Tolkien's writings frequently contain detailed and sympathetic descriptions of plants (fictional or otherwise) and their habitats.
- 1 Fictional species
- 1.1 Fictional tree-species found in Middle-earth
- 1.2 Fictional tree-species found only in Aman and Númenor
- 1.3 Other fictional plant-species
- 2 Individual plants
- 3 Biodiversity
- 3.1 Trees
- 3.2 Food, medicine and textile plants
- 3.3 Flowers
- 3.4 Grasses and grass-like plants
- 3.5 Other flowering plants
- 3.6 Other non-flowering plants
- 3.7 Plant-like lifeforms
- 4 See also
- 5 References
- 6 External links
Fictional tree-species found in Middle-earth
A tree that grew at the Field of Cormallen in North Ithilien of Gondor. The name translates from Quenya as 'golden-red tree', referring to the colour of the tree's foliage. Culumalda was not mentioned by J. R. R. Tolkien himself in published writings, it only appears in Christopher Tolkien's Appendix to the published Silmarillion.
A species of tree that grew in Gondor. The casket in which the Crown of Gondor was kept after the death of Eärnur and before the coming of Elessar was made of lebethron, as well as the walking-staves presented by Faramir to Frodo and Sam in Ithilien.
A huge Elven tree that grew in Tol Eressëa, Númenor and in Lothlórien. Mallorn (pl. mellyrn) is the Sindarin name of the plant, its Quenya equivalent being malinornë; both mean 'golden tree' and refer to the leaves' colour in autumn and winter. The tree is most fully described in Unfinished Tales:
|“||Its bark was silver and smooth, and its boughs somewhat upswept after the manner of the beech; but it never grew save with a single trunk. Its leaves, like those of the beech but greater, were pale green above and beneath were silver, glistering in the sun; in the autumn they did not fall, but turned to pale gold. In the spring it bore golden blossom in clusters like a cherry, which bloomed on during the summer; and as soon as the flowers opened the leaves fell, so that through spring and summer a grove of malinorni was carpeted and roofed with gold, but its pillars were of grey silver. Its fruit was a nut with a silver shale.||”|
According to the same text, mellyrn originally grew upon the isle of Tol Eressëa (and likely in Valinor also), where they were accounted to be exceptionally tall. Early in the Second Age seeds were brought by the Elves to Númenor; there the trees grew only in the westward province Nísimaldar, "reaching after five centuries a height scarce less than in Eressëa itself". Later King Tar-Aldarion presented some seeds to Gil-galad, Lord of Lindon, the westernmost realm in Middle-earth; but these did not take root in his kingdom, so Gil-galad gave them instead to Galadriel. "Under her power" the mellyrn had sprouted in the land of Lothlórien, but "they did not reach the height or girth of the groves of Númenor."
Tolkien stated that the original name of Lothlórien, Lórinand or the "Valley of Gold", was chosen by Galadriel with a reference to the mallorn trees; The Lord of the Rings adds that the trees became the most famous property of the realm among other peoples of Middle-earth, and the land was often known as the "Golden Wood". The Elves of Lothlórien after some time began to build their houses high upon these trees, constructing around the trunk a " ", supported by the branches. Their main city Caras Galadhon was entirely built upon the mellyrn. They were also accustomed to wrap lembas in mallorn-leaves.
The only mallorn in Middle-earth outside Lothlórien was the Party Tree in the Shire which replaced the previous one cut down during Saruman's occupation of the Shire. It sprouted out of the seed that Galadriel presented to Samwise Gamgee. Tolkien seems to imply that it did sprout only because of Galadriel's "magic" soil that Sam had added at that spot.
In his drafts for Of Tuor and the Fall of Gondolin, Tolkien proposed that mallorn-trees grew in the city of Gondolin in the First Age; however, Christopher Tolkien noted that later writings "do not suggest, though they do not deny, that mellyrn flourished in Gondolin in the Elder Days."
Mallorn is the name of the journal of the Tolkien Society.
Fictional tree-species found only in Aman and Númenor
An evergreen and fragrant tree that grew in the province of Nísimaldar in Númenor, where it was brought from Tol Eressëa by the Elves. The name can be translated from Quenya as 'summer white-blossom'.
