In the legends of the Romans, there existed a race of sinister animate plants, former crops who had rebelled against the wise rule of Ceres and become the sworn enemies of all the gods. Their name translates into English as ‘The Evil Green’; in the original Latin, it is il malverdi, later modified by medieval translators to malverni.

These legends are, of course, mere myth. There never was a species of evil vegetables famed for their ability to intoxicate and bewitch, nor any plant that was known to be carnivorous. The very idea is ridiculous.

There are, however, plants whose stickiness, thorniness or prickliness makes them seem decidedly evil to the human mind, fond of anthropomorphising as it is – and all the moreso if these plants should be adapted to bend against an ever-shifting wind. Such a wind as Melbourne as infamous for, say.

A dense stand of such trees originally stood along a roughly north south alignment where Glenferrie Road now runs, from Gardiner’s Creek in the north to Dandenong Road in the south, and posed a major obstacle to anyone seeking to reach the other side. Although it was eventually put to the torch and razed, the forest inspired one of the overly-educated classicists who made up the English officer class in those days, and he named the area Malvern in acknowledgement of a vanquished yet worthy foe.

Suburbs near Malvern:

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