A magical, but mythical, plant, though it is sometimes identified as Caper Spurge (Euphorbia lathyris) (Cockayne; Grimm). Springwort has the power of opening doors and locks, even medicinal ones - "if anyone is bound by herbs, give him springwort to eat and let him sip holy water ..." (Meaney). Grimm quotes Springwurzel as an explosive root. The Italian name ferrocavallo is given because its power over metals is so great. This name implies that a horse stepping on the plant will leave its shoe behind (Swainson. 1886). It is a lightning plant, best got hold of by using a woodpecker, itself a lightning bearer, as an intermediary. One should plug the hole in the tree where the young are. The parent bird flies off to find the plant, and on its return holds it against the plug, which immediately falls out. A red cloth should already have been spread to catch the plant when the woodpecker drops it, for it is said the bird will mistake it for fire, and its object is to burn the plant before it falls into anyone's hands. Presumably the original idea was that the bird must return the plant to the element from which it was obtained (Kelly).
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