved pods occur in e.g. Pea Family (e.g. Scorpiurus, Onobrychis,
c) If we assume that only the star-like fruits were shipped to the
Artist as exotic spices or drugs from Far East, for instance, there are
still more alternatives such as star anise. According to a short
Internet source, however, this plant was first introduced to Europe as
late as in 1578.
17v Rumex acetosella?
Smilax aspera (=common smilax) or
[Compare with 99r,, possibly ] 17v represents the more slender, close relative Rumex acetosella. The difference between these plants' leaf base lobes (arrow-like or "spear-like" with protruding side tips) is still a valid diagnostic feature. This could act as a poorer substitute for 96v with about same effects.
Following a suggestion from Marco Ponzi, the Finnish biologist added the following:
"Yes, Smilax species are a good proposal, naturally! They are potent
candidates, too. ........
It is better to include two species, Smilax aspera (=common smilax) or
Smilax excelsa (=larger smilax), since both occur in S Europe, with
somewhat different distributions.
........Smilax species have been used both as food plants and especially on other continents for medicine, too."
18v Pulsatilla vernalis, or Malvaceae?? 18v first choice: Pulsatilla vernalis or other Pulsatilla species?
Features favoring this choice include the general habitus, large,
beautiful, "hypnotizing" flower, multitude of stamens, protruding styles
and hairs on the edges of flowers. This plant has a thick root, and the
place of withered basal rosette leaves could correspond with the
"lantern". I am not aware of any finger-like appendages, however, the
leaves do not match fully, and the scales round the flower would be
wrongly illustrated. Pulsatilla spp. have some active substances and
have been used in pharmacy. Distribution e.g. Alps and northwards.
18v second choice: Malvaceae??
19r Consolida regalis?? Such big blue flowers occur in
several unrelated groups including Polemonium, Campanula and Gentiana.
The combination of narrowly divided leaves AND a big bell flower would
be most promising in Polemonium. However, the "granade-like" structures
on top of upper side branches are enigmatic, especially as compared with
I glanced through some plant books looking for possible similar fruits in
blue-flowered plants. I looked for seed size comparable with the bumps
in figure's fruits and for longitudinal structures vaguely illustrated.
Here I jumped into a plant named Consolida regalis (Synonym: Delphinium
consolida), and found it to be an intresting candidate:
If 19 r aims to present Consolida regalis, the the flower would have a
totally wrong structure, could be explained if the artist had only
previously collected fruits/seeds at hand, as a pharmacy product, and he
is just told that it has big blue flowers, the form of which he would
have invented from other flowers he has seen.
Consolida is known for its very poisonous seeds (heart symptoms), but
the whole plant is toxic. Both the plant and the seeds have been known
for various pharmacy uses.
20r Lavandula angustifolia The modest habitus of the plant in 20r seems rather credible, as if the
Artist would really have seen it, possibly as a dried specimen.
Considering the inaccurate drawing style, however (e.g. flowers painted
as dots), there are very few characters to solve the species.
Possible characters include small, entire leaves along lower parts of
the stem, relatively leafless inflorescens in the top, small bluish
flowers and opposite arrangement of leaves.
First guess: Lavandula angustifolia
Secondary guesses. Other member of lamiaceae such as Hyssopus
officinalis, Acinos arvensis (=Satureja acinos) or some Salvia species
21r Herniaria The image 21r is a promising one in the sense that the artist has in my
opinion certainly seen the plant when painting the image. It is so
trustworthy and lively illustrated to represent a flat creeping plant,
seen from above, radiating from a central root to all directions, which
has been dug up - probably with a sharp tool - from a courtyard,
roadside or similar hard, dryish site.
The plant seems to have modest tongue-formed leaves and modest more
yellowish flowers in tight clusters. Unfortunately, the artist has not
looked at the flowers more closely.
The problem is that there are so many unrelated plants which inhabit
this niche and may have similar forms and rudimentary structures.
