Flora of A Series of Unfortunate Events
Lemony Snicket's novel series A Series of Unfortunate Events mentions numerous plants and fungi. Though much of this flora is only described in passing — potatoes, kudzu, the Royal Gardens, reptilian topiary, and the enormous trees of Dark Avenue to name a few — a number play central or secondary roles in the plot. The following is a list, including descriptions, of the most notable of these.
Horseradish is used in A Series of Unfortunate Events as an antidote for the poisonous effects of the Meduisoid Mycelium. Its use is discovered in the Grim Grotto, as it is quoted in the poem found in Mushroom Minutiae, a mycology book:
- A single spore has such grim power
- That you may die within the hour.
- Is dilution simple? But of course!
- Just one small dose of root of horse.
In The End, horseradish was intended by the Baudelaire parents (who were the founders of the island) used in conjunction with apples to create a hybridized apple tree which would cure islanders who are affected by the fungus.
First mentioned in The End, the apples are the creation of Bertrand and Beatrice Baudelaire. They concocted a specialized hybrid of the enormous apple tree which grew in the arboretum upon the Island, because the apples' bitter taste would eradicate the spores of the Medusoid Mycelium and the horseradish which they were growing was an antidote for the Mycelium itself. The Baudelaire parents dipped the apples into horseradish, and fused horseradish with the apple tree, therefore creating a hybridized horseradish-apple tree, which saved the Baudelaire children when they were infected with the Medusoid Mycelium.
The hybrid and its spores are mentioned in The End, and are hinted at in The Bad Beginning, because Lemony Snicket remarks in that book that an Island has a law which forbids anyone from removing its fruit, as the fruit is a valuable antidote to the Mycelium. The full importance of this snide remark is not revealed until The Grim Grotto and The End. Also, the sour apples are hinted at in The Grim Grotto, when Fiona remarks that a cure for the Medusoid Mycelium happens to be horseradish, and horseradish covers the apples, giving them a somewhat bitter but sweet taste.
The apples are mentioned as being plump, red apples, and they are somewhat crinkly and old-looking, yet they are simultaneously thick and plump. The apples are covered with horseradish, meaning that they appear somewhat brown and old-looking.
The following is a passage from Mushroom Minutiae (a fictional book of mushroom science quoted in The Grim Grotto):
"The Grim Grotto, located in propinquity to Anwhistle Aquatics, has appropriately wraithlike nomenclature, with roots in Grecian mythology, as this conical cavern is fecund with what is perhaps the bugaboo of the entire mycological pantheon. The Medusoid Mycelium has a unique conducive strategy of waxing and waning: first a brief dormant cycle in which the mycelium is nearly invisible, and then a precipitated flowering into speckled stalks and caps of such intense venom that it is fortunate the grotto serves as quarantine. As the poet says,
Kit Snicket writes a letter making references to the consequences of using the fungus:
"The poisonous fungus you insist on cultivating in the grotto will bring grim consequences for all of us. Our factory at Lousy Lane can provide some dilution of the mycelium's destructive respiratory capabilities."
In The Grim Grotto, the Medusoid Mycelia play a major role when Sunny gets infected while searching with the other siblings and Fiona for the sugar bowl in the Gorgonian Grotto. Luckily she survives, as her siblings give her a dose of the antidote, wasabi (Japanese horseradish). At the end of the book, however, Count Olaf gets hold of a sample of the fungus, and in The Penultimate Peril he attempts to infect all the guests of the Hotel Denouement with it. The plan is foiled, and Count Olaf escapes with the mushrooms, along with Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire. Also, an interesting point to make is that Dewey Denouement told Olaf that he "would not dare" unleash the Medusoid Mycelia because Dewey had the sugar bowl.
