Voynich plant 2v

Can you help us to identify this plant and also decode the name?

ImageText
Click here to see the original page.Click here to see the original page.
Possible name (first word): K A A U R

Step 1: Look at the Voynich plant picture above. Look also at the possible name of that plant from the same page.

Step 2:  Look at some other expert suggestions, below, for what this plant might be. Some are borrowed from here.

E VoynichPetersonSherwoodVelinskaBiologist - Finland
coliocasia, Egyptian lotusColosia? Villarsia, LimnanthemusWater Lily (Nymphoides)Water Lily (Nymphoides)Nymphaea

Step 3: If you have any good suggestions for the plant, please post a comment below. Give the Latin genus and species name if you can.

Step 4: Can you suggest a name in any language which might resemble the Voynich word? If so, post a comment below.

In particular can you suggest a name from any language which might fit the Voynich text?

Thanks

49 Comments

  1. kelly v d

    Picture of Nefertem, connected with the bleue lotus

  2. kelly v d

    Nymphaea caerulea, the Egyptian lotus or the bleu Lotus, depicted on the walls of ‘Karnak’, extremely significant plant in Egyptian mythologie and connected with the God ‘Ra’. (solar deities), also the symbol of Nefertem. The way Nefertem is pictured in ancient Egypt makes me think of illustrations in the manuscript. i will add files. Nefertem is the god of healing and beauty.
    Lotus can also be called Nelumbus nucifera, nymphaea nelumbo etc.
    Lotus is often confused with the lilly, but it is not. bleue lotus in Hebrew : לוטוס כחול
    I think the drawings are made from a dried exemplar, it explains the different flower (see added file). Hope this could be helpfull, i am very intriged by the manuscript, i think it has ‘pagan’ ancient wisdom in it.

  3. someone

    Most people appear to focus on the shape of the leaf, and more or less ignore the shape of the flower (supported by some evidence glanced from old books).

    To me the shape of the flower appears more similar to that of nasturtium (and the leaf still seems superficially similar, but clearly different from what is drawn).

    According to google translate (hah! research from the lazy chair) in the “telugu” language “nasturtium” is ఆకు కూర (Āku kūra), which with enough imagination shows a faint resemblance to the proposed transcription of the Voynich word K A A U R).

    Perhaps more interesting: while trying to find pictures of nasturtium in old manuscripts, I did stumble upon what I consider a very interesting link (not necessarily supporting my earlier nasturtium proposal), featuring, amongst many other things, a drawing with leaves similar to the leaves in the voynich manuscript, a version with added emphasis of which I have attached to this comment.

    The interesting link is: http://www.muslimheritage.com/article/botany-herbals-and-healing-islamic-science-and-medicine

    According to that link, plants played a very significant role in the work of medieval islamic scholars. Another random thing that triggered my curiosity was this sentence: “A lost treatise of Al-Idrîsî on Materia Medica has been discovered in Constantinople. It contains a description of 360 simples (medicines, generally vegetable, containing only one ingredient), and is very important, if not from the medical, at least from the botanical point of view [31].” If I recall correctly number 360 has been mentioned before in combination with the presumed zodiac.

    For what it’s worth…

    • Təxəllüs

      Interesting point, however you are missing one massive point- nasturtium is native to South America, and therefore a Bengali language could not reach those territories, as the book has dated back to the early 1400s, pre-Columbian era.

  4. Aenea

    I researched this with a great plant book I have. I believe the plant to be “Nymphaea alba” also known as european white lily / white lotus / white nenuphar (there are other versions of the name as well).

    It was used in 1500’s as anaphrodisiac. Also the roots were used as flour (in times of food shortage). It was also a sedative, relieving seizures and blood pressure. Also it was used to treat liver, hearth and spleen.

    It seems the word “white” is in the most versions of the plant name, sadly I do not know enough about languages to decipher which letters might be the word.

