A is for Athelas … you would know it as ‘kingsfoil.’

letter a

short time ago I received a mysterious parcel via UPS: a brown paper package tied up with string. No return address. With some reservations, I opened it.

Inside was a small manuscript hand lettered and illustrated. The name on the frontispiece is Sam Gamgee. Could this little book really be the long lost field notes of Sam Gamgee, hobbit and master gardener? Tests to verify are underway.

If the manuscript is authentic one of the great mysteries of our time may have been solved for within the contents is an entry for KINGSFOIL.

Ever since the publication of the Baggins’ manuscripts many scholars have wondered if there could possibly be a modern equivalent of the famous healing herb. Theories have been offered: comfrey, wintergreen, willow, heal-all. None of these plants were a perfect fit to the descriptions, though.

I scanned the entry which you can view below:

Kingsfoil. Eupatorium ayapana?

The text of the various Baggins manuscripts offered tantalizing clues about this important botanical but this new image (though crudely drawn) may make identification more certain.

What we already knew:
The plant grows in wooded areas and so must tolerate some shade
The leaves are long in shape
The scent of the crushed leaves is pleasant and soothing
The herb can be used as an infusion or mashed
The plant is not commonly found in the north
The plant would be considered a weed (wild or native) and would not have been commonly cultivated
The plant should be helpful for many maladies such as fevers, infections and inflammation but it also must have properties to guard against poison as it was used specifically to heal a wound made by a Morgul-blade.

I believe the mystery plant is Eupatorium ayapana.

Eupatorium ayapana is the tropical version of North America’s Boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum) which is also a useful botanical though a little less potent.

I look forward to future debate and discussion.



20 thoughts on “A is for Athelas … you would know it as ‘kingsfoil.’

  1. I’ve always thought of Athelas as Costmary, a herb I’ve grown for many years (though I’m currently without it! It died in a drought). It has a lovely, wholesome smell, and I think J.R.R.T. would have liked the association with Mary, as well as its alternative name “Bible Herb”. But you make a good case for your choice. :)


    1. I am unfamiliar with Costmary but just looked it up. It sounds lovely. Sorry to hear you lost it in a drought. =(
      aromatic flowers and herbs are one of the things I love best about gardening.


  2. Such a cool blog post, Debra. I’m intrigued to find out what other gems might lie hidden in Master Gamgee’s field notes.


    1. Oh, gosh. Thank you for saying so. The MS is in the hands of some experts at the moment but when it returns I will be happy to share more. =D
      btw I enjoyed visiting your blog and look forward to reading more.


  3. OK – I’ll admit to not paying close enough attention here at the outset. First was to mistake Athelas for Altheas (the second a common enough plant in these parts). After correcting that bit of a mis-read I then was thinking to myself “I hope she is going to take this from A all the way to Z then!” before I saw the challenge badge.

    Either too much coffee or not quite enough – I can’t decide which. At any rate well played – carry on. Looking forward to April in an entirely new way.


    1. heh
      We shall see how the challenge goes. I am better at starting projects than completing them. Thanks for the encouragement. =)


  4. Now you have caught my interest too! I am always looking for those healing herbs so I will keep my eye out also! I sure hope it isn’t an achoo thing though lol!


    1. There are a lot of Eupatorium species. You might know it as Joe Pye Weed. They are achoo free, luckily! I am so sorry to hear of your allergies. I know they can be a nightmare. When I first moved to Austin I discovered I was allergic to everything and -suffered- the first couple of years until I adapted.


    1. Kingsfoil is a herb mentioned in the Lord of the Rings books. I thought it might be fun to see if there was a real plant that could fit the description. =) I have no idea if Tolkien had a certain plant in mind. Probably not but I needed SOME topic for the letter A. haha


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