THE BELL FRUIT TREE ("MOUNTAIN APPLE TREE")

APPEARANCE - TERRITORY - USAGES - REPRODUCTION

This Bell Fruit Tree is a broadleaf fruit tree that can grow quite large, and is appreciated for its shading effect on dwellings as well as its fruit. It's not unusual to have a single large tree that shades a house and several outbuildings. During the fruit season, the tree looks like it is almost more red in colour, than its customary dark green, because the fruit can grow straight from the bark of the trunk and branches, not just the tips of the leafy areas. A healthy tree can be literally "covered" with fruit. In some areas this fruit is also known as the "Mountain Apple". The reason for this name is lost in antiquity.

Appearance. The Bell Fruit tree is a broadleaf hardwood with a dry/tart fruit. It can grow up to a height of twenty to thirty peds, and stretch out to a width of between fifteen and twenty-five peds or even wider. Leaves are about three to four nailsbreadths long and two to three nailsbreadths wide, with a shiny, dark green upper side and a light whitish-green underside that is soft like velvet. On a healthy tree, there are so many leaves that a person could remain almost completely dry underneath, in a heavy rain.

The fruit starts from a creamy white flower, and grows to a bright red coloured bell shape. The bark of this tree is very rough, and coloured a light brown, with dark brown in the cracks and crevices.

Wide spreading branches offer a well-liked resting place for a variety of birds. Birds like the fruit as a food source, and the seeds are spread widely as a result.

Wood produced by this tree is a beautiful white colour for the first four to five nailsbreadths beneath the bark, then turns quickly to a rich, deep brown for another four to five nailsbreadths, then turns the most beautiful black from there to the center of the tree. It is very dense, and slightly oily, making the wood very water-resistant. The wood itself is very hard, with a medium to fine grain that polishes easily, making it a favourite choice of experienced cabinet and chest makers. These trees are prized more for their shade and fruit, though, so only trees dead from windstorms or lightning strikes are used for lumber. It also requires a carpenter experienced in extremely hard woods to work it, as it will split and crack if not handled correctly. It is unusual to see items of less than the highest quality craftsmanship made from this wood. This makes the wood fairly high prized, affordable by only the well off.
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Territory. This fruit tree is found throughout the tropics and has been planted and grown with some success in areas around Strata, as well as the Sharadon Forest, Auturian Woods, and the Zeiphyrian Forests. In some areas of the tropics, there are large tracts of these trees forming their own sections of forest, their shade keeping other trees from growing.
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Usages. The rough outer protrusions of the lighter coloured bark can be ground into a fine powder. This powder can then be applied dry, and bandaged, to draw infection or poison out of wounds. The leaves can be chewed slightly and applied to insect bites to relieve the pain and itching, however the taste is exceedingly nasty, and they dry out the mouth quickly.

These fruits are sweet, with a very dry juice. One bite, and your mouth feels dried out. The fruit makes a great tart jam or jelly, or can be eaten fresh. They must quickly be preserved in some way, however, as they start decaying quickly (within two days) when picked or upon dropping from the tree.

Curiously, though many different types of birds love the fruit, insects do not like it at all, perhaps due to its astringent flavour.
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Reproduction. In the late spring, after the first leaves have fully developed, the tree explodes with creamy white blooms about two nailsbreadths in diameter. These blooms can even appear growing from the bark of the trunk, and branches. The flowers are pollinated in the usual way by ordinary malise. After pollination, the fruit starts growing at the base of the flower, growing out and around it. On the bottom "open" bell of the fruit, you can see the remains of the flower within the bell. The seeds are suspended on the ends of the stamen, inside the bell shape, giving the impression of a clapper to ring the bell. These bright red, bell-shaped, fruits grow profusely throughout the summer months, and the tree will usually stop producing just before the first frost. Once the first frost hits, the dark, shiny green leaves will turn brilliant reds and yellows, adding to the fall colours. In the tropics, this tree will not produce fruit during the winter months, but will stay green year-round.

The bell fruit is a favourite food source for a large variety of birds, which helps with the distribution of seeds to new areas. The birds that eat the fruit, will eat in the tree, but very rarely do birds nest there. The seeds have a very tough outside coating, which needs to be ground off in the craw of a bird, or dissolved in the digestive tract of animals in order to germinate. This prevents the sprouting of a myriad of shoots around each mature tree.

The bell fruit tree does not bear any fruit until it reaches approximately ten to fifteen years of age. This allows the tree to put all its growth energy into the tree and not the fruit. 
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 Date of last edit 28th Awakening Earth 1668 a.S.

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