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In the days before the Internet and peer-reviewed science, rumours of exaggerated proportions were able to spread around the world with longer lasting legs. An example of this would be the legend of the Vegetable Lamb of Tartary that most likely spread along the ancient silk road.

Tartary is an old name for much of the central Eurasian region associated with the various ethnic groups that speak Turkic languages. And it is in this region that the incredible vegetable lamb tree was to be found.

The story of this peculiar creature/plant comes in two flavours. The first iteration describes a plant that grew little lambs in pods like peas. The other version of the story – which went to even more outlandish measures – describes a plant like structure with a lamb growing out the top of it, suspended helplessly above ground.

To sustain the plant-lamb at the top of the plant, it would have to move to find food to graze on. The plant-lamb and its stem were part of one and the same and if the stem were cut or severed, the lamb would die. The only way to separate the lamb from the plant would require a careful aim from afar with a bow and arrow.

The curious case of the Vegetable Lamb of Tartary will be of interest to students of history and literature degrees who want to talk about less heard of myths to distinguish them as candidates at interview.

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