    Please inform me if this helps! I’m very intrigued about this 😀

  5. ondrasek

    This looks like a typical composite plant: Nymphaeaceae leaf + flower which is reminiscent of Liliaceae (Lilium candidum…). What we see in the picture literally is “water lily”. Just a coincidence? Among European languages this pattern is not very common, however, in low saxon for example the corresponding name is waoterlelie. I wonder what is the medieval latin equivalent for this plant… Nevertheless, I think that the plant picture is a kind of medieval joke 😉

  6. Thomas Hansen

    Could the first word be referring to the shape of the leaf? The leaf seems to be the focal point of the illustration, taking up most of the space. K A A U R reminded me of the french word coeur, which of course means “heart”, “Cor” in latin. The heart symbol originates in the middle ages and was based on the shape of the water lily’s leaf. I thought maybe there could be a link to heart-shaped/round/spherical.

    Then there’s “koora”, which I believe means sphere/spherical in urdu.

    Obviously these are ramblings, but I thought I’d throw them out there anyway.

  7. Jesus

    Maybe it could be a Cucurbita. Please check this image:

    http://www.bl.uk/catalogues/illuminatedmanuscripts/ILLUMINBig.ASP?size=big&IllID=49457

    What do you think? I think the drawing is really near.

  8. H

    The possible name (first word): is KAAUR
    Derek Vogt explains that “KAA” could be “KALA.” Thus, the word could translate as “KALAUR”
    Khalara is “white water lily” in Sanskrit according to the website “http://hasani.net.phtemp.com/flower.html.”
    A different website translates “kahlAra” as “white esculent water-lily.” http://spokensanskrit.de/index.php?tinput=kahlAra&script=&direction=SE&link=yes

    • Stephen Bax

      Thanks – intriguing suggestion!

    • Derek Vogt

      Between “khalara” and “kahlAra”, the second one is the correct one. That’s the one that fits with the Devanāgarī word shown at your link, कह्लार. The capital letter in the middle of the word is a way of indicating a long vowel instead of a short one; more common methods would have yielded “kahlaara” or “kahlāra”. And there is a Devanāgarī letter that can be read as “kha” (“kʰa”, ख), but it isn’t in there. The four letters it does have are:

      क : “ka”

      ह् : “ha” (ह) is the basic form, but the changed shape of the claw at the bottom is what it looks like when combined with a diacritical mark indicating cancellation of the inherent vowel, so it’s just “h” (the vowel-cancelling mark is more distinct on most other letters, like क् or ल् for “k” or “L”)

      ला : “la” (ल) plus a diacritical mark (the second vertical bar) to modify the vowel; the unmodified inherent vowel would have been a short “a”, but this is a long one

      र : “ra”

      * * *

      On the reading of the Voynichese word: I’ve added this suggestion to my master list in the form of ^kãã—^, with no sounds indicated for EVA-i or EVA-n and both occurrences of EVA-o as equating with “al” or “ar” or something comparable to both instead of just plain “a”.

  9. Derek Vogt

    This silly plant has been driving me bonko lately.

    The problem isn’t identification of the plant. Although there are several other types of plant with leaves and/or flowers that look at least as much like this as a water-lily flower does, their roots/tubers/corms are nowhere near what’s drawn here at all, so I eliminate them and just figure the plant is a water-lily, the only kind of plant that’s reasonably close for all three parts (or even just the underground structure and either of the other two parts alone). The problem is its name. For a while, I’ve been stuck on three different ideas, but there are big problems with each of them:

    1. I can not assign any sound to EVA-i or EVA-n, so the first word only gives me ^kaa—^, with ^khar^ for the second paragraph’s first word, and I got nowhere with either one. The first connection

    I could find to another language was for the second word, ^hoabhar^. The Hindi word for water-lily, “kokaa”, is pretty close if you figure the /b/ was dropped in one language or added in the other

    and there is a connection from /k/ through /x/ or /kʰ/ to /h/. I’ve posted elsewhere that I believe there is other evidence for a k→x→h sound shift chain in Voynichese, but this word would remain the only one with a vanishing or sponaneously appearing /b/, and, since the discovery of

    the ^õa^ phenomenon, it would actually be strange now to see that pair of vowels not correlating with /ra,re,ri/ in cognates. (I’ve left this one in my mast list not because I think the case is

    very good, but just because it seems better than the other two.)

