Voynich plant 33r

Can you help us to identify this interesting plant, with two heads in the roots, and also decode the name? See below a picture from a 15th century Italian manuscript which also has two heads in the roots. The manuscript is described here.

A number of people have added suggestions on these pages. See below for discussion.

Click here to see the original page.Click here to see the original page.
Above is an image from a 15th century Italian manuscript, page 70, also showing two heads in the roots.Possible name (first word): ? ? KH T ə 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
Mandragora?-Bladder Campion (Silene vulgaris)Fringed Campion (Silene fimbrata)Primary candidate: Fruiting stage (capsules) of Papaver somniferum, the
opium poppy which is a long-cultivated pharmacy and food plant.

Secondary candidates:

- 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.

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?

A few people have already offered suggestions. Regarding the plant on page 70 of the Italian manuscript, , Marco Ponzi has commented:

“unluckily the writing of this Italian manuscript is so bad that I find it almost unreadable. But I think the first plant (pg. 70) is “Allium Sativum” (garlic). The first word could be “Alio”:

In Italian, the bulb is commonly called “testa d’aglio” (garlic’s head).

The bottom half of the page has been transcribed in a more readable hand: it presents a recipe for the cure of headaches similar in style to Albus’ translation of the last page of the Voynich manuscript.”

 Sergio, on MARCH 22, 2014 added a comment to another page saying: The plant on page 70 is almost certainly ramson (Allium ursinum). I am also italian and have translated the text. First words are probably “(A)Glio horsis” (the initial A is missing) and the picture matches exactly the plant itself. Except for the faces, apparently there are no resemblances with the one depicted on the VM.”

Neticis, on MARCH 22, 2014 wrote about the Voynich plant: For [the Voynich plant 33r]  I see similarities to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Papaver_somniferum ru: мак, hy: կակաչ [kak’atS], ka: ყაყაჩოს [q’aqatSos]

Any other ideas, especially about the heads? Could they simply refer to the effect on the head of using the two plants?!


  1. Scholler Jean-Marie

    the plant of the page f33r
    is called caulophyllum thalictorides latin
    in new German “Frauenwurzel” from this plant is only used the root for remedy for the biol. menopause. in the 15th century, today aswell
    The name of the plant is confirmed by the women head painted in the roots.
    Old german the plant is called : frauenwurtz or Stickwurz

    tshdar shdar: frauen wurtz

    best regards JM SCHOLLER

  2. don of tallahassee

    Sorry, my JPEG converter does not recognize Voynich 1.01 font.

    The photo caption’s Voynich glyphs are EVA = otal – (the first four glyphs in the label).

    Thank you.

    Don of Tallahassee

  3. don of tallahassee

    I sent a post yesterday. It doesn’t seem to have made its way through the system for some reason. Will try again.

    I think the plant is sorrel, Rumex acetosa, also known as surel dé boys, sorel dé boys, surel de boise, and other spellings in medieval England.

    There are at least two other images with faces in the roots – on f89r1, third row of labels, 2nd label and plant is duck’s meat, Lemna minor, shown by faces ducking a meeting by hiding behind root strands – and on f89r2, fourth row of labels second label and plant is the face of Spyer peering out from the roots and representing Roman mint or spearmint/spiremint, Mentha viridis. It may also be the face of the artist.

  4. Dakotah

    When I first saw the plant on 33r I initially thought of a variety of poppy plant. But its only a guess. Not even an educated one at that.

  5. Paul Hicks

    VS word is something like Hashtas or if two words the first word is like Hash. Turkish for poppy is hashas.

  6. Anna L

    Hello everybody,
    Some time ago, by an accident I discovered this website and work of profesor Bax and all the people that help. I am very impressed! Although my knowledge is a lot smaller, I am not any specialist of languages or anything like this, and my native language is not English, I would like to participate a litle bit in solving this mistery. I was doing some research on this plant (taking two possibilities under consideration, opium and mandragora). With the known letters I couldn’t find unfortunately any good matches in other languages.
    This website had quite some different variations:
    I realise that the recognision of this plant is not settled yet, but still, I looked for second and further words, since I couldn’t match anything with first one. What I saw then was that the first and second word are quite similar. If you don’t look at the first big letter (starting the first word) ou could say they look very alike. Now the words three and four. Starting from the “big” character again (in the middle of the word 3 and beginning of the word 4) they look the same for me.
    I have no idea if that i relevant at all, or what could it mean? Maybe just different versions of the name, or like it was with Chiron, name of some creature that the name come from. I know it doesn’t bring us closer to the translation, but maybe at least to some other conclusions.
    I appreciate any comments, even the critial ones ; )

