Deja vu & “SD” on behalf of Edith Sherwood – yet again

I see that “SD” is again excited by a discovery-and-identification that seems to coincide with ones earlier published in my separate ‘botanicals’ blog.

This time the announcement which ‘SD’ has made on the voynich mailing  list says that ‘SD’ has just discovered a ginger on f.101v (see posts to the voynich mailing list for Dec.2nd., 2012)

That this is the same identification as that which I published back in February seems probable from the second of those posts on the list from ‘SD’, but here my post from that earlier blog… as a seconding first opinion.


Feb.22nd 2012 7:31pm

(from – blog was closed in August 2012


Frankly, I think Gernot Katzer is the sort of person we need to identify the plants in this section, and in fol.101v-iii.

I’m no expert in tropical botany, but one or two of the items on fol.101v-i seem pretty obviously to fit among those I have identified:

i.e. clove, kapok tree and gourds in fol 101v-ii;

Paulownia for the ‘peacock’ root on fol.101v-iii,

and e.g. Dracaena cinnabari and the Javanese dracaena within the botanical section. (It’s widely agreed, I think, that the plants in the botanical section refer to many which appear again in the ‘pharma’ section).

So then, here are my best efforts: –

in the lowest register of fol.101v-i we have what seems pretty obviously a series  – presumably from the same region still – whose value lies in their roots and rhizomes. Logically this takes us first to Zingiberaceae: the gingers, galingales and so forth – of which there are a great many.

The one pictured in the centre of the lower register (fol.101v-i) is, I should say, the red-flowered ginger Alpinia purpurata, commonly known as Hawaiian red ginger, though it grows in Malaysia too. Photo here.

Directly to its left , the plant with the spear-shaped leaves might then be the ordinary galingale, Alpinia officinarum. The wiki article ‘Galangal’ has – right at the end – a nice botanical illustration of it.

Leaves, it will be remembered, are the defining characteristic for plants in the Voynich, and the absence of flowers in these pictures is unremarkable, except when the flower itself was the commodity, or the only way to tell immediately which it was.

Still on the lowest register of fol.101v-i, the plant to the far right (nearest the fold) has an upright habit, butterfly-shaped leaves and is again valued for its rhizome, so I might suggest one of the Christia, illustrated on this blog (Dec 25th 2010). They are again from the tropics, in this case from Singapore. Christia were formerly considered Hedysarum by western botanists, first mentioned in 1790 by Joao de Loureiro (Flora Cochinensis). Necker, in the same year, established the genus of Lourea for some species of Hedysarum and finally, in 1802, Conrad Moench recognised Hedysarum vespertilionis, applying to its description in western botany the genus Christia, which name replaced Lourea. My reservation here is that the plant is considered an ornamental legume.

The plant with heart shaped, red leaves shown second-to-left in the upper register of fol. 101v-i has the same very slender, perfectly undefinedupright ‘stem’ which commonly signifies a vine in these folios.

If it weren’t for the colour given the leaves (?) I’d perhaps suggest Dioscorida opposita Syn. D. batatas, but I’ve never seen its leaves red-coloured and  D. opposita is now found in central Asia, not among the rest.

So all-in-all I think I’ll…hope some specialist in tropical economic botany may be among those interested in elucidating the pharma section in the Voynich manuscript.

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