A tree with "long-hanging clusters of yellow flowers" that grew in the province of Hyarrostar in Númenor, where it was brought from Tol Eressëa by the Elves. The name is derived from Quenya laurë 'golden'.
A tree with long green leaves, golden on the undersides that bears pale flowers, with a yellow flush, which "laid thickly on the branches like a sunlit snow". The tree was brought to Númenor by Eldar from Tol Eressëa. It is said by mariners that the scent could "be felt on the air long ere the land of Eressëa could be seen, and that it brought a desire of rest and great content." This tree is not mentioned among the trees brought by the Eldar from Tol Eressëa in "A Description of Númenor" in "The Unfinished Tales".
A tree that grew in Númenor, where it was brought from Tol Eressëa by the Elves. It had "ever-green, glossy and fragrant" leaves and throve upon sea-air; its bough was believed not to wither "so long as it was washed with the [sea]-spray", which is the source of its name ('ever-summer' in Quenya). The Elves of Eressëa used to set a branch of oiolairë upon their ships "in token of friendship with Ossë and Uinen", and they passed this tradition to the Númenóreans. When a ship of the latter departed into a long journey to Middle-earth, a woman of captain's kin was accustomed to "set upon the vessel's prow the Green Bough of Return" cut from an oiolairë tree.
This bough forms an important plot detail of the story Aldarion and Erendis. According to the narrative, King Tar-Meneldur at one point refused to bless his son Aldarion's sailing to Middle-earth and forbade his kin to set oiolairë upon the ship; and Erendis won Aldarion's love by doing this instead. She set it several times later, though her love for Aldarion gradually lessened; but after a bough became frozen during one journey, Erendis disapproved completely of Aldarion's journeys. Another woman used to bless his ships for some time, until Aldarion forsook the tradition and instead placed upon the prow an image of an eagle presented to him by Círdan; by that time he had finally breached with Erendis.
An evergreen and fragrant tree that grew in the province of Nísimaldar in Númenor, where it was brought from Tol Eressëa by the Elves. The plant's designation is derived from the name of Varda, one of the Valier, and Quenya rianna 'crown-gift'.
An evergreen and fragrant tree with globed and scarlet fruits that grew in the province of Nísimaldar in Númenor, where it was brought from Tol Eressëa by the Elves. The name can be translated from Quenya as 'jewel of Yavanna'.
Other fictional plant-species
A kind of shrub that grew around the hill of Amon Rûdh in Beleriand, described in the Narn i Hîn Húrin as "long-legged", sweet-smelling and creating gloomy "aisles" beneath the roof of branches. Christopher Tolkien stated that aeglos was "like furze (gorse), but larger, and with white flowers"; he also compared it with the yellow-flowered gorse bushes said in The Lord of the Rings to have grown in Ithilien. The name, shared by the spear of Gil-galad, means 'snow-thorn' in Sindarin.
The name alfirin, apparently meaning 'immortal' in Sindarin, was used by Tolkien twice. In The Lord of the Rings, Legolas sang about "the golden bells ... of mallos and alfirin" that grew in the land of Lebennin in Gondor; while in the story of Cirion and Eorl it is stated that "the white flowers of alfirin" bloomed upon the mound of Elendil on Amon Anwar. Christopher Tolkien surmised that in the second case the flower should be equated with the simbelmynë, which was also white-coloured and never-fading, and that in Legolas's song the reference is to a different plant.
According to The Lord of the Rings, athelas was first brought to Middle-earth by Númenóreans, but by the end of the Third Age the knowledge of its healing properties had been forgotten by all except the Rangers of the North. In the folklore of Gondor, it was supposed to be especially powerful in the hands of the King. Aragorn used athelas three times in the narrative: first, to treat the wound inflicted on Frodo by the Witch-king with a Morgul-blade, second to tend the wounds of Sam and Frodo after the Fellowship's escape from Moria, and third to heal Éowyn, Faramir, and Merry of the effects of the Black Breath after the Battle of the Pelennor Fields. The last, in light of the folklore of Gondor, generated rumours that a King had returned to Gondor.
In the Lay of Leithian the hound Huan finds athelas to heal Beren in Beleriand in the First Age. Perhaps Tolkien forgot his statement in The Lord of the Rings that athelas was brought to Middle-earth by the Númenóreans, or perhaps the herb previously grew only in Beleriand and was reintroduced to Middle-earth by the Númenóreans in the Second Age after the sinking of Beleriand.