Without a systematic search, my first and best starting guess is some
Herniaria species, since it is very similar indeed. The flower clusters
are just like that, including te yellowish tone. It has been believed to
Secondary choices include Polygonum aviculare, Suaeda species and
probably many mediterranean genera (Polycarpon, Parietaria etc.) which I
am not so familiar with.
22v Paeonia officinalis As far as the image 22v illustrates a real species, It seems that the
artist has been impressed by the beauty of this stout, large-flowered
plant which seems to have numerous anthers in each flower. It has roots
or rhizomes (i.e. is a perennial plant). The leaves in the image may
represent compound leaves.
Several alternatives could be speculated. First bids, without any
Primary candidate: Paeonia officinalis, a pharmacy plant native to
Secondary candidates: Pulsatilla species, Helleborus species, Ranunculus
23r Borago officinalis? Veronica? The image 23 remains unsure to me. However I would like to suggest that
the identification clue may be in the leaves. The artist has painted
them in a different way than other plants, showing in them blunt
protuberances and perhaps a network of veins. I think the artist has
experienced the leaves as typical to this plant, maybe also had some
special feeling in his fingers when touching the leaves.
As to flowers, the artist has painted so many blue flowers in other
pages of the book, many of them partly imagined, that I am not convinced
that this flower is accurate either. Perhaps the leaves is the part used
and seen, and the flowers may be drawn based on a foggy memory.
My best but very vague guess thus far is Borago officinalis, a
traditional salad vegetable and also a medicinal herb. It has coarsely
hairy leaves and also a network of veins is easily visible. It would
have blue flowers, as well, albeit not fully similar to the painting.
Other plants with various kinds of specially nodulose leaves include
Cistus, Pinguicula and various plants with rigid hairs. These seem more
far-fetched than Borago, however.
23r, first choice: Some Veronica species, although number of petals
should be 4, not 5. This genus would allow the combination of small
bright blue, eye-cathing frowers, serrated-lobed up to nearly palmate
leaves and a creeping rhizome. Difficult to find a good match on
species-level, however. Candidates include:
Veronica chamaedrys: Perhaps the best compromise: Shining blue single
flowers, rather large indentations in the leaves, and has a rhizome
(although quite thin). Common in grasslands, meadows. Has been used in
Veronica officinalis: A known pharmacy plant, rhizome OK, but leaves
more rounded, only small blunt teeth on leaf edges, and paler frowers in
spikes. Drier places than previous.
Veronica beccabunga and other water-inhabiting Veronicas: Rizome OK but
leaves longer and narrower and flowers usually in spikes. Have been used
Veronica persica, V. hederifolia etc.: Good match with flowers and best
match in leaves, but these are annuals, the drug rhizome totally missing!
23r, second choices: Flowers also remind of members of Borage family
(e.g. Omphalodes verna) and Anagallis of Primulaceae, but these have
24v Vincetoxicum nigrum An esoteric-looking plant. Odd circular leaves with a beak-like point
and blue flowers.
I make a first, vague guess, hypothetizing that the Artist has just made
the point that the leaves are rounded inth base and have a sharp point,
and the flowers are dark bluish. I allow the flowers be wrong in details:
25v Plantago 25v seems to represent a tight, sterile (i.e. non-flowering) basal
rosette with lanceolate leaves. The artist may really have seen this
plant in front of his eyes when painting.
There are so many plants which may lok like this as young that perhaps
only the text will solve this image. Some observations, however:
The veins of the leaves, if meant to be informative, are shown as
running parallel, instead of having a strong central mid-vein with
thinner feather-like side branches.
The parallel venation is usually seen in monocotyledons such as lilies,
irises and orchids, Poaceae (grasses) and Luzula. So, these should be
kept as candidates.
However, more or less parallel venation is also seen in a few
exceptional dicotyledon genera, and some of these are pharmacy plants,
notably Plantago spp. used e.g. for wound healing and Arnica montana.
