The Herbalist's Almanac
Flora of Lithrydel
A beautiful and weighty flower in the Gamorg swamps. It seems to bloom 'backwards' when it's tawny and caramel colored petals hang towards the ground to reveal a lazy white stigma hunching over despite it's best efforts to reach for sunnier skies.
This flower has a unique and earthy scent and it provides an intoxicating effect when consumed in high amounts, similar to the fruit of the region, which causes it to be a valuable export for black market poachers in the region.
It's name was given by trespassers due to its posture, seclusion, and seemingly needless existence in the ecosystem which has been compared unfavorably to the ogre natives of Gamorg.
The Dream Orchid
Region: Eternal Forest
Drom Orchideae, or dream orchid in the Common tongue, is a species of orchid native to northern Lithrydel. It was initially discovered in a remote region of the Eternal Forest by Dr. Algernon na Trough around 2013. A Mrs. Middley Wright of Vailkrin claimed to have found a bloom in the Dark Forest in 2016, but further investigation proved this to be an intentional introduction to the Dark Lands for the purpose of celebrity among the herbology community.
Based on its exclusive distribution in the Eternal Forest, dream orchids prefer a mild or temperate climate, while able to withstand the colder winters of the north by going into hibernation. As lithophytes, they are located growing from cracks in stones and river rocks, shrouded by the long shadows of trees and rocks. The land immediately surrounding the plant's chosen stone always has a noticeable ring of mushrooms, or as locals suggested it be called a faerie ring. However, whether such rings can summon fairies is a subject for another day.
Sprouting from crevices in the river rocks in clustered rhizomes, the flowers grow from a pseudobulb onto a sturdy central scape reaching 8–10" long with a gentle arch. The lanceolate leaves are waxy and dark green, reaching 3–4" at three per plant. Attached to the scape are pod-like flowers in groups of 6–10, each reaching about 4" in diameter when the petals are open. Each flower features three black-fringed sepals with two deep cerulean petals. The throat and lips are deep black, speckled with cerulean markings in a design reminiscent of the night sky. When observed in full bloom, the anther is also black with glittering gold flecks of pollen throughout, creating a nebula effect.
The scent is mild most of the time, but when blooming, it gives off a strong saccharine aroma that leaves one thinking of home and freshly-baked cookies. However, previous testing has also confirmed the plants appear to be bitter and mildly toxic. As such, ingestion without proper medical guidance is discouraged.
Cultivation and Use
Perhaps more impressive than private mushroom portals is the orchid's irregular blooming schedule: it is neither solar- nor lunar-blooming. Instead, I have thus far witnessed that the flowers open exclusively when placed near someone sleeping, which explains the colloquial nomenclature provided by locals previously interviewed.
Despite this phenomenon and in a curious contrast to its name, those who slept near the blooming orchid could not recall the details of any of their dreams during the testing period. Further investigation will need to be conducted to determine if there are any long-term effects of sleeping near one of these orchids.
This mysterious flora is rare and highly sought after, not only for its beautiful teal petals, but for its healing properties. Only blooming fully during the full moons, it can be a finicky plant to harvest. Luckily, their bioluminescent seeds at its core and the lining of the leaves decorate the stems which makes it slightly easier to find. Botanical enthusiasts theorize that the plant harvests power from the moon and that is where the rejuvenation aspects of the flower stem from when properly incorporated into a salve or potion. Most who experience any restorative that uses this plant in the ingredients experience a soothing coolness that eases their pain, as if bathing in the moonlight of a cool summer night.
On the other hand, romance enthusiasts revere the Lunar Lanium as one of the highest gestures a lover could acquire, but not just because of the unique color of this flower’s petals. Foraging to find such a rare flower and having the patience to wait for the full moon in order to pluck it at just the right time so that when it is finally gifted, the lumancese is still glowing. This is typically a symbol that even in the darkest of times, their love will continuously glow and show them the way through whatever life may throw at them.