A small star-shaped yellow flower, whose name means 'sun-star' in Sindarin. It grew abundantly on the Cerin Amroth mound in Lothlórien together with niphredil, and also in Tol Eressëa. On Frodo Baggins's suggestion, Samwise Gamgee named his daughter, Elanor the Fair, after this flower.
A sweet-smelling flower from Tol Eressëa, "whose fragrance brings heart's ease." Some of these were brought by the Elves to Númenor for the adornment of a feast following Aldarion and Erendis's wedding. The first part of the name apparently derives from Quenya lis 'honey', being a reference to the tree's odour.
This flower appears only once in Tolkien's writings. In The Lord of the Rings Legolas sang of it thus:
Its name can be interpreted in Sindarin as 'gold-snow'.
A pale Winter flower, whose name means 'snowdrop' in Sindarin. It first bloomed in the forest of Neldoreth in Doriath at the birth of Lúthien. Together with elanor, it also grew in Lothlórien upon Cerin Amroth.
The word pipe-weed first appears in the Prologue to The Lord of the Rings in the section called "Concerning Pipe-weed". Tolkien says the Hobbits of old "imbibed or inhaled through pipes of clay or wood, the smoke of the burning leaves of an herb, which they called pipe-weed or leaf, a variety probably of Nicotiana". In the same paragraph, Tolkien as narrator refers to "the tobacco of the Southfarthing". Throughout The Lord of the Rings none of the characters ever uses the word tobacco. The word tobacco is only used in the narrative voice of the books.
For example; in The Two Towers, tobacco is used once. In the chapter "Flotsam and Jetsam" Tolkien as narrator says "He produced a small leather bag full of tobacco." Merry is then quoted saying "we found they were filled with this: as fine a pipe-weed as you could wish for, and quite unspoilt". Pipe-weed is used four times in The Two Towers.
Author T. A. Shippey speculates that Tolkien may have preferred the Old World sound of pipe-weed, because tobacco, an Arawakan name for a New World plant, would be an anachronism, and have a "foreign feel" in the world of elves and trolls.
Pipe-weed is described as an herb with sweet-scented flowers, and Merry speculates in the Prologue that it was brought to Middle-earth by the Númenóreans during the Second Age. and as suggested by its common name in Gondor: westmansweed. It was known among the Dúnedain as sweet galenas for its fragrance. As the Hobbits' custom of smoking it became more widely known, the habit spread to Dwarves and the Rangers of the North, and the plant became known as Halflings' Leaf.
The first Hobbit to cultivate pipe-weed was Tobold Hornblower. In about T.A. 2670 (S.R. 1070) he planted it in Longbottom, a region in the Southfarthing of the Shire. Despite its foreign origins, the Hobbits (possibly those in Bree) were the first to use it for smoking. (As Merry points out, not even the Wizards had thought of that.) Popular Hobbit-grown varieties include Longbottom Leaf, Old Toby, and Southern Star; its cultivation became an established industry in the Southfarthing.
The Wizard Gandalf learned to smoke pipe-weed from the Hobbits. On occasions he applied his magic powers to animate his smoke-rings and turn them into different colours. Gandalf's coloured smoke-rings were portrayed in the 1978 animated film of The Lord of the Rings; other works of its director Ralph Bakshi feature both tobacco and cannabis smoke turning different colours.
One palpable description of the weed's effects is given by Gandalf to fellow wizard Saruman upon a meeting of the White Council: "You might find that smoke blown out cleared your mind of shadows within. Anyway, it gives patience, to listen to error without anger." Although Saruman initially derided Gandalf for smoking, at some point he took up the habit himself. After the destruction of Saruman's fortress of Isengard, pipe-weed is found among its stores, but the Hobbits Merry and Pippin fail to realise the sinister implications of the discovery that Saruman has had commerce with the Shire.
A plant with deep red flowers that grew upon the summit of the hill of Amon Rûdh in Beleriand, with the result that the hill looked as if dripped with blood. The name can be translated from Sindarin as 'blood of stone'. Christopher Tolkien also stated that it resembled the real-world plant stonecrop.
In The Lord of the Rings, simbelmynë was a white flower that grew in Rohan primarily on the burial mounds of the Kings, and most thickly on the grave of Helm Hammerhand. The name, also translated from Old English as Evermind, is a reference to the plant's blossoming during the whole of the year.
