“After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world.” -- Philip Pullman


Research sources for magical, dangerous & healing flora used in witchcraft, alchemy, and other fantasy adventures

Copyright National Lilac Publishing, LLC



Does your fantasy fiction character need to cast spells, be healed, set traps, or avoid being poisoned? Go beyond chamomile tea and poison hemlock! Enrich your novel with deeper research and greater flora wisdom. There is so much more mystery hidden in the natural world waiting for you to weave into your story from exploding bushes to trees that grow poison daggers. Here are a few favorite book resources to get you started:







In Craft of the Wild Witch by Poppy Palin, you'll be taken into her world of

  • Rituals, chants, pathworkings, and seasonal prayers
  • Tree meditations, spell-weaving, and trance work
  • The Fey and other-worldly companions
  • Herbs as helpers   

And more. And the illustrations!


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With Wicked Plants: The weed that killed Lincoln's mother & other botanical atrocities by Amy Stewart, you discover not only which plants can cause harm, (including poison daggers from trees and exploding shrubs,) but your character can be alert to what the sinister one is up to by noticing the grounds around the sinister one's dwelling -- because this book also describes how these plants are cultivated. Etchings and other illustrations.


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On the nicer side, in The Herbal Alchemist's Handbook, you'll find more than 150 herbs with many recipes for rituals and spells that provide such desirables as protection, healing, finding the gold (prosperity), enhancing psychic powers and so on. If your fantasy story calls for the addition of astrological influences on the power of the herbs (which includes roots, leaves, resins, etc.), that's here also. Written by a long established and formally educated herbologist and practitioner of "magick."


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In fantasy fiction/sci-fi small town settings, consider these social layers to make your characters' interactions believable

Whether your small town setting is low fantasy (Forks, Washington, Twilight) or high fantasy (Hobbiton, Lord of the Rings), small towns from fantasy earths to galactic worlds operate under familiar (yet sometimes invisible to the normal human observer) social layers. If your fantasy novel purposely dismisses this endearing trait among social creatures who gather to live amidst each others' company, at least know the rules you're breaking. And remember that fantasy worlds may come from the edges of imagination, but many readers don't want basics, such as heroism, romance, the individual's need for autonomy balanced with familiar social interactions to be dropped from the interweavings of the story.

Here are three social levels of small towns: Take note of these especially if your character either moves into a new small town, or is entrenched in one and has to deal with a different new character coming through town.

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Real life experiential fantasy novel research on a budget

We occasionally hear arguments that true authors must experience their research in real life if they haven't already lived it. They can’t just read about China, they must go and live there for a time. They can’t simply watch videos of small craft piloting, they must take lessons and become an expert. And if the experience or location is purely imagination? Then they at least must make-shift something similar and live it for a time.

And who doesn’t want to travel to exotic places and immerse in local cultures? Wouldn’t we love to book a three month vacation inside a future weightless dome community. How about actually spending a season as a medieval shepherd, guiding a flock into high mountain meadows for summer until it’s time to return to the valley’s freshly hay-stocked barns in autumn.

Luckily there is a research middle ground for fantasy fiction writers on a budget who want to incorporate detail and richness into their stories that comes from actually experiencing the research. And it can lead to such career success that these writers eventually can expand their real life experiential research to more world travel and the like.

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Researching horses for your fantasy novel? Here are lesser-known facts and under-the-radar resources

Does your fantasy story's half-fairy character ride and live with wild horses? Does your knight need a groom who secretly knows how to enhance his equine mount’s strength above all others? Researching a prehistoric fantasy novel that includes horses? Here are some lesser-known facts and obscure research sources that reveal surprising secrets many, even modern horse experts, don’t yet know about these glorious creatures of our world.

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Need a unique agricultural system to feed your fantasy world's population?  Or peasant cottage farms? Or utopian Eden-farms?



Even in high fantasy worlds such as Middle Earth, or future regions such as District 13, food attainment is often a satisfying backstory if it’s grown, hunted or foraged vs. developed solely in a laboratory or created entirely with magic fairy dust. If your characters consume food and medicinal plants, or if you need ancient royal, monastery or cottage farming methods, here's how it's been done in long ago times, and how, now with the backing of science, it may be done again.

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