    2. The fact that the consonants are “h-b-h” reminds me of other words which I’ve said seem to equate to Arabic حبة, “ħbah”, which means “seed, grain, nut, bean”. But in those cases, the word is used in Arabic as part of a name for a plant that’s mostly known by & for its seeds, and seeds are not a prominent identifying feature for water-lilies or anything else that anybody has suggested for this drawing. Also, this word has a second vowel which isn’t present in those cases (and brings up the phantom /r/ again).

    3. The English name “water-lily”, for a plant that is not a lily, is an example of the fact that names of plants & animals often get transferred from one species/genus/family/whatever to another that’s very similar or even just has one prominent trait in common. So I started looking for possible cognates among the names of other comparable plants, and found that the Hebrew word for “lily” is חֲבַצֶלֶ, “ḥaba$ele”. It starts off alright but then diverges pretty widely from ^hoabhar^. (And Hebrew does have a separate word for water-lily: נימפאה “nymf’h” or “nymfah”.)

    BUT!… I think I’ve finally solved it.

    I guess the last time I really looked at the first word on this folio must have been before I noticed that EVA-o often equates to not just /a/ in other languages, but /ar/ or /al/… in fact, when Voynichese vowels are consecutive like in ^kaa—^, I can’t think of an example that did not turn out to be haunted by a phantom consonant like that between them. So the word to use when looking for cognates here was probably ^kãa—^ all along, reading the first part as equivalent to “kara” or “kala” instead of just “kaa”.

    And one of the other plants that have been suggested as the identification for f2v is Colocasia, a genus including species known in English as both “colocasia” and “caladium”, in French as “colocasie”, in German as “Kolokasie”, in Russian as “колоказия (kolokaziya)”, in Hebrew as “קולקס (qwlqs)”, in Arabic as “القلقاس (al-qlqas)”. Better yet, even the main difference from those, the lack of the second /k/ in the Voynichese word, fits a pattern I’ve only recently noticed: consonants that appear twice in the same word in other languages are reduced to one in the Voynichese cognate in about a half-dozen other cases I’ve found, espcially involving /k/ and related sounds like /g/ and /č/, so “kala” spelled with the Voynichese letters for ^kãa^ is exactly what would be expected in Voynichese from a foreign “kalak”.

  10. angi

    Ranunculus ficaria

  11. It Looks a waterlily, but it can be a ( asarum europaeum )

  12. Paul Hicks

    The first word in the second line of 2v is kcho in EVA, which I map to KACHA. The Hindi word KACHAR means Zedoary or White Turmeric?

  13. Perhaps it would be helpful, if we offer identifications, to note whether or not the proposed plant is pictured in a European manuscript, with or without a label, before 1440.
    If no example is known, it doesn’t prove the plant wasn’t known, only that we can’t be sure that it was known in medieval Europe.

  14. I suppose I should add something postive – so one possibility might be a member of the Parnassus genus.

    A more or less random example from Google images to illustrate the fact that some have appropriately shaped leaves.

    https://farm9.staticflickr.com/8454/7979970106_863faa5e53_m.jpg

    That one is from the New World, but no reason to get excited. Plenty of others including those from places along the Spice routes.

  15. Am I imagining things, or doesn’t the flower have petals with rippled edges, a well formed calyx not unlike one of the Malvaceae, and a prominent, feathery stigma? How is that remotely similar to Nelumbo or Nymphaea?

    • MarcoP

      Hello Diane, I agree that the flower is poorly drawn. Still, especially when considering other ancient herbals, the plant seems to me well recognizable. I think that the identification makes a lot of sense, even if it is not indisputable.

      This is an example of an image I find similar to f2v:
      Tractatus de herbis, 1300 ca

      This is an example of how dissimilar an illustration of the same plant can be:
      Herbarium Apuleii Platonici, 1481

      According to Derek’s proposed phonetic mapping, the second word EVA:cheopchor reads ‘hoabhar’. In my opinion, the word could be related to the Arabic ‘nuafar’.

