One of the most mysterious plants bloomed in the Ashgabat Botanical Garden – the legendary Turkmen mandragora, listed in the Red Book of Turkmenistan. It was first found in the Kopetdag Mountains by Olga Mizgireva in 1938, and since then, this relict species of Turkmen flora has become the hallmark of the South-West Kopetdag.
To date, thanks to the efforts of Turkmen scientists, the unique flower has “settled” in the capital of Turkmenistan. In the Botanical Garden, a rare plant, so-called as “royal flower”, “fire-grass” or “flower that lights in the night”, not only got used to new conditions, but also blooms regularly.
According to Turkmen scientists, the mandragora population is extremely valuable for both science and selection.
“In the conditions of the botanical garden, as in nature, the vegetation of the mandragora is the autumn-winter-spring period,” says Gulzar Bazarova, head of the biological research laboratory and seed bank of the Botanical Gardens of the Turkmen Agricultural University. “We grow mandragora seedlings from seeds obtained from the plants of the Western Kopetdag. “Royal flower” is one of the remarkable plants that got into the flora collection of the Ashgabat Botanical Garden in 2004-2005; it grows in the secluded corner, safe from keyhole.
The plant lives in the rhythm of its special biological clock, set by nature millions of years ago. But still, the employees of the botanical garden, when caring for a mysterious flower, try to create conditions as close as to endemic plant. During the winter, under zero temperatures, the plant is covered.
Mandragora begins to grow in early November and December. In February , it already blooms, bears fruit from May to the end of June. During the hot period until the end of October and mid-November, it enters a resting stage. Young seedlings bloom for 4-5 years, and bear fruit for 5-6 years.
Mandragora has tomato-like green fruits. By the time the fruits ripen, the leaves of the plant completely dry out. As well as after flowering, it becomes naked and plunges into deep sleep until the next year. But even after fading, the roots of the plant continue to be watered.
According to the expert, mandragora is not a plant for city parks, it is more for decoration goals. The main goal of cultivating a medicinal crop is to obtain viable seedlings, preserve biodiversity and cultivate the natural wild plant to compare its characteristics with wild-growing species.
Biologists have done a lot of work in the study of the Turkmen mandragora. Scientific work on the Turkmen mandragora in culture and nature was published in Issue 14 (37) of the Information Bulletin of the Council of Botanical Gardens of the CIS countries.
Mandragora has a long use in traditional medicine. It has been used to treat asthma and other breath disorders. Avicenna has listed it also. President Berdimuhamedov wrote about its medicinal properties in his work “Medicinal Plants of Turkmenistan”. And, perhaps, we still have a lot to learn about this amazing herb, which is involved in many myths and superstitions.