Friday, February 27, 2015

The Voynich Manuscript: Fleabane

Lori and Russ Holtman suggested on the VMs list that the drawing on fol. 46r maybe inspired by the Biblical story of the 10 plagues of Egypt. The leaves on the plant appear as if they are blown by wind (the East wind brought the plague of locusts and the West wind blew them into the Red Sea) and the roots remind of insects legs.

I like Lori and Russ's idea and based on it I will place Fleabane as plant id on my list. In the old herbals fleabane appear  by the name 'policaria' so I will go with Common Fleabane - Pulicaria dysenterica. The third plague of Egypt was lice/gnats/fleas and fleabane was believed to repel those parasites.

The French common name for Pulicaria is Herbe Saint-Roch. In the 15th century Saint Roch was evoked in case of bubonic plague.


  1. The convention used to depict the roots is a variation of that used to denote water-plants, or water-side plants. I rather think that their being made more stake-like is a reference to some such use.
    This way of representing water-side plants is not only consistent through the Voynich botanical folios, but is found as a set convention from China to Armenia.


  2. Ellie: I've been trying to find a Vms folio which would portray and discuss the dandelion (which leaves look like lion's teeth). So, if Fray Sahagun would have been taking a walk anywhere near his hometown of Sahagun in the region of Spain called Leon province, he would have picked the leaves (and yellow blossom) for either green vegetable, blossom soup, or tea.

  3. Hi Ellie,
    I have been studying the VM for some time and would like to propose an alternative identification for Fol. 17v. From my studying of the drawing I think that it may be Solanum dulcamara sometimes called woody nightshade. You can look into it more yourself and see what you think.