      • MarcoP

        I must correct myself: the Arabic name of Water Lily is “nufar”.

      • This seems a circular argument to me. The flower doesn’t resemble a waterlily, and shows no sign of being poorly drawn (the flower is very finely done, actually), then surely the answer is that the identification is wrong.

        Trying to insist that the only reason it doesn’t resemble a preferred genre is because the maker “got it wrong” – how do you know? – seems to me like trying to force a glass slipper onto quite the wrong person’s foot.

        The document is the primary evidence. Our task is to understand it, not to insist the internal evidence conform to our preferred theory. The picture does not show a waterlily and exhibits no sign of incompetent drawing. So if we haven’t identified it correctly, what use are efforts to translate the associated written text?

  16. About the ‘waterlily’ – the leaf certainly suggests the same, but the flower has a calyx and is fringed. I haven’t yet seen any true waterlily flower like that, so the identification can’t be taken as indisputable, even accepting that other water-flowers may have been considered no more than variants of the basic Egyptian or Indian type.

  17. Salva

    Dear Mr. Bax,

    Having a look at the “Tractatus de Herbis” (Italian herbal codice 1440) I found very close similarities between the Voynich plant and this one:

    http://www.bl.uk/catalogues/illuminatedmanuscripts/ILLUMIN.ASP?Size=mid&IllID=49457

    Not sure but I guess is “pumpkin”; but not being an expert I prefer to pass the details to you for your consideration instead of making any hipotesis.

    Whole book to be found here:

    http://www.bl.uk/catalogues/illuminatedmanuscripts/record.asp?MSID=7796&CollID=9&NStart=4016

    Facsimile edition:

    http://docs.moleiro.com/Tractatus_Herbis_X_13.pdf

    Fantastic work. Congratulations.

    Salva

  18. Judith

    To plant 2v
    The main discussion is that the plant on page 2v is some kind of a lily. Did you ever think about a bindweed (calystegia or calystegia soldanella). It is an old medical plant and also mentioned in Dioskurides Materia Medica (where other names of the plant are mentioned: Heleitis, Kanochersaia, Amelxine, Eusine, Amorgine, Sukotachos, Psychuakos, Melampolos, Kissampelos, Kissanthemon, Anatetamenon, Volutu laparu, Hapap).

  19. Ania

    The first word on this page (f2v) -according to voynichese.com- is also the first word at f29v. They are not similar to each other at all. If we consider this plant to be Nymphaea, maybe that could mean color (e.g. white water lily). But then I don’t think it’s possible that the word “white” exists just twice in the whole manuscript. I also don’t think that it could be other part of the plant (that definitely would be mentioned more than twice). Maybe they share some part of the name, like ‘Egyptian’? What is so specific that just those 2 plants have it as a first word?
    Happy to hear any opinion about this : )

  20. Marco

    “Nenufar” / water lily from a Historia Plantarum manuscript (1400 ca) attributed to Giovannino de Grassi:
    http://opac.casanatense.it/Record.htm?idlist=13&record=19920646124917488289

    At the end of the page, these additional names for the plant are provided:
    “Neridem” / “Spica Romana”
    “Nerion” / “Nerodendron” / “Oleander”

  21. Marco

    I just realized that page 109 of the 1500 Vermont Italian herbal which illustrates “houndstongue” also has two illustrations of water lily (nenufarro) at the bottom.
    http://cdi.uvm.edu/archives/manuscripts/mrmc002p109-full.jpg

    The second one is particularly close to the Voynich illustration. Here is my partial transcription and translation of the text (I am sorry, but there are a few words that I could not read):

    Nenufarro nel pintano nasce et
    paduli ed è erba(?) freddissima
    fa la barba sotto laqua
    e la foglia sopra laqua e fiori bianchi quasi simile
    a gigli e danno e fila gialle e rosi e ??? fa nelle ??? da rezzo assai

