THE DESERT ROSE (BROWN OR COMMON DESERT ROSE)

APPEARANCE - TERRITORY - REPRODUCTION - MYTH/LORE

Most humans consider a rose a flower symbolizing love and beauty. At first sight, this doesn’t go for the Brown Desert Rose, which lives in the harsh confines of the Ráhaz-Dáth Desert and has adapted to the necessities of the environment. It is a very distant cousin of the roses found in the gardens of Varcopas or Milkengrad and not noted for its bright colours, nor its special odour. Still, when you see the brown crowns of petals upon the rocky flanks of the Yar’Dangs or on the outskirts of the Nirmenith Mountains, you get a glimpse of the beauty of the curly leaves and slender stem that is so characteristic for the rose family.

Appearance. The Desert Rose is also known as "Brown Desert Rose" or simply as the "Common Desert Rose". It is, besides the seemingly mythical black desert rose, the only kind of rose which seems to have found a way to survive in the harsh climate of the Ráhaz-Dáth Desert and the deserts on Aeruillin. Its appearance shows the adaption to these demanding circumstances.

When not blossoming, the rose plant is barely undistinguishable from the many other small-stemmed plants populating the rocks of the desert. You can see mud-brown stems intertwining over the gray rock walls of mountains, forming intricate weavings when a few of these rose plants grow near each other. The thin but long dark green leaves growing from the stems of the plant heighten the effect. The stems may become up to two fores in length, with several stems originating from set of roots. The leaves themselves are two grains across but often more than a palmspan in length, resulting in an interesting design of green and brown threads on the rocks, by which any desert dweller will recognize the Desert Rose.

Upon closer examination, one can see that the leaves of the plant originate from several spots, ranging from two up to five small bulbs across the stem, where at the right time of the year grows a flower as well. You can see that small thorns protect the flower stems, but if you grip them carefully you can easily find places to feel the structure of the stem. It’s slightly flexible, but not as much as the leaves, which are easily toyed with by the desert wind. Shendar children will try and weave the leaves in patterns of their own design, but if not drawn too tight – and normally no parent will allow a child to do so – the leaves are so flexible that the loose knots and forms are blown apart by an above-average gust of wind. Note the sickle shape of the thorns, which give it extra possibilities in creeping over the rocks, using all the rigs, branches and stems of other plants to anchor themselves to. The principle was used when an expedition of Stratanians climbed the Norong’Sorno for the first time in 1456 b.S., using hooked ropes to keep the group together and tied ‘rock-steady’.

Following the line of the brown stem towards the roots, you will see that it originates from small amounts of earth that is found beneath and in between the rocks. Blown there by centuries of torturing winds, the roots of the rose have found a fertile patch to nest in. It’s also a perfect place to collect water, as rain water usually ends up in these rigs and holes in small amounts. However, following the correct line of the stems is harder than you may think: the Desert Rose has the habit of feeding on members of its own species as parasites. The stem of a Desert Rose can grow onto another when growing roots from the leaf bulbs instead of a flower, effectively becoming part of the other plant. When four or five plants live for a few years together, they may become inseparable, literally.

The annual plant blossoms in late springtime, producing its first flowers most of the time before the month of Rising Sun. At each bulb across the stem a small flower bulb appears in the late winter, first being of the same brown colour as the stem, afterwards turning from a light grass green (gnastheen green) into the darker sognastheen colour. At the start of the Singing Bird month, the first bulbs start to open up, and within a few days show the hazel-coloured rose petals, sometimes a little darker cinnabrown. The rose exists of two crowns of four broad spade-shaped petals, the crowns placed exactly crossing each other. Upon blossoming, the petals form a broad saucer extending to the sides, the tips curled slightly skywards. The flower will slowly close and open during the day, only fully closed at Sunreign, afterwards slowly opening till the saucer is formed again four hours later. A closed Desert Rose appears much like a fragile lantern of paperwork, as one might see them displayed in New-Santhala on holidays, especially the waterfruit version. They last for a good month, but don’t survive the demanding temperatures of the hot summer, shedding their broad leaves on the rocks to dry. Yet, usually right before they shed the petals, they bear fruit to have their seeds spread.