In The End, Count Olaf forces the orphans to sail away from the hotel, he keeps the mushrooms in a sealed diving helmet. He disguises himself as a pregnant Kit Snicket. and uses the helmet as his false baby. When Ishmael shoots him in the stomach with the harpoon gun, the fungus is once again released. The entire island's population, besides Ishmael, is infected with the Medusoid Mycelia, but by the time the Baudelaires returned with the curative apples hybridized with horseradish, everyone had boarded the outrigger canoe and refused to listen to the children telling them to take the cure. The Baudelaires were cured by eating a horseradish-apple hybrid, but the poison fungus claimed the life of the pregnant Kit Snicket who couldn't eat the fruit due to its harmful effect on unborn children. It is not known if the other islanders survived, as Ishmael refused to allow the curative apples onto the departing outrigger (though it is clear that Ishmael himself had recently eaten an apple to cure himself). It is suggested in the book that Ink the Incredibly Deadly Viper may have succeeded in getting one curing apple to the departing islanders without Ishmael noticing, to tide them over until they can cure themselves properly
As can be deduced from the passage above, the Medusoid Mycelium is a mushroom that resides in the Gorgonian Grotto and has a unique habit of shrinking and disappearing underground, then sprouting silently and very quickly back up to full size again. The mushroom has an umbrella-shaped pileus, and both the pileus and the stipe are dark gray, randomly speckled with black spots. It grows thickly in the throat, constricting the air-passage and choking the victim. Until the events at the end of The Grim Grotto, it had been safely quarantined in the Gorgonian Grotto, but a sample was taken and kept by Count Olaf as a biological weapon which, could spread the deadly fungus far and wide if opened. It is stated by Violet that the fungus can actually be the source of some marvelous remedies.
The emerald lumber (sometimes referred to as green lumber) is lumber cut from an unknown source (possibly the trees of Finite Forest) and processed by Lucky Smells Lumbermill. The lumber was used by the V.F.D. headquarters where Lemony Snicket, Bertrand Baudelaire, and Beatrice were trained. Snicket says that though V.F.D. used the lumber because of its pleasing appearance, it proved particularly susceptible to fire.
A (fictional) excerpt from The History of Lucky Smells Lumbermill reads:
Our special "emerald lumber" was used for years by a variety of organizations for the construction of their green headquarters and for a few green homes, including the mansions constructed by the Snicket, Quagmire, and Baudelaire families.
The concept of these "green mansions" is an allusion to William Henry Hudson's novel Green Mansions, which parallels A Series of Unfortunate Events in the death by arson of the antagonist's love interest and the existence of a hidden chamber. Hudson's novel also appears in The Unauthorized Autobiography, in the form of a dangerous book which should not be read to children.
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The tree serves as a roost for the carrier crows after nightfall, and is perhaps for this reason leafless. It is a reference to Edgar Allan Poe's poem, "The Raven", which involves a raven whose vocabulary consists only of the word, "Nevermore."
The tan fungus (as it is referred to by the Baudelaires, Quagmires, and Lemony Snicket for lack of a better name) is a dripping, light tan fungus which grows on the ceiling of the Orphans Shack at Prufrock Preparatory School. The Baudelaires (and before them the Quagmires) are forced to endure the annoyance until Duncan Quagmire finds a book in the Prufrock library that inspires the children to cover the fungus in salt. After some time of this treatment, the fungus dries up into a "hard beige crust".
- p.161 The Grim Grotto
- p.246 The Grim Grotto - Lousy Lane, according to Klaus, smelt like "Horseradish"
- pp. 102 – 105, The Grim Grotto
- p. 244, The Grim Grotto
- p.180 The Grim Grotto
- p.254-255 The Grim Grotto
- p.295-296 The Grim Grotto
- p.215 The Penultimate Peril
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- p.290-291 The End
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- p.314 The End
- p.301 The End
- p.297-298The End
- p.298- 300 The End However, what actually happened to the Incredibly Deadly Viper is unknown to the author
- p.293 The Grim Grotto
- LS to BB #5, The Beatrice Letters
- p. 28, The Unauthorized Autobiography
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