An odd warty creature seems to be gnagging one of the leaves. Also this
may be meant as informative. I tried to search for plant names such as
Devil's bite (Teufelbiss) and frogbite. There are really some names like
that, many used in variable meanings depending on the region. Nothing
very promising found thus far. E.g. Teufelbiss has been used for Succisa
pratensis which would have an abrupty "cut" root (the bulge in the image
root does not look convincing) and does have feather-like venation and
not such a tight rosette. Teufelbiss has also been used for biting-like
marks in leaves of Phragmites. Not very promising as to habitus.
To sum up, my primary guesses as to habitus would be Plantago, then
Arnica, then a number of others, but the image is not solved.
25r Mercurialis annua Difficult to be sure since may be sterile, but you could start searching
25r from Mercurialis annua, female plant . This has
had some pharmacy value. On the other hand, most plants have been used
those days, in a way or another!
If this guess would be true, the brown structures in leafbases would be
30v Mercurialis perennis First bid for 30v: Mercurialis perennis.
Note this plant has a horizontal rhizome in contrast to the related M.
annua (guessed in 25r).
Finding the word BLUE in this entry (same word as in some blue-flowered
plant?) could then refer to the the fact that the plant turns blue in
drying and a blue dye has been produced. This species is also poisonous,
with some old pharmacy uses.
31r Tanacetum parthenium If the flowers of folio 31r are near correct, I would start searching
from Tanacetum parthenium. It is an old pharmacy plant, sais to
originate from Asia Minor but cultivated elsewhere.
Secondarily, its many relatives such as other Tanacetum species,
Achillea millefolia or Chamomilla recutita.
32r Prunella vulgaris First bid on 32r: Prunella vulgaris. Has been an esteemed healing plant.
But there are several other members of Lamiaceae (Mint family) which
have somewhat similar flowering spikes.
33r Papaver somniferum The flowers of folio 33r seem to have a radiating structure on top of a
Primary candidate: Fruiting stage (capsules) of Papaver somniferum, the
opium poppy which is a long-cultivated pharmacy and food plant.
- Other Papaver species.
- Flowering stage of a Silene species or a related genus with an
inflated calyx and divided petals. See, however, 24r which is easier to
explain as a flowering Silene.
Note the two human figures in the roots of 33r. Does the other smile and
other be sad? These could be associated with dual effects of the plant,
such as wakenness/sleep, drug use/food use, or pleasant effects/poisoning.
Compared with all the above candidates, the leaves would not be well
drawn. In case of Papaver, this could indicate that the Artist has
mainly had access to the capsules, instead of the whole plant.
Please note that the Artist may have a general tendency to exaggerate or
directly imagine inflated basal parts of flowers.
34v Arctium sp, especially Arctium lappa.
A starting guess for 34v: Arctium sp, especially Arctium lappa.
Features supporting this candidate: The "flowers" with a large bulb of
"calyx" with many rows of "petals" is suggestive of flowerheads of Daisy
family (Asteraceae), in which case the "sepals" would actually be
scale-like leaves (bracts) on the underside of the flowerheads. A
secondary candidate family is the related Cichoriaceae, with slightly
The round, pancake-like structures on lower branches seem rather odd
(especially looking so thick). But if we take the simplest solution that
they represent leaves, then the image might just aim to tell the message
that the plant has flowerheads and has rounded leaves.
Such plants are not so many (in this family, a lobed or serrated leaf is
the rule), most widespread candidates being burdogs (Arctium). If the
artist has meant burdogs, he has failed to illustrate the typical
crooked bracts which attach to the furs of animals, and the general
habitus would be quite clumsily drawn.
The roots of burdogs, especially of Arctium lappa have been used for
traditional pharmacy, e.g. for skin disorders. The pharmacy name for the
root product is Radix bardanae.
Of course, if the flowers in the painting are result of the artist's
imagination, only, the the logics above cannot be relied on.
34r Sanicula or Astrantia? A starting guess for 34r: Sanicula or Astrantia?
Arguments in favor of these:
The "flowers" in top with their many long "petals", are rather similar
to the tight inflorescences of these two umbelliferous genera,
Also the "leaves" are drawn oddly, as if consisting of several
overlapping lobes. This could be an attempt to illustrate leaflets or
lobes of compund leaves.