  7. Lately I watched your videos. You really inspired me to pick up on the Voynich manuscript again, so many thanks!

    As to the plant on folio 33r: I would identify the plant in question as Convolvulus scammonia (Scammony). Wikipedia gives a basic description of the plant. Especially the leaves are a good match. On first sight the flowers correspond less to the picture in the manuscript. However, other plants in the manuscript have an exaggerated calyx also, so I would rather view this a a style of drawing. Examples are: f10r, f14r, f15r, f15v, and so on. The calyx in many Convolulaceae is prominent, though. It usually consists of a few small leaves, that are partly or completely fused together.
    <a href="http://www.turkiyebitkileri.com/fotogaleri/1102013112730399Convolvulus%20scammonia%20Ziyaret%20DSC_6182.jpg"This picture gives a good view an the calyx and flower. I think it’s rather like what the Voynich artist shows. I can see lines there and even dots (which refer to hairs in my opinion). The picture also show the green stripes on the underside of the flower, which are also shown in the Voynich drawing.
    Next to the root: Convolvulus scammonia has a fleshy root that contains a white milky juice. The dried juice is also known as “scammony”. So far I found mulitple sources that commented on the way the juice was harvested. <a href="http://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/b/binwsy42.html"Here is one. The faces that are drawn might be a reference to the milky juice that can be obtained by draining the root or the way it is collected. There might be a link with the moon there, because of the white juice. I plan to dig a lot deeper into this, because this seems to be a very interesting plant with a very interesting history!
    One line of inquiry will go into arabic herbal remedies. For instance, “The World of Pharmacy and Pharmacists in Mamluk Cairo” by Leigh Chipman lists recipes that contain Scammony. This line of inquiry is especially interesting because one of the “recipe-pages” in the manuscript (f89r1), shows a plant that also has faces drawn on its roots. It is by no means certain that the same plant is depicted there. It’s not the only plant in the “recipe-pages” with a face, f101v2 has another one. But that one doesn’t have a name tag next to it, and I find it harder to match the leaves of that picture to the plant of f33r.

    Anyway, lots of work to do for me to follow up on this!

  8. Ausra

    At first look to me it is papaver somniferus. Opium

  9. Brian Nisonger

    I think this is Mandrake or Mandragora. Here is a good wikipedia article http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mandrake_(plant) Honestly the faces are what make me think this since Mandrake roots were supposed to resemble children due to the bisecting root. If you look at the article is shows a contemporary italian text with a slightly different looking plant but also a child in the roots. The plant that I think fits the image is Mandragora caulescens. http://www.spezialplant.nu/aktuellt_test.asp?pageid=14 Also check out http://www.nhm.ac.uk/print-version/?p=/nature-online/species-of-the-day/collections/our-collections/mandragora-caulescens/index.html

    • Keryl Kris Reinke

      I think your case would be strong, but there is a separate page that – IMHO – is absolutely Mandrake.
      Quire 7 – page f51r has the classic ‘walking legs’ that mark the Mandrake plant in period (when not shown as a human body with leafy hair). No other plant is shown that way – and Mandrake is so indicated up to nearly modern times.
      I grant the leaves are off – although the flowers are not too dreadful – but… I can not imagine that then-univeral legs image would be used for any other plant.
      OTOH? There were sometimes considered to me multiple forms of Mandrake… so…

  10. Marco

    Hello Stephen,
    my transcription and translation of p.70 of the 15th century Italian Herbal:

    “Alio … vale la sua foglia a le ferite pesta e posta suso e sulla piaga per 5 di /
    e salda bene … … … di sotto … … chuoci(?) la radice di questa /
    erba in acqua e fanne impiastro sopra al … e guarisce in 15 /
    di. E portando adosso la foglia sua faratti amare dagli uomini /
    del mondo colta a di 15 della luna di maggio fa el fiore.”

    (Garlic … its leaf heals the wounds if crushed and placed on the sore for 5 days /
    it heals well. … … cook the root of this /
    grass in water and make a plaster above the … it heals in 15
    days. If you wear its leaf you will be loved by the men /
    of the world, picking it on the 15 of the moon of May. It makes flowers.)

    Another image of “herba torogas”, the site says it is a page from the Urbino Herbal now at the Vatican Library:
    The image is small, but the page provides a complete transcription. Here is my translation:
    “Torogas grass: to heal any mortal wound, take the leaves with the seed, crush everything together, make a plaster and place it on the wound. It heals quickly, within half a hour. If one wears upon himself the leaves or the seed, he cannot die without prize; when you pick them, say these words:
    -Torogas grass, come to me in the name of Jesus Christ, living and true son of God- It grows on the harshest mountains, in dark and stony places. It has been proven.”

    I think that “herba torogas” possibly corresponds to “erba tora” / ranunculus thora:

    Herba Torogas from the Trento Herbal:
    and another one from Bodley MS. Canon. Misc. 408:

    Your idea that the heads represent the effects of the plants makes sense to me. I think they also represent the general shape of the root: the differences between Allium, Torogas and the Voynich plant seem to me to suggest that the three had different kinds of “bulbous” roots.
    This is a review of a recent edition of the Trento Herbal that seems to confirm your hypothesis:
    Ecco che tra le radici delle piante appaiono animali come serpenti, pesci, cani, ma anche volti e particolari anatomici umani. Anche perché si riteneva che una pianta potesse curare un organo per somiglianza, come una peonia con forma rotonda potesse curare la testa, i pinoli fossero un rimedio per denti, e così via.
    (Among the roots of the plants, animals such as serpents, fish, dogs, as well as human faces and anatomical details, appear. It was believed that a plant could cure an organ by similarity, peonies, having a rounded shape, could cure the head, pine nuts were a remedy for the teeth, and so on).

    These two 11th Century Bodleian herbals have images of Opium Poppy (Papaver somniferum):
    Castore Durante 1668:

    Plant F33r seems to me difficult to identify. The leaves are identical to f17v. The prominence of the flowers(?) and the peculiar “hastate” leaves of the plant in f33r make me think of some type of “Vilucchio” or convolvulus (eg Convolvulus Arvensis):

  11. Stephen Bax

    I notice another plant in an Italian herbal with faces in roots and leaves:


    Can any Italian speaker suggest why the faces?!

  12. Neticis

    With updated script name, more probable is garlic, la: Allium sativum, hy: սխտոր [[email protected]’or].

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