Mandragora officinarum L.;
Nightshade family (Solanaceae)
A stemless herbaceous perennial with ovate foot-long leaves rising directly from the root. The flowers are 1 inch long, purple or greenish yellow, followed by an oblong greenish berry. Native of southern Europe.
Cultivation and Propagation: The mandragore is hardy throughout the U.S. It likes a light, deep soil, as the roots run far down. They will do poorly in a soil that is chalky or excessively gravelly. If the soil is too wet in winter, the roots will rot. It is propagated from seeds which should be sown in deep flats or, better, singly in pots. These should be kept well-watered and when they reach a good size they should be carefully set out at least 2 feet apart.
Harvesting: The roots should be dug after the second or third year. If left in the ground they will grow to a great age, and will have large branching roots up to four feet long.
Note: Do not confuse this Old World mandrake with the American mandrake (Podophyllum peltatum) whose roots are sold by many herb companies under the name "Mandrake roots." These roots are a powerful cathartic poison. The plants are unmistakably different.