At least Sanicula has been used in pharmacy, especially for healing wounds.
36v Galium? This looks a mysterious plant with palmate leaves and modest
inflorescences in the top.
But considering the atrist's clumsy style and poor ability to analyze
(and/or remember) plant structures, could this be an attempt to paint a
37r Eupatorium cannabinun Very preliminary guesses for 37r:
Primary candidate: Eupatorium cannabinun
(best fitting habitus)
Sedum telephium (sensu lato)?? Valeriana??
41v Achillea millefolium, or Apiaceae (=Umbelliferae, carrot
The image 41v obviously presents a herb with a flat-topped inflorescense
and finely divided leaves.
There are AT LEAST two separate groups of candidate plants:
1. Achillea millefolium and its relatives in the Daisy family
(Asteraceae) such as Tanacetum vulgare (the latter if yellow flowerheads
are allowed). Both have had pharmacy uses.
2. One of numerous possible members of Apiaceae (=Umbelliferae, carrot
family). If the artist tries to communicate thet the leaves are
palmately lobed (lobes radiating from one point rather than
feather-like), a carrot relative is more likely than Achillea. Also in
this family there are many species with pharmaceutical activity, up to
poisonous ones such as Conium and Aethusa.
41r Ferula assafoetida? Gnaphalium sp.?
Plantago afra (Plantago psyllium)
First bids for 41r: depends on zooming.
If this is a large plant (page width about 1 m) then suggestive of a
flower-dominated member of Apiaceae (Umbelliferae), eg. Ferula communis
although this should have yellowish flowers.
If the image is a close-up, page width representing about 10 cm, many
members of daisy family may be compared, e.g. flowering Petasites in
spring, Gnaphalium sp....
Addition: What I wrote about Ferula communis in 41r, would make more sense
pharmacologically if it refers to the smelly Ferula assafoetida, or
In addition to Ferula assafoetida instead of Ferula communis,
I would like to add a new candidate which I overlooked in my previous mail:
Plantago afra (Plantago psyllium) is among the promising candidates, too. It produces seeds which produce a lot of mucus when moistened. Has been used in pharmacy.
42r A species of
Arum (secondarily, Calla or Sagittaria).
Folio 42r seems to illustrate two species of plants.
These might make sense e.g. if they both grow in the same environment or
are suggested to have similar pharmaceutical properties.
As a starting hypothesis I suggest that the bigger leaf is a species of
Arum (secondarily, Calla or Sagittaria).
I suggest that the smaller, three-lobed one would be Menyanthes.
Both have been used as pharmacy plants. Depending of species, they might
share common biotopes in some areas, e.g. moist and/or shadowed places.
If these would really be Arum and Menyanthes, then the root system would
be drawn atypically slender: Either the artist has not seen the plants
with rhizomes (odd, since he is otherwise interested in roots) and has
assumed these, or the pictures represent young (cultured?) seedlings.
Three-lobed leaves naturally occur in other plants as well, such as
Trifolium. But that is another story.
43r Bellis perennis, Antennaria dioica Assuming the flowers (=flowerheads?) of 43r are more or less correct, I
would start the searching from Bellis perennis, Antennaria dioica and
their relatives in daisy family (Asteraceae). At least Bellis has been
used as a healing plant.
43v 43v, left: Bupleurum baldense
43v, right: Bupleurum rotundifolium
The folio 43v seems to illustrate two plant species. Especially the one
on the right looks rather mystical. As a first, vague guess, both might
represent Bupleurum species:
43v, left: Bupleurum baldense
43v, right: Bupleurum rotundifolium (or a related species such as B.
lancifolium). Here, the Artist would have tried to illustrate the leaves
being fused round the stem.
If this is true, then the Artist or his suppliers would have understood
that these plants are related.
Some Bupleurum species have been used as pharmacy plants in Asia, at least.
