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The Vegetable Lamb of Tartary

The Vegetable Lamb of Tartary  is a legendary zoophyte of Central Asia, believed to grow sheep as its fruit.The sheep were connected to the plant by an umbilical cord and grazed the land around the plant. When all the plants were gone, both the plant and sheep died.

Although it owed its currency in medieval thought as a way of explaining the existence of cotton, underlying the myth is a real plant, Cibotium barometz, a fern of the genus Cibotium. It was known under various other names including the Scythian Lamb, the Borometz, Barometz and Borametz, the latter three being different spellings of the local word for lamb. The “lamb” is produced by removing the leaves from a short length of the fern’s woolly rhizome. When the rhizome is inverted, it fancifully resembles a woolly lamb with the legs being formed by the severed petiole bases.

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