THE PARPALM TREE ("GIVING TREE", "R'HUN")

APPEARANCE - TERRITORY - USAGES - REPRODUCTION - MYTH/LORE - RECEIPTS

Symbol of the Viaquis people, this useful tropical palm with its nubbly trunk is quite distinctive. The trunk is segmented into a number of toruses so that it resembles a tall stack of plump rings or wheels, while the two-ped long leaves which sprout directly from the top of the trunk are arranged in a striking ‘spray’ or fountain. As its alternate name might suggest, the "Giving Tree" has numerous uses, from water conduits and hats to jewelry and food trenchers.

Appearance. The bark of the palm is laid down in annular deposits; each season another torus is added to the young sprout as it stretches upward, so by counting the rings and dividing by two or four (depending on the local weather) one can calculate the palm’s age in years. The bark wrapped around each torus is a neutral greyish-brown shade which gains interest from the pattern of light and shadow formed by its rough corrugations. Here and there the bark is usually mottled with stains and discolourations – water drips, sap beads, insect depredations, and so on – which lend further variety of tone.

A mature tree is usually about five to seven peds tall, with a base about two fores across. Each ring diminishes in size somewhat so that the trunk tapers – not especially gracefully, because of the bulging ringshapes, but creating a rather childishly pleasing effect.

From the top of this chubby trunk springs a vigorous cluster of gigantic waxy green leaves. Each leaf may range from a ped to two-and-a-half peds long, not counting the thick stalk or limb which supports it out from the top of the trunk, and is fringed irregularly around its perimeter.

A closer examination of the ‘fringe’ reveals it to be shaped most attractively in uneven yet smooth curves and scallops, cut perhaps a finger’s length deeply into the border of the leaf, and slightly lighter and bluish in hue than the rich green of the leaves and the darker indication of the centre stalk. The top surface is tough and waxy, with numerous small ridges running from the centre out towards the fringes. The underside of the leaf is lighter yet again, with a faint texture of stoma or "windpores". Even the heavy drenching of a tropical shower will not shred these leaves, though the edges may grow slightly more ragged!

At the very centre of the spray, in season, the inedible fruits of the Parpalm are displayed on a spear-shaped shaft. The fibrous shaft rises about the length and thickness of a human arm (from shoulder to wrist) out of the spongy central core of the tree, and the ‘head’ is covered thickly with small, hard, rust-orange globes pressed together like a bunch of grapes turned upside down.

When cut away from the bunch, a globe reveals itself to be the size of a taenish egg and the rich colour of a new copperbard, covered with a suede-soft fuzz… but its tempting exterior hides only a cheese-like pulp in a thin layer over a large ‘stone’ or nut. These faux-fruits are known as "Stonegrapes" (translated from the Nybelmarian) or "Parfruit", as they say on R’unor.

Though the fruits are useless, the glossy nuts are of spectacularly intricate design when cut through in cross-section – see Usages, below – and do not shrink or crack when completely dry.

Regional Variants of the Parpalm Tree can be described as follows:

Territory. Parpalm grows luxuriantly in more humid climates. It has yet to be located on the continent of Sarvonia, for the warmth of our Southern regions seems to be too arid for it. However, it flourishes in Nybelmar, present in almost half the continent – the southwest in particular. Many of the islands in the Barkath and Amuneth Seas to Nybelmar’s east support the Parpalm as well. It may be found in places in the R’unorian Isles, and on the south of Denilou, particularly the Ylean Swamps. It is guessed to grow sparsely in Aeruillin but that has not been confirmed. Return to the top

Usages. The Giving Tree lives up to its name with delightful ease and flexibility. Certainly only an ungrateful lout would complain of its inedible fruit, given the many usages for every other part of the plant!

The Viaquis ‘tap’ the tree as we do our maples, inserting sharp hollow spiles into the spongy trunk in spring. The sap can be drunk directly from the tree; it is juicy and faintly sweet, with a distinctive tangy, smoky flavour which is difficult to describe but almost addictively delicious. One sailor says: “It minded me most of those nuts me old innkeep mate used ter roast on the hearth and then toss wi’ foridite. But sharper, eh, mebbe with a sprinkle o’ citron or the like? “ It can be used to cook with, as one might use water, juice, cha’ah, or stock, and flavours food most delectably. See Receipts of the Viaquis, below… Perhaps most popularly, when distilled down and concentrated, the sap becomes a richly exotic drink known variously as Parbourbon, Parpalm Mead, or simply “P’arnt”.

The leaves in particular are multipurpose; both for cooking and eating food, for providing shelter from the atmosphere as shingles and siding for hut dwellings, and even as impromptu hats in a tropical deluge.

Sections can be cut from the waxy-surfaced leaf to serve as fresh plates for a meal, then wiped and set aside for the next or simply tossed away! The Barkath Islanders claim that food served on such ‘plates’ stays good for longer than one might expect in a hot climate, and even go so far as to say that they prefer them to plates carved of wood (our ceramics, glasses, and clays are unknown in that region).

Young leaves wrap food which can then be roasted or set in the coals as our fishermen might bake a barsa in clay. One might think that the leaves would merely burn away, but as long as they are fresh and still damp with their own internal moisture they protect the flesh or vegetable inside, giving them that same sweet-smoky flavour characteristic of P’arnt.

The larger leaves can be stitched or nailed together to form a water-resistant surface on which rain beads and slides away, making an efficient thatch or a simple wall for a shelter.

The trunk’s spongy core can be easily hollowed out - the cylinder which remains is useful as piping, culverts, and aquaducts. It can be cut lengthwise to form simple canoes to cross from island to island, or sliced in cross-section to produce sturdy rings of wood for various applications.

And finally, the Parfruit’s elaborate stone is often used in inexpensive jewelry and small craft projects. Cut in slim cross-sections with a fine sawblade, a delicate and intricate pierced design is revealed, of which the Amuneth islanders claim that no two are the same. Be that as may, it is a unique and lovely natural shape which can be utilized to create both jewelry and decorative effects in fine craftsmanship. We look forwards to the time when an enterprising herbalist or Earth mage makes it his project to find a suitable area within Sarvonia to grow the versatile Giving Tree!
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Reproduction. Where a Parfruit falls in suitable ground (moist, humid, warm, slightly breezy) the central nut will split open and a shoot will spring up within the next season. As this slight green shoot grows it begins to build up a bark deposit in the form of a small grey ring around its base. At first only the size of a child’s bangle, it soon becomes thicker and forms a protective ‘dam’ around the shoot.

The gap between the bark and shoot soon fills in with nutrients, building the first ring of the tree. Eventually (before the end of the season), the shoot will open into feathery young leaves about a hand long, which will ride up on the crest of the next ring.

The spike of leaves continues to grow, pushing through the centre of the topmost ring, and more rings are added each season, each swelling out like the breast of a preening coa’coa bird… and so on, until it is the height of a man and ready to fruit and begin the cycle again.

The tree will reach its average height at about six peds but can be found as tall as eight, its sturdy corrugated trunk supporting the eccentric fountain of huge leaves at its apex. Eventually the core of the tree becomes too aged to transport nutrients to the crown, and the leaves yellow and wilt, a clear signal of a tree’s imminent demise. Once they have fallen away, the trunk seems to disintegrate from the bark inwards and from the top downwards, almost as if melting. It is an eerie sight to encounter a plantation or natural grove of Parpalms from the same generation which have reached