"The sopophorous bean was proving very difficult to cut up."

The Sopophorous bean is the fruit of the Sopophorous plant; it is a shrivelled pearly-white bean resembling overgrown mistletoe berries.[1] It has many magical properties and it is used as an ingredient in potion-making.


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Harry Potter crushing the sopophorous bean


A green sopophorous bean

The Sopophorous bean contains a thick silver juice that will remove the drinker's memory if drunk neat.[1] If used in potion-making, it does not seem to retain this power.

The Sopophorous bean is used as an ingredient for the Draught of Living Death.[2] The potion's current instructions, as featured in Advanced Potion-Making by Libatius Borage, say to cut the bean in order to release the juice within. However, this can prove very difficult,[2] and the bean may bounce when punctured with the blade of a knife.[3]

However, crushing the bean with the flat side of a silver knife is a more simple and effective method of obtaining the juice, as suggested by Severus Snape in his personal copy of Advanced Potion-Making.[2]


Sopophorous bean pile

A pile of sopophorous beans

The prefix "Sopo-" most likely comes from the Latin sopor meaning "deep sleep". The suffix "-phorous" is more elusive, though it could quite possibly have the same etymological roots as the "-phorus" in "phosphorus" (a chemical element) - in this case "phos-" and "-phorus" come from the Greek φως (fo̱s in the Latin script, meaning light) and φέρω (féro̱ in the Latin script, meaning bringer or carrier) respectively. Hence, "Sopophorus" would read as "bringer of deep sleep", which is appropriate given its use as an ingredient in the Draught of Living Death.

Also, it is a possible allusion to the plant historically used by the Native American shamans of the ancient Southwest, the mescal bean (Sophora Secundiflora). These beans also have a very hard shell and were split open and made into various concoctions that were then imbibed by the user in spiritual ceremonies. The sophora beans were described to put the user into a coma-like trance where the other elements of the magic ceremony could be carried out.

Behind the scenes

Sopophorous bean

A sopophorous bean as shown in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (film)


Notes and references

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