Some of the most exotic plants and animals of the Twilight isles grow in high-magic locations – places where the power of one of the Eight Thunders – Fire, Earth, Air, Water, Life, Death, Spirit, and Magic – is readily available in the environment.
Plants and animals use their environments. It’s one of the things they’re noted for.
Earth-related plants are most notable for their durability, ability to cling to barren rocks and sheer cliffs, and for their ability to survive in unlikely environments. Larger specimens common incorporate crystals and metals into their structure, offering them some protection against fire and other energies and quite a lot of resistance to being eaten. A number of relatively common strains simply provide beautiful – and extremely durable – cuts of variously colorful, crystal-studded, or metal-veined wood. Others offer semi-crystalline flowers or decorative (if quite inedible) fruits and seeds. Especially notable individual species include:
Eral trees resemble normal oaks, but their acorns become heavier and heavier the longer they’re carried until they hit a maximum effective weight of around a hundred pounds after a few hours of separation from the parent tree. While the excess weight fades in a few days, it’s usually quite enough to send the acorns rolling downhill, to discourage nut-gatherers, and to bury the seeds deeply in the earth.
Kalos Weed grows wildly, and seeds itself prolifically, by using the fertility-aspect of earth magic – but it drains the fertility of anything around it, gradually weeding out the competition. Kalos is used to make a contraceptive tea (which can induce long-term, but never permanent, sterility) and as a stuffing for beds both in brothels and trysting-rooms (where it helps to prevent unwanted pregnancies) and in hospitals, where it can help a great deal in treating infections and bacterial diseases.
Keff trees grow in a tangled mass of trunks and branches, somewhat resembling the baobab. They’re notable for their cocoanut-sized nuts, which are – while edible, nourishing, and extremely nutrient-rich – are also coated in a thin layer of crystal supported by earth magic to give them a hardness and energy resistance of 18. They’re quite capable of drifting, or laying about, for several centuries only to sprout when conditions are right.
Shen reeds draw earth magic into themselves, becoming stronger and tougher at the expense of the rocks on which they grow – which tend to crumble into sandy soil, into which the roots of the shen reeds burrow. Refined preparations of shen reed sap and paste are sometimes used in etching, burglary, and metal-cutting, but the reeds themselves are far better known. Harvested young, before they have time to stiffen too much, they can be woven into ordinary basketwork – which will become harder and tougher as it’s exposed to more earth magic. While such works harden for more slowly than the living plant, with long-term exposure to earth magic (or a major magical storm involving earth-energies), they develop a crystalline patina and become remarkably strong and tough. They are, in fact, often used in the manufacture of lightweight armor.
Vental bushes colonize the sheerest and most barren rock faces, since their sap – concentrated in the roots – allows those roots to easily phase into and burrow through stone, metal, and other earth-derived substances. A careful alchemical preparation of the sap (which must be kept in wax or otherwise organic containers) can give that same property to living creatures or wooden weapons, at least temporarily.
Yalkira vines – or “Holdfast Vines” – use their earth magic to cling to sheer surfaces and to climb other plants. While not as tough as most earth-magic plants, they can take advantage of any brief, wind-blown, contact with another available surface to cling and grow. While it’s unusual for them to entrap an alert animal, it’s been known to happen when a creature stumbles into a tangle of vines and cannot escape; few creatures can afford to lose THAT much skin… Yalkira fibers still cling to each other strongly – albeit not that strongly to other surfaces – when harvested and woven into cloth. Yalkira tabs and fasteners are quite useful, but can be costly depending on the availability of methods of suppressing the clinging effect while the fibers are processed and woven.
There are, of course, many other (and rarer) species – but those should do for a start.
It should be noted that earth magic is fairly normal for plants. Some of the ones associated with the other seven Thundres are a lot odder…
- Random d20 Chart of Magical Plants for 4e from Back Screen Pass – A DM’s Secrets (backscreenpass.blogspot.com)