44r Taraxacum The image 44r could represent numerous alternative plant species, but
you could start simply with:
In this case, the plants would be picked up, the rosette is actually
against soil surface but is seen from below because the prant has been
picked. With good will, the sharp lobes in leaves might be an attempt to
illustrate the sharp teeth along edges of the leaves. The flower
(actally a compound of many) would be simplified in the image.
45v Scutellaria galericulata The image 45v seems to show a slender plant arising from a thick
rhizome, the rhizome being the part of interest. If correctly drawn, the
plant has smallish leaves with rounded teeth and blue, paired flowers
which stand upright in the bud stage.
Primary candidate: Scutellaria galericulata. Not widely used in Europe
but rhizomes of other Scutellaria species have been important drugs in
Asia and Americas.
Secondary candidates: Other members of Lamiaceae (regrettably big
family) such as Salvia.
Tertiary candidates: Scrophulariaceae
Note: If the bud-like structures represent fruits, the logics needs to
be thought over.
47r Sempervivum tectorum First guess for 47r:
Sempervivum tectorum (succulent rosettes connected with a surface
rhizome). This would be a pharmacy plant.
Jovibarba is a very similar genus.
As secondary choices, the image might in principle represent a wide
variety of plants. Eg. small shoots of Sedum.
They all grow on dry, sunny cliffs, mountainsides etc.
47v Pulmonaria First guess for 47v: Pulmonaria?
Second choice: Other Boraginaceae (e.g. Anchusa)??
More far-fetched: Gentiana???
50v Soldanella First guess for 50v: Soldanella?
65v A bunch of somewhat aged Matricaria (=Chamomilla)
recutita (the species aimed), with a flowerhead of Centaurea cyanus
interpreted erroneusly to belong in the same plant
In folio 65v, there are a few problems:
a) Does the big blue "flower" belong in the same plant as the small
white ones, or is the image a fusion (chimaira) of two species?
b) Are the smaller white-green "flowers" really flowers or are they
compact inflorescences (e.g of Daisy Family or Carrot Family)?
c) Is the whole plant leafless or looking so (due to thin leaves) or has
the image been painted of an aged plant or only a top of a plant?
First, vague guess: A bunch of somewhat aged Matricaria (=Chamomilla)
recutita (the species aimed), with a flowerhead of Centaurea cyanus
interpreted erroneusly to belong in the same plant. These species
commonly occur together in fields and may have been collected in the
Secondary guess: A member of Apiaceae (Carrot Family) with thread-like
leaflets and petals of different lengths such as Coriandrum sativum.
Also in this case, the blue flower would be a contaminant.
65r Sanicula or Astrantia? 65r is oddly drawn, but Sanicula or Astrantia might be possible starts.
cretica ssp. dioica (female plant).
Also 93v looks mysterious. Looking just systematically for the
- red berries and
- lobed or strongly serrated leaves and
- bulbous rhizomes,
There seems to be at least one possible candidate however: Bryonia
cretica ssp. dioica (female plant).
This has for long been known as a strong up to poisonous pharmaceutic
plant, causing e.g. bloody diarrhoea. As small doses it has been used
for e.g. alimentary channel disorders.
93r Inula helenium?? 3r Would be suggestive of sunflowers (Helianthus), but then the
manuscript should be made after Columbus' journeys. But see the European
health plant Inula helenium which is rather similar in structure but
somewhat smaller. Missing of the yellow ray flowers might be explained
by assuming that the artist has seen dried flowerheads as pharmacy
94r Hedera helix The strange leaves of 94r look like e.g. Botrychium or some fern, being
however wrongly combined with "flowers" in that case. However, without
doing any wider search, I would like to point out that the umbel of dark
berries with a distal area of different colour is very reminiscent of
Hedera helix, i.e. ivy.
If this bunch of poisonous berries would have been the only part the
artist/pharmacist has had at hand when drawing, he might perhaps have
drawn the rest of the plant incorrectly from memory, perhaps trying to
communicate the climbing character of the plant.
Ivy is a pharmacy plant, used for at least respiratory disorders.
