The difference between mandrake and borage is not always evident to inexperienced collectors and, indeed, the two plants are confused more often than you think. It wouldn’t be a problem, if it weren’t for that mandrake is a poisonous plant, all its components are toxic and certainly cannot be ingested. On pain of food poisoning, even potentially serious. Borage, on the other hand, is an edible wild herb, widely used in traditional cooking as well as in popular medicine due to its well-known beneficial properties.
If you practice foraging, then, it is good to learn to distinguish the mandrake from edible species similar to it. Here, the difference between mandrake and borage which are frequently found close together, growing near each other.
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How to distinguish borage from mandrake
One of the unmistakable characteristics of borage is the thin white hair that covers the entire plant and gives it a velvet look. It is therefore a thorny plant and when you pick it up to the touch you can feel the little thorns. Otherwise, the mandrake is smooth. Sometimes small thorns appear on the petiole, but this is more an exception than a distinctive trait and, in any case, it is never comparable to the pronounced down of borage.
Difference between mandrake and borage: the leaves
The analysis of the leaves helps us to underline another one obvious difference between mandrake and borage. Those of mandrake, in fact, are typically narrow and elongated, ending in a point. The margins of the leaf tend to run progressively up to the petiole (the part that anchors the leaf blade to the stem) which grows very short. Borage, on the other hand, has leaves with an oval outline, the margins are inserted in a clear and perpendicular way with respect to the petiole, which is decidedly longer, and there are always thorns on the leaf as well.
Be careful not to be fooled by white spots some borage leaves. In fact, depending on the climatic conditions and the type of substrate, it may be that clear, more or less large and more or less evident spots appear in the center of the borage leaf. The mandrake, on the other hand, has no spots. The leaf is crinkled, with a rough surface and homogeneous colour.
The mandrake flower
When in bloom, a distinctive element among plants is its own the flower. Pale blue for the mandrake, of a more marked purplish-blue that of the borage. The first grows on the ground, that of the borage on the stem.
The organoleptic characteristics
The mandrakelike some other toxic vegetables, it has an unpleasant smell if broken and smelled. In reverseborage has a typical cucumber smellvery pleasant, which is why it is also used in the kitchen.