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Mandragora autumnalis  


Common name Autumn Mandrake  
Hebrew name דודא רפואי  
أللّغة آلعربيّة تُفّاح آلمجانين  
Family Solanaceae
Petals 5
Leaf form Simple
Leaf margin Dentate
Habitat Heavy soils
Life form non-woody perennial
Distribution in Israel Golan, Gallilee, Upper Jordan valley, Northern valleys, Gilboa, Carmel, Samarian mountains, Samarian desert, Judean mountains, Sharon, Shefela, Northern Negev,
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Flowering months
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Toxic Medicinal
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Additional information
This perennial forb has a large rosette of dark green curled leaves and a thick taproot. The taproot splits sometimes and has a peculiar shape resembling a miniature person. This, together with its content of narcotic and hormonally active substances made it the topic of many legends and superstitions.
Leaf sprouting, from buds at the top of the thick storage root take place in early autumn. In an open space the leaves spread on the soil surface and assume a rosette that may reach a diameter of 50 cm. The central vein is lighter colored than the rest of the leaf blade. Leaf margin is dentate.
Blooming takes place in December-March. Each plant bears many large (2-3 cm) purple flowers that have a bell-shaped joint corolla with 5 lobes. Each flower has 5 sepals and 5 stamens.
The fruits are ball like and resemble small tomatoes. They are dark green at first and turn yellow and later orange when ripen. The ripe fruits have an intoxicating sweet odor. The fruits and especially the seeds contain a number of alkaloids that are highly toxic.
It is common in meadows throughout the Mediterranean region.

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Mandragora autumnalis
Photo: Gadi Shaanan © All rights reserved.

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Heritage
The fruits of this plan were used for treating fertility problems already in Biblical times. The book of Genesis (30:14-22) tells us about Reuben who found mandrakes in the field, and brought them unto his mother Leah. Her sister Rachel traded her a night with Jacob for those Mandrakes. Later it says that "God remembered Rachel, and God hearkened to her, and opened her womb." The sweet smell of the mandrake fruit is also mentioned Solomon's Song of Songs (7:13).

The mandrake was know as a medicinal plant by the Assyrians and the Ancient Greeks, and was mentioned in texts by Dioscorides and Theophrastus as a potent narcotic.

Modern scientists identified a number of estrogen like substances and the alkaloid scopolamine in the fruits of this plant.

There are many superstitions regarding its ability to attract demons and cure various illnesses. The Arabic name of this plant, "madmen's apple" suggests its use for treating mental diseases.

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