Tolkien introduced flowers with similar characteristics into his later writings. In Of Tuor and the Fall of Gondolin it is stated that star-shaped white flowers of uilos, "the Evermind that knows no season and withers not", grew before the Gate of Silver in Gondolin in the First Age; and in Cirion and Eorl white alfirin bloomed upon the mound of Elendil on Amon Anwar in Gondor. Their names are also reminiscent of Evermind: uilos means 'everlasting snow' in Sindarin, and alfirin is 'immortal'. Christopher Tolkien expressedly equated them with the simbelmynë.
- See simbelmynë.
The greatest of all the trees in the Forest of Neldoreth, the beech-wood which was the northern half of Doriath. It stood not far from Menegroth (the capital of the kingdom), which was located across the river Esgalduin and accessed by a bridge. Hírilorn had three trunks, equal in girth, smooth in rind, and exceedingly tall; no branches grew from them for a great height above the ground.
Here the elven princess Lúthien was imprisoned to prevent her leaving Doriath, after she had decided to search for her beloved Beren. A wooden house from which she should not escape was built far aloft between the shafts of Hírilorn, and there Lúthien was made to dwell. She eventually escaped by putting forth her arts of enchantment and putting the guards to sleep.
Old Man Willow
A sapient willow from the Old Forest to the east of the Shire. When the company of Frodo Baggins was passing nearby, Old Man Willow cast a spell of sleep upon them, trapping them; the hobbits were saved by Tom Bombadil.
A tree that grew near the Bag End in the Shire. During the renowned party held by Bilbo Baggins in S.R. 1401, a huge tent was erected around it, where the main guests were assembled. This Party Tree was cut down on Lotho Sackville-Baggins's orders in 1419, but Master Samwise Gamgee planted in its place a seed of mallorn that had been presented to him by Galadriel. This new tree sprouted in the spring of 1420, and it soon became the wonder of the land.
Two Trees of Valinor
Two luminiferous trees that grew in the Blessed Realm of Valinor and illuminated that land. After they had been slain by Morgoth and Ungoliant, their light was only preserved in the Silmarils. The elder of the trees, called Telperion, had dark-green leaves and white cherry-like flowers; the younger Laurelin had pale-green leaves and golden blossom reminiscent of that of laburnum.
A line of unique trees similar in appearance to Telperion, except that they did not give light. The first of these was Galathilion of Tirion, from which were descended Celeborn of Tol Eressëa, Nimloth of Númenor and the White Trees of Gondor.
This section provides a list of the diverse range of real plants that are mentioned or alluded to in Tolkien's fiction. The species and types are plants familiar to Tolkien from the ecology of England and the mythologies of northern Europe. The inclusion of these plants in his legendarium reinforces the notion that Middle-earth is set in the Earth's Old World (albeit in a fictional prehistoric era), although there are a few anachronisms (e.g. potatoes).
This section generally uses traditional names and groupings rather than scientific taxonomy (biology).
Fruit and nut trees
Food, medicine and textile plants
Vegetables and salads
Herbs and spices
Exotic herbs and spices
Other harvested plants
anemone, asphodel, belladonna, buttercup, camellia, celandine, clematis, cornflower, daffodil, daisy, eglantine, forget-me-not, gladden, hemlock, hyacinth, iris, lily, lobelia, mallow, marigold, mimosa, nasturtium, nenuphar, pansy, pimpernel, poppy, primrose, rockrose, rose, saffron, snapdragon, stonecrop, sunflower, water-lily
Grasses and grass-like plants
Other flowering plants
Other non-flowering plants
- The Silmarillion, Ch. 2 "Of Aulë and Yavanna".
- The Silmarillion: Appendix, entry kul-.
- David Day: A Tolkien Bestiary, p. 54. ISBN 0-7537-0459-5.
- The Return of the King, "The Steward and the King".
- The Two Towers, "Journey to the Crossroads".
- Unfinished Tales: "A Description of Númenor".
- The Index to The Return of the King.
- The Etymologies, stems SMAL-, ÓR-NI-.
- Unfinished Tales, note 5 to "History of Galadriel and Celeborn".
- The Fellowship of the Ring, II 6 "Lothlórien".
