The wonderful tree bore tiny lambs


All day I’ve been popping my head out of the workshop to see that everything is okay, the plaintive bleating makes me concerned.  The sheep in the neighbouring field are lambing.  I saw twins born first thing.  As soon as they could stand they wobbled over to the trunk of the nearest tree and backed themselves tightly close to it and flopped down where they’ve spent the best part of the day, small and shivery.

lamb bearing tree illustration

It made me think of John Mandeville’s drawing –  writing in 1350 he informs us

“There grew there, in India,  a wonderful tree which bore tiny lambs on the endes of its branches. These branches were so pliable that they bent down to allow the lambs to feed when they are hungrie”.

It had been reported by Herodotus that there was a wild tree, producing wool.  During the late medieval period cotton was an imported fibre, and without any knowledge of how it was derived, other than it was a plant, the plant-borne sheep theory came to life.

The myth pops up in folklore worldwide. The Vegetable Lamb of Tartary is a legendary zoophyte of Central Asia.

sheep plant

It doesn’t seem a very sustainable idea, after the lamb had eaten all the available and reachable forage, it died, along with the whole plant.  I love the illustrations though.






  1. Comment by Ellen Abbott:

    I have always wondered at the wisdom of cattle and sheep giving birth when it is still winter.

    • Reply by Jennifer:

      He he … might have more to do with farmers than sheep and cow choices.

  2. Comment by countrysidetales:

    It’s quite incredible how these stories took wing and flew around the world in the earliest days, replicating themselves with such subtle alterations. I love the (wood cut?) of the lamb-tree. Also loved your description of the shivery smalls from this morning- hope you and they have the sunshine we’ve got here. There is sporadic buzzing coming from outside (sounds like summer if you close your eyes) and I saw a beautiful bumblebee-mimic hoverfly on two of my new plants- thank goodness I bought them at the weekend! Have a look at Large Narcissus Fly on google, they are extraordinary things, look just like bumbles but they hover.

    • Reply by Jennifer:

      Ah yes, what a day, not quite sun but it was there, pressing. Noticeable is the lack of weather sound, no wind or rustle, just quiet warm. I think the twin lambs came unexpectedly early, the flock now ushered to barns to be kept an eye on. My little Pied Wagtails are dashing about searching, there doesn’t seem to be any insect life, hopefully they’re getting something – glad yours found the flowers.

  3. Comment by Amanda:

    What a wonderful story, when we were kids we would help with Lambing (mum’s family), now we have all moved on and I don’t live as deep in the country side as I use to, so have not seen so many this year.
    Amanda xx

    • Reply by Jennifer:

      What a great experience while you were growing up – during my summer holidays I used to go out with a vet, who worked with farm animals and always enjoyed the lambing visits (though there were some horrors to assist with too). There are a lot of sheep here, they come down from the moor, to lower grazing and relative protection during lambing time.

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