The rose hip of the Desert Rose is, like the plant itself, also adapted to the desert conditions. Instead of using bright colours to attract birds to eat the fruit, it has a deep purple, almost black skin. The skin is covered in hairs, the tips hooked slightly, the hairs barbed. The fruit has the shape and size of an egg of the varcosparrow, the point attached to a small twig on the bulb of the stem. It’s a favourite food of the al’syrr bird, which walks the desert sands.

The Ráhaz-Dáth is no kind and fertile playground for plants. In what manner the survival method of the Desert Rose exactly developed will likely remain unknown, but the principle is very simple and often used by animals and men alike: if you can’t survive on your own, stick together. The roses do so literally when they interpenetrate each other’s stems with roots to feed upon neighbouring roses. The idea is, that when one rose is able to acquire water or other nutritious stuff of any kind from its own location, a not-so-lucky nearby plant will borrow a bit of the other plants catch. Frigord the Weird notes in his diaries that he once saw the walls up to the Narfost Plain covered with interlinking Desert Roses for up to a dash, at the moment all in full bloom, showing as many hues of brown and orange as the sands of the desert. While this is probably slightly exaggerated, the possibilities are certainly there. The larger a cluster of Desert Roses, the more chance of survival they have..
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Territory. The rose grows on the little fertile ground kept in the cracks and crevices of low level rocky areas in deserts. Examples of this are found in Sarvonia in and around the Ráhaz-Dáth Desert, like the lower parts of the Nirmenith Mountain range but never as high as the Aj’nuvic Grounds. Especially the Yar’Dangs are filled with these flowers. The rocky sides bordering the Narfost Plain are also a good place to look for Desert Roses. Inside the desert the rose is found on the rocky plateaus bordering Firefeet’s Rest. Aeruillin is known to offer conditions for the Desert Rose to grow as well, notably the regions near the Car’cal’caey Mountains.
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Reproduction. The Desert Rose reproduces through pollination by a type of desert butterfly active during Daywane. The open structure of the petal crowns give these butterflies all the room to do their work. After the flower is fertilized, it can produce the typical Desert Rose hips. The fruit bears a lot of small seeds inside the flesh. When eaten by an al’syrr, the seeds are spread over the nearby area by the droppings of the bird, as they can’t digest the seeds. Though al’syrr are typical groundbirds, the fruit is still available to them. When ripe, a rose hip is shed from the plant, falling down the slopes of its rocky position. The hairs of the skin then stick to the fur of various creatures, most notably the quagga horses populating the desert. The al’syrr birds will clean the "zahbriny", as the Shendar refer to the local quagga horse, of the fruit and spread the seeds again, this time often a lot further from the original plant.

“The concept of Arvins' Balance was always a mystery to me. I have visited many of the libraries of Santharia, studied some books on the Aviaría and read about to the Huntlord and his stewardship of nature. It was not until a
Shendar woman showed me the hidden cooperation between rose, bird and horse, that I knew what I had to look for. Suddenly, Arvins was everywhere around me.” ("Desert Journeys", written by the Historian Gean Firefeet)
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Myth/Lore. The Desert Rose is one of the most successful plants to live in the desert conditions of the Ráhaz-Dáth. Still, occasional storms or very dry conditions may cause the flower to wither before its time, resulting in melancholy tapestry of brown withered threads hanging lifelessly from the rocks. As such, the rose is not considered an indestructible weed, killing other plants by taking their space, but it survives.

The Shendar therefore say, if something could possibly happen, but not very likely: “It will happen when roses cover the Yar’Dangs.” In other words, it would be an unlikely miracle of nature, but what a beautiful sight it would be.
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 Date of last edit 6th Sleeping Dreameress 1666 a.S.

Information provided by Gean Firefeet View Profile