One of the very few known carnivorous plants that call the continent of Rynvale home, “rozota” as it is written in Common translates to the “crypt keeper” in the High Elves’ native language. There is a parable that is surprisingly told amongst both Gamorgian children and Rynvalian children regarding the rozota, despite how different the two cultures and races are.
The parable tells of a grumpy old dragon that believes he knows everything there is to know. Over three days, he is met by three different travelers, who offer to teach him something new and offer their friendship. In particular, they are concerned about the plant that lines the walls of the caves he calls home. The grumpy old dragon, believing there is nothing more to learn, and that there is no use in friendships, sends them all away. On the third night, the cave he calls home comes alive, but he finds he is too sleepy to move, and so the flowers begins to swallow him whole. The grumpy old dragon cries out for help, not knowing what is happening to him, but alas, he has sent away those who tried to teach him and offer him companionship, and the grumpy old dragon is eaten by the crypt keeping flower.
The rozota is a member of the dracinae family, bearing many similarities in appearance to the sansevieria, or serpent plant. The stiff leaves that grow from this plant grow in a rosette pattern in dry, well-shaded areas. As the feral dragons that roam the area use the same areas to rest, the rozota has adapted to have sturdier roots that allow it to grow downwards from the ceilings of these arid caves. It is speculated that the plant has developed this quirk over time to prevent being trampled by the weight of dragons.
Each of the snake-like leaves of the plant bisect down the middle, opening to reveal thousands of hair-like filaments. Each strand has a gland at the end that secretes a sticky nectar. Feral or maddened dragons return to areas where this plant grows just to drink the nectar of these plants, leading to speculation that this substance can be addictive under the right circumstances.
The process the rozota uses to ensure its continued survival is codependent on the dragons that it shares territory with. As dragons return to enclosures with the rozota plant for their spells of hibernation, the rozota’s sticky leaves open and engulf the dragon’s body completely. Over the course of these decades or centuries long hibernations, the hair-thin filaments will make their way under the unconscious dragon’s scales to latch onto the skin beneath and draw out nutrients. While this process would never be enough to kill a dragon, it does prolong the hibernation spells of these dragons compared to those of the same brood that hibernate in non-rozota enclosures.
It is unknown how the rozota maintains or stores its nutrients when it is not actively feasting on a dragon, as the root structure of the rozota crumbles almost instantaneously when removed from the soil of the Dragonlands, and will not grow under any artificial attempts at recreation, even if soil from the Dragonlands is sampled for use.
As dragons are primarily magical creatures, the rozota also draws in mana that it does not have use for in this manner. During a feasting period, the rozota plant will bloom with flowers approximately once per year, with petals swollen with excess mana that will otherwise be reabsorbed into the plant for another growth cycle if not harvested within the day.
Those who are forced to travel through the dragonlands, or were otherwise exiled from the three main cities, observed other dragons not under the rozota influence gathering around infested enclosures to eat these flowers when they bloomed. This is how the magical properties of the rozota flower were discovered. Harvesting the petals of these flowers requires a pilgrimage that can take years at a time to find an enclosure that other dragons have not taken notice of. On the day of the bloom, the petals of which each flower bears approximately ten of are plucked from the flowers and are left to dry out any remaining moisture in the sun to prevent rot from setting in during transport. Those that call the deserted area of north Rynvale their home have perfected the art of predicting rozota growth cycles, and have made this one of their most highly requested items sold at their bazaar.
Known commonly as Sirensnare. Peccatum angeli : The Sin of the Angel
Once exceptionally rare and thought extinct.
Origin is rumored to be the mist-shrouded western border of Fog Forest near the Mist Pools.
Appearance & Nature: Petals are predominantly purple with a dark gradient center that pales to pink or white tips. At times they develop hairline slits and will ‘sing’ or whistle in a breeze, but ironically prefer damp, dark and enclosed environments. Bioluminescent speckles and a feathered stamen sometimes glow in the pitch dark of night when they bloom, but the overgrowth, mud and thick fog help conceal this obscure flower.
