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Growing interest in plant power

Harry Potter fans have been heading for Aberdeen's Winter Gardens at Duthie Park to explore the magical potions and powers of plants.

The University of Aberdeen's Natural History Centre investigated a Magical Medicines theme, inspired by the experiments of the famous young wizard in the third week of their Planet Plant summer project.

Around 3,000 children and adults have been attracted to the three-week festival, which featured a range of hands-on activities and educational entertainments.

The first week, Food Story looked at what our ancestors ate and explored the issue of food miles. One of the leading attractions was a "smoothiecycle" which used pedal power to generate a blender and create fruit drinks.

The second week looked at the health benefits of plants grown for food and, in the third week, Potter fans gathered to find out more about Magical Medicines.

"That's looking at plants and food which have medicinal properties, at the folklore and historical aspects of this, but also looking at the impact that plants have in modern medicine," says Andy Schofield, academic co- ordinator for promoting science at Aberdeen University.

"Some examples would be the willow tree and the fact that we get aspirin from willow and then the yew tree has a number of different drugs that are produced to treat cancer."

"We've been looking at the wands that have been used for the films and books themselves and then looking into the historical aspects and the folklore aspects of how wands have been used for magic through the ages.

"A typical example you have is birch, so when people were getting birched that's literally derived because of the fact it was used to banish evil spirits. And that's been kind of carried on, so when people got the birch they were getting beaten to dispel and get rid of evil spirits in their body."

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