    The water lily [nenufarro] grows in the swamp
    and in the marsh. It is a very cold grass(?).
    Its root grows below the water
    its leaf above the water. It makes white flowers almost similar
    to lilies with yellow and red pistils(?) and [???] it makes [???] It has a strong smell

  22. bdid1dr

    oa = Wa
    tl = tl, dl (a trilled or tapped “R”) ter or der, or tr ll ed syllable
    om = am, em, om, um (Note how you would be able to write the word “minim”)
    Note the reduced use of minims; of which I could show many more x-m-pls.
    Unfortunately I do not have the latest and greatest software for displaying the differences in various scripts and language origins of B-408. But I do recognize (and use) the latin-based discussions, which I then translate into English — and not only for botanical discussions. For my own enjoyment, I have recently been reading and studying “Na huah tl” script (which was developed by Catholic missionaries) to accompany the elaborate and beautiful images by which pre-Columbian natives of South America and the Yucatan communicated.
    Actually, you do have a rather curt way of responding to our various posts. A tout a’heure! Adieu!

    • Stephen Bax

      Sorry if you find my responses curt – that is not my intention, but some people prefer quick answers!

      But I must say that I sometimes have difficulty in understanding what you are getting at. For example, what does this mean? I can’t follow it at all:

      “a = Wa
      tl = tl, dl (a trilled or tapped “R”) ter or der, or tr ll ed syllable
      om = am, em, om, um (Note how you would be able to write the word “minim”)”

  23. While the leaf certainly looks like Nymphaea (water lilies), the flower doesn’t. Instead it looks like Lilium (true lilies). This makes me wonder if the artist had never seen one of the two and filled in the details with what he did know (which happened – I assume you’ve seen the medieval drawings of cotton plants which had little sheep hanging off the branches). It could be Nelumbo (lotus) as well.

    Given the number of times you’ve come across a variant of “kaur”, I suspect it’s a modifier or class of plants (like “black” or “-weed”) and that the actual plant name is (sometimes) the second word, which in this case appears to end in “ar”.

    Nymphaea are “nilofer / niloofar / niloufar” in Persian, and Nelumbo is “sousan” (origin of the name Susan). The Hebrew for various plants called lilies is “shūshan / shōshan / shōshannā”.

    I have no idea if any of this is really useful.

    • Stephen Bax

      Thanks – very useful. (BTW can you point me to any medieval drawings of cotton with sheep hanging…?! I’d love to see them.)
      Your idea about ‘kaur’ is interesting. Another explanation might be that this part of the manuscript has words starting with /k/, perhaps sorted alphabetically, maybe with other sections lost. For example here we have KAAUR which is slightly different from other pages.
      I agree that the second word here looks a promising candidate for the/a version of the plant name. Might it be read as N O A F N A R? (A different /n/ from the one I have already identified?) If so, why so different from Nilufar or nenufar?

      • The most famous illustration of the sheep plants comes from the Travels of Sir John Mandevill (14th c. France) – and that may be the source of the myth.

        The most commonly associated online image isn’t sourced well. It looks like a drawing based on a woodcut.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Mandeville_cotton.jpg

        The only copy of the manuscript that I could find online with the picture has a much simpler version. It’s from a a 15th-century German translation on f.84v

        http://www.e-codices.unifr.ch/en/ssg/0016/84v/medium

        As to why NOAFNAR is so far from other versions of the Persian, I don’t know. I still don’t think we’re using the right language, so we’re only hitting on related words. I tried to find the Avestan or Pahlavi word for “lily” but didn’t have any luck.

        • Stephen Bax

          Thanks – I’m a fan of Mandeville’s travels, but had forgotten that picture… thanks for the reminder. The German one is a manuscript I hadn’t seen before – really interesting. I think if I get time I might start a list of such manuscripts in relation to the Voynich, for people to look at.

          As to your point “I still don’t think we’re using the right language, so we’re only hitting on related words” I tend to agree. For me there is an Arabic-Persian substratum, but we are still short of the evidence we need in order to identify any particular language, alas.