- The Return of the King, VI 9 "The Grey Havens".
- Unfinished Tales: "Of Tuor and his Coming to Gondolin" and notes 27, 31.
- The Return of the King, Appendix D.
- The Etymologies, stem LOT(H).
- The Etymologies, stem LÁWAR-.
- The Lost Road and other Writings, "The Lost Road".
- The Etymologies, stem MEL-.
- Unfinished Tales: "Aldarion and Erendis".
- The Etymologies, stems OY-, GOLÓS-.
- The Etymologies, stem LAS1-.
- The Etymologies, stems RIG-, ANA1-.
- The Etymologies, stem MIR-.
- Unfinished Tales, "Narn i Hîn Húrin": "Of Mîm the Dwarf" and notes 14, 15.
- The Two Towers, IV 7 "Journey to the Cross-roads".
- The Etymologies, stems AYAK-, EK-, GOLÓS-.
- The Etymologies, stems LA- and PHIR-.
- The Return of the King, V 9 "The Last Debate".
- Unfinished Tales: "Cirion and Eorl", (iii) and note 38.
- The Fellowship of the Ring, I 12 "Flight to the Ford".
- The Lays of Beleriand, p. 266, line 3119, and p. 269, note on line 3119.
- The Etymologies, stems EL-, ANÁR-.
- J. R. R. Tolkien (1962) ed. Christina Scull & Wayne G. Hammond (2014), The Adventures of Tom Bombadil, HarperCollins, commentary p.214; ISBN 978-0007557271
- The Etymologies, stem LIS-.
- The Etymologies, stems SMAL-, GOLÓS-.
- The Etymologies, stem NIK-W-.
- Tolkien, J. R. R. (1954), The Fellowship of the Ring, The Lord of the Rings, Boston: Houghton Mifflin (published 1987), Prologue, (2) "Concerning Pipe-weed"., ISBN 0-395-08254-4
- Tolkien, J. R. R. (1954), The Two Towers, The Lord of the Rings, Boston: Houghton Mifflin (published 1987), "Flotsam and Jetsam", p. 167, ISBN 0-395-08254-4. Google Books search for tobacco (Random House edition, p. 183).
- The Two Towers. Google Books search for pipe-weed (Random House edition, pp. 178, 181, 183, 197).
- T. A. Shippey, The Road to Middle-earth, in the chapter "The Bourgeois Burglar", Houghton Mifflin, 2003, p. 68–69. ISBN 978-0-618-25760-7. Amazon book search for tobacco.
- "Tobacco" appears three times in The Hobbit, in Chapters 1, 2, and 5 (p. 12, 40, and 80 in the Houghton-Mifflin hardback edition), while "pipe-weed" does not occur at all (Google Books search).
- Tolkien, J. R. R. (1955), The Return of the King, The Lord of the Rings, Boston: Houghton Mifflin (published 1987), ISBN 0-395-08256-0. Chapter "The Houses of Healing". Google Books search (Random House edition, p. 149).
- Tolkien, J. R. R. (1980), Christopher Tolkien, ed., Unfinished Tales, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, "The Hunt for the Ring", p. 351, ISBN 0-395-29917-9
- J. R. R. Tolkien (1937), The Hobbit, 4th edition, George Allen & Unwin, ch. IV p.58; ISBN 0-04-823147-9
- The Silmarillion: Appendix, entries serech and gon-.
- The Two Towers, III 5 "The King of the Golden Hall".
- The Return of the King, Appendix A, II "The House of Eorl".
- The Etymologies, stems KHER-, ÓR-NI-.
- The Etymologies, stem NEL-.
- General references
- J. R. R. Tolkien (2004). The Lord of the Rings. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. The Fellowship of the Ring (1954), ISBN 0-395-08255-2. The Two Towers (1954), ISBN 0-395-08254-4. The Return of the King (1955), ISBN 0-395-08256-0.
- Tolkien, J. R. R. (1977), Christopher Tolkien, ed., The Silmarillion, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, ISBN 0-395-25730-1
- Tolkien, J. R. R. (1980), Christopher Tolkien, ed., Unfinished Tales, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, ISBN 0-395-29917-9
- The Etymologies: Tolkien, J. R. R. (1987), Christopher Tolkien, ed., The Lost Road and Other Writings, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, pp. 341–400, ISBN 0-395-45519-7