95v Fumaria officinalis This is a very vague suggestion without systematic searches, but the
leaves of 95v would fit well in Fumaria officinalis, a potent pharmacy
plant from antiquity (the whole shoot would be used). Also the
inflorescence would have some correct habitus. The fine structure of
flowers would be wrongly painted, however.
99r Rumex acetosa? Dioscorea communis / Tamus communis? Finding matches between possible recipes and illustrations, you might start from the last entry of Folio 99r, illustrating only one plant, both the shoot and root, comprising the whole drug.
I propose as the first assumption that the plant is same as 96v, and represents Rumex acetosa.
It fits in this hypothesis that both the roots and the rest of the herb
of this species have been used against scurvy (=scorbutus, later understood to be caused by C-vitamin deficiency).
Disocorea/Tamus is a plausible hypothesis, too. Considering the
clumsy style, there are also other plants that are not excluded, as yet.
The meander-like/spiralling end of the plants indeed would suggest a
climbing plant such as Tamus. I tried to look beyond that feature. In
the Rumex hypothesis the curved end would be seen as artistic
decoration, or perhaps reflecting also a specimen withered somewhat
during transport, with a drooping top.
Having two quite similar plants in the book, with a difference in the
basal flaps of the leaves, would suggest these slender Rumex species (R.
acetosa is actually a species complex. I have not checked whether they
have even more close allies in South Europe). In case of Tamus, there is
in my handbooks at home only one relevant species in Europe, and its
leaves are generally more heart-shaped. But possible, yes.
99r - 102v General First guess for 99r-102v: Recipes of drug mixtures?! The cylindrical
objects on the left (some named) would represent either some clinical
entities (such as cough or headache) for which the mixture can be used,
or labeled (idealised) cylindric drug vessels (such as "Witche's Blood"
or "Druid's Super Drops") which contain the plant parts shown.
If this the case, then the bathing ladies could, in addition to possible
water fairies, also mean some essences or good healing spirits of plants
which are extracted or distilled into drugs when cooked etc.
Showing only a given plant part (eg. root) in these figures would
support the assumption that also (some of) the big images earlier deal
with the usage of these plants.
It may be worth while to search for matches between the "species
illustrations" and these possible recipe details of same plants.
If the plant parts between 99-102 represent recipes of drugs, then also
the long star list in the end might be a practice-oriented list how a
given star can be interpreted in relation to human health, fortune and
future happenings. And the circular cosmological star images earlier
woud then give a larger view or theoretical basis for these practical
Folio 101v, middle page, second entry from above. Armoracia rusticana Also here it seems that a single plant comprises the whole drug.
The product looks quite much like horseradish (Armoracia rusticana).
White roots and a bluntly serrated lower leaf. Keep that as a starting
hypothesis, although not diagnostic data.
With a rapid glance on small figures I did not find a good match in
large images, but it may be known by name, already.
Also this would be credible - and effective! as a single drug since it
contains C-vitamin. See for "scurvy" which matches the entries of
supposed Rumex acetosa. Naturally acts as spice, too.
In Wiki there are some older names, Sinapis Persica or alike.
101v, 3rd page, last entry in the bottom I studied a bit the drug
entry 101v, 3rd page, last entry in the bottom of page.
The illustration shows two types of roots or rhizomes. On the left
("Root A") there is a thick, pale rootstock with finger-like appendages
and a "lantern-like" structure on the left. On the right ("Root B")
there is probably a horizontal rhizome with "millipede appearance":
small thinner roots directed down. I made an attempt to link these to
the large plant entries.
Root A: I think this is practically certain: The author refers to folio
18v. This was the only one with such finger-like appendages. In
addition, also the lantern structure was illustrated! Good match.
However, word matches would be good to confirm this.
Root B: This is unsure at the moment. Main candidates found were 23r (I
rank this highest for the time being), 43r, 44r and perhaps 39r. The
root could also present some vegetable not described in the book. Word
matches would be valuable.
- Posted in: Voynich plants