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A woolly cure for osteoporosis?

By Mary Fitzgerald   December 2009

In the 16th and 17th centuries this unfortunate-looking plant was widely believed to fruit newly-born lambs. According to an ancient legend, the “vegetable lamb” plant sprouted living lambs as if they were flowers. (See the 17th-century illustration, below.) It was assumed that the lambs fed on surrounding grass, but that once all the foliage had been munched away they would shrivel up and die—and so the plant would come to resemble its 19th-century incarnation (above) preserved in London’s Museum of Garden History.

Now scientists have discovered a less far-fetched, though potentially revolutionary, purpose for this ugly fern (proper name: Cibotium…

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