Toothwort


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License: Creative Commons - Attribution-Share Alike
Author: Giles Watson
Description:
Toothworts Molars, purpled from chewing blood, Mouth the air. Like a fractured jaw, It atrophies in brown senescence, Shrivelled in mortal sequence. Then come canines, each slick blade A channelled fang on forest floor. Curtailed questions, curt statements: Death in life, blanched and bland. Notes: Toothworts, pictured here on the grounds of a Roman villa, parasitize the roots of trees, and contain no chlorophyll. The doctrine of signatures dictated that these corpse-like flowers were good for toothache, because they look so much like molars. As Grigson, The Englishman’s Flora points out, “the corolla rapidly dries and shrivels to a dark brown, so that on a spike at one time fresh flowers on top are succeeded by shrivelled flowers below, adding to the plant’s deathliness.” Moreover, the capsules “are ivory-white and shiny and channelled like small fangs.” Fortunately for the plants they parasitize, but not for enthusiasts, these botanical vampires are comparatively rare. See also Richard Mabey, Flora Britannica, p. 336.

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