        • Darren Worley

          The Pahlavi word for water-lily or lotus is “nilopal”

          Ref: Manual of Pahlavi II by Nyberg. I found a copy on archive.org.

    • R

      Adding perhaps to what you (Daniel Myers) said in your second paragraph, one wonders whether there might be an etymological relation between “kaur” and the German “Kraut”=weed, or maybe even the colloquial noun “Kauer”=someone who chews, which is perhaps not impossibly far removed from something that one chews, or some weed that is chewed by grazing/lifestock animals. This is pure conjecture and a long shot, but heck, German is related to Proto-Indo-European, and an awful lot of languages are related to that. Even the English to chew is related to the same PIE word: http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=chew

      Stephen – is your inaugural lecture going to be on YouTube soon?

      • Stephen Bax

        WE shouldn’t rule out anything, although there do not seem to be any other specifically German resonances in what I’ve seen as yet. Proto-Indo-European is another matter…. it definitely should be kept in the frame.

        My inaugural lecture … grrr. The media people failed to monitor the camera and it cut out after 13 minutes, so nothing of my Voynich discussion was recorded at all. Still, it was more or else a summary of what is in my paper anyway.

        My April 10th lecture will be different. We will be sure to record it this time, and put it on this site and YouTube, and it WILL have new stuff in it. No ‘final answer’, but a lot more detail and analysis.
        Thanks for your interest.

  24. bdid1dr

    o-a-tl-a-om ec-eos-P-ec-os olla-mo-ae-san ceos aes an ceos aesan cer-ul-e-ceus
    Water lily species white blue
    Further Latin-based discussion reveals aquatilus expecies cerusealusum…..
    I gave a full translation which entire discussion was in latin terminology; all eight lines. The scribe(s) were doing their best to differentiate between the ‘blue lily’ nymphae/lymphae (which had its origins in Egypt, as did the “water lotus” Nelumbo, Sacred Bean of Egypt: Folio 55v of Boenicke Ms 408.
    Other times and other websites, I’ve offered a full translation (Latin) of the “Sacred Bean of Egypt — and why it is called a ‘legume’ rather than a ‘lilium’.

    • Stephen Bax

      Where exactly is the full account of your decoding and full translation? What does ‘o-a-tl-a-om ec-eos-P-ec-os’ mean exactly? I can’t see Latin in it.

  25. Neticis

    In russian it is “кувшинка” (kuvshinka) for which I couldn’t get translation to georgian. But “кувшин” (eng. cup, pocal) in georgian is “ქვევრის” (http://translate.google.com/#ru/ka/%D0%BA%D1%83%D0%B2%D1%88%D0%B8%D0%BD )which is pronunciated in espeak (see: http://espeak.sourceforge.net/ ) as “k#vevris”.

    • Stephen Bax

      Thank you – interesting. My Georgian dictionary also has ‘krini’ for swamp lily (Crinum), but the leaves look quite different:
      http://apps.rhs.org.uk/plantselector/plant?plantid=578
      I note that in Bangladesh it is “”Bara kanur”, which is interesting.

      Any idea of any Armenian word for any similar plant?

      • Neticis

        Relying on google translate and espeak, I got two variants in Armenian:
        ջրաշուշան [[email protected],aSuS’an] or սափորուկ [s,ap#or’uk]
        (Precise pronunciation of espeak phonemes at .)

        • Stephen Bax

          You prompted me to have a look and I found similar – ‘jrashushan’. The first part ‘jra’ is intriguing – anyone know what it means? The second part, ‘shushan’, seems to fit other languages such as Persian ‘sousan’.

          The second one, which I read as ‘sap’voruk’ is more of a mystery.

          • Neticis

            ջրա [[email protected]’a] water
            շուշան [SuS’an] lily

  26. Neticis

    In Latvian it is called “ūdensroze” (water rose), not lilly. https://lv.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C5%AAdensro%C5%BEu_dzimta

    • escape

      “udens” seems to be “oTedy” EVA on f77r, where 5 basic elements is illustrated…

Leave Your Comment

Your email will not be published or shared. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

*