Saw-toothed leaves and vivid pigment give a hint to its poisonous nature.
Usage & Side Effects: Tiny nettles on leaves and thorny creeper vines can often cause irritation, rash or blisters on unprotected skin. A skilled botanist/apothecary can steep the petals into an anesthetic tea, which numbs pain and dulls the mind. Excessive amounts can turn euphoria to madness, leading to hallucination or ‘visions’, some of which can have lasting effects or drastic results.
Read the Fine Print: Seeds are highly toxic and consumption can result in nausea, vomiting, confusion, loss of hair or scales, headaches, speaking in tongues, swelling of the face and appendages, shortness of breath, cramps, internal bleeding, erroneous rants, paralysis and death.
Some know the grisly tale of a bone shaman who lured a witch of the sea to the cursed woodland and killed her for her power. The tangling vines of this plant sprouted from the soil to blossom, lulled the apothecary’s mind into a stupor, and consumed his body to the tools of his craft.
Region: Rynvale, specifically the Fog Forest.
Description: One hears this bloom more often than not before they see it, and it is a blossom so rarely seen even to those that brave trekking the Fog Forest. More often than not, it is crushed under foot. Hidden within the mist in small clusters among tree roots, the coveted Songbell grows. Their thin, dark green stems try in vain to reach the sun through the dense fog and equally dense canopy overhead. Along each stem, a dozen of these precious flowers hang in pairs. Each flower is comprised of eight delicate tepals (not petals, though a quartet of rich purple petals are hidden within the tepals) that are colored a pale blue, almost white. With such little light from the sun, each flower is roughly the size of a pea or smaller. In order to protect themselves from discovery, the flower's fragrance is virtually non-existent, but those with particularly keen senses of smell and perfumers that try to capture the essence of the flower's scent claim that while faint, a Songbell's fragrance is soft and oddly woody.
The arrangement of the tepals and petals, especially with each flower pointing down toward the forest floor, provides half of the Songbell's namesake, and can cause the flower to be easily mistaken for a lily-of-the-valley. The first half of the name is a result of the flower's peculiar ability to produce a distant sound akin to the ring of bells when gently shaken by wind. Oddly, each bell on a single stem produces a different note, which makes discovering a Songbell intact not only a good omen according to various legends of the Fog Forest if one is lost, but also a prized and valuable flower if plucked and taken out of the forest. Shaman in Gamorg hold these flowers at an incredibly high value, even ones that are of a lower quality, as they often dry the blooms out and use the individual flowers (referred to often as 'bells') for scrying. Surprisingly, Songbells don't seem to favor growing closer to a reliable source of water like the Mist Covered Pool in the western portion of the forest, and have a preference for growing primarily around tree roots. There is speculation that the flowers and the trees possess some sort of symbiotic relationship, and may be best protected at the feet of the trees due to the mist and dryads that may dwell in the forest as well.
On the rocky cliffs of the uninhabited islets off the coasts of Rynvale and Cenril, where the jagged outcroppings flirt with the waves of the ocean and nest alcoves of greenery, there are tales of flowers that were once gifted to a goddess. In the tales of old, the god of the sun, having fallen in love with the goddess of the pale green moon, once heard her lament that one could not see the flowers of Hollow in the dark of the night. Only when Selene’s domain of Valaane was at its fullest could she make out their delicate shapes and soft colors, but she wanted to see them more.
Arkhen’s heart ached for the goddess, whose desires were so pure that they blinded his own. Taking a pinch of the sun within his fingertips, he dropped it onto the place she loved to gaze upon most, where the ground met the sea. Golden flowers radiating an illuminating light blossomed from that place, waving up at the sky as if silently blowing Selene a kiss.
Appropriately named the Sunlight Kiss, Arkiss, or the Beacon Flower, these unique flowers appear as something similar to peonies, with three to seven cupped outer petals in a silvery white during the daylight. At the center, a tight bud of golden petals can be seen where the stamens should be. The flowers of this temperate perennial turn to face the sun as if absorbing the light. Once the sun sets, the inner blossoms open, revealing bioluminescent golden petals and pollen that serves as a beacon for those creatures that have lost their sense of direction in the darkness of night.
Some folk tales also tell of the magical properties of this flower, as it resonates with those attuned to the earth to bolster druidic abilities when ingested. Because of it's mythologized origin, it is a popular flower for engagement gatherings, anniversaries, and weddings. Despite the high demand, the Sunlight Kisses' are rare due to their particular affinity for the hard to reach outcroppings that make them unable to grow anywhere else, even with magical intervention. Due to this, they are considered a high luxury good in Rynvale and Cenril society.
Dentura inntoxica, most popularly known as the Vailkrinese Moonflower, is a species of flowering plant in the family Solanaceae, less commonly known as the Deadly Thorn-Apple and Black Moon-Lace by Dark Forest locals due to its dark coloration and tiny, spiny fruit it produces. Vailkrinese Moonflower, when left to its own devices, will typically grow into a shrubbery, reaching a meter and a half in height, though particularly ancient Moonflower plants can grow to be the size of trees. Very rarely, Vailkrinese Moonflowers will grow into long, spiny vines that do not produce fruit but maintain numerous blooms that do not follow seasonal patterns, only shriveling away once the vine cannot sustain them anymore. All parts of this plant emit a foul odor similar to rancid meat when crushed or bruised, although most people find the fragrance of the flowers to be quite pleasant when they bloom. As its name suggests, the Vailkrinese Moonflower only blooms at night and any exposure to the sun will quickly kill the plant, making it a valuable export only found naturally growing in the Dark Lands.
The flowers range in color from dark blue and violet to deep purple and black, are trumpet-shaped, and grow to be about 4 to 8 inches long. The stems and leaves of the Vailkrinese Moonflower are covered with short, prickly, grayish hairs, giving the rest of the plant a pale, ashen appearance. Typically flowering from early summer until late fall, the fruit that grows on the plant appears as a spiny, egg-shaped capsule, about five centimeters in diameter, which can become entangled in the fur of animals that pass by it, carrying the fruit far from the mother plant. The seeds in the center of this small fruit are long-lived, having the ability to lie dormant in the soil for many years and are often harvested for their strongly deliriant properties. Indeed, all parts of Vailkrinese Moonflower plants are toxic, containing dangerous levels of tropane alkaloids that may be fatal if ingested, very similar to those of mandrake, deadly nightshade, and henbane, which are also highly poisonous plants used for effective pain relief.
Despite the rancid smell produced when tampering with Vailkrinese Moonflowers, the nectar found inside of the trumpet-shaped flowers when they first bloom is quite sweet smelling and tasting, concealing the highly toxic nature of the substance. This nectar is reportedly so delicious that it is used to make a poison called "Lover's Last Kiss" a sweet, delicate drink that kills within minutes, a favorite of lovers who wish to die together to spare themselves from separation. Legend has it that princesses and merchant daughters alike have used this poison to escape arranged marriages, a last, desperate act of defiance against their fate. It is for this reason that the Vailkrinese Moonflower remains a contentious flower; a dark damsel with a sordid past, feared because of her toxicity and coveted because of her beauty, but always willing to give you one final kiss goodbye.
The Weeping Sorrowbloom
The Weeping Sorrowbloom looks almost as if it’s a hybrid of a bleeding heart and a bluebell, with its vaguely heart-shaped form making up the top of the flower itself, while the bottom fans out into a ruffled bell shape. It is a very dark midnight blue, almost dark enough to be confused for black. A total of six black stamen just barely peek from within the Sorrowbloom, dripping from them a strange inedible saltwater-tasting nectar that destroys the ground where its drops fall. Unlike their bluebell brethren, there is only one flower per stem, the latter of which nearly looks like it will break under the weight of the flower, though the flower itself is not nearly that heavy, as if the stem is heavy with the weight of bearing a great burden.
The flower is a curious one, as it is not one that has ever been planted by anyone, as far as master botanists are aware. Instead, it springs forth from the ground on its own, near areas where grieving of any sort is said to be taking place. The amount of flowers that spring to life depends on the severity of the grief. As the period of mourning starts to fade, so too does the Sorrowbloom, leaving only small patches of blighted earth in its wake from its nectar. Somehow, it can survive the harsh climates of both the Nameless Desert and Frostmaw, while likewise flourishing in tropical weather like that on Rynvale Island or in Gualon’s swamps--there does not seem to be any environment that it cannot grow in.
Many citizens of Lithrydel have taken to superstitious tendencies with the Sorrowbloom. Some tend to shun those in mourning, for fear that the grief being experienced would somehow spread to themselves, like a plague. Others have taken it as a sign from the gods that those in mourning need aid, whether it be in the form of home-cooked meals, spending time with the afflicted ones, or even just passing on money in hopes that it will help them. There are others still, who don’t believe in such nonsense--those that would study it and those that would profit from it. In either case, when a Sorrowbloom has been plucked from the ground, another eventually springs forth to take its place and will continue to do so until such time as the grief has waned.
Fauna of Lithrydel
Songbird's Requiem isn't technically a flower at all, despite appearances. It is, in fact, the remains of a colony of parasitic organisms that live on various woody plants.
The parasite begins its lifecycle as an egg, planted into a wound of a tree or bush. When it hatches, it devours its own eggshell, then begins to feed upon the wood and sap of the tree, using the material to form a test around itself for protection. This test is incredibly adhesive, often ensnaring small insects that find themselves glued to it. These insects then become host to the parasite's second stage of life, as the organism buds into polyps which consume the insects from the inside out and construct their own adhesive tests. This process repeats indefinitely, resulting in a surprisingly beautiful multicolored fractal pattern of red-and-white-and-yellow "petals" that spiral out from the central hatching site, forming a "flower" that smells strongly of sugar and tree sap. During this stage of life, while its colors are vibrant, the entire thing can be harvested, boiled and mashed into a paste with the ability to permanently bind two objects together once it dries and sets, with a structural stability similar to concrete.
The older the colony gets, the heavier it gets and the more fragile and delicate the older tests become. A colony that grows too large falls off of the tree, loses access to its source of tree sap, fails to produce adhesive, and eventually dies. A colony found on the ground before its color has entirely faded to bone-white has no adhesive properties but can instead be ground into a fine powder which, if applied to an open wound or a mucus membrane, causes extreme pain and discomfort, sometimes for weeks, and can occasionally result in new "flowers" forming out of the wound of the afflicted.
If a small bird, such as a woodpecker or robin, finds itself caught in a colony before it has grown too large to detach from the tree, the colony will wait until the bird has fully exhausted itself and can no longer struggle, then implants a third, worm-like stage of life in the bird's beak. This form lays many eggs along the bird's tongue. The colony creates an enzyme that negates the bond created by its adhesive and disintegrates into a shower of "petals" (which can be harvested, boiled, and mashed into a paste that effectively negates the adhesive paste harvested from an active colony), which frees the bird from its grip. The bird is then free to flit from tree to tree, encouraged by the parasite in its beak to drill for insects in the wood of trees and inadvertently deposit an egg into the wound it creates in the wood. Birds with weaker skulls that aren't built for woodpecking can often find themselves concussed to death by their own hammering. As such, Songbird's Requiem flowers can be found on nearly any woody plant, and often with a dead songbird nearby. A beautiful memorial for a small creature that produces lovely song? Yes. The entire reason that bird headbutted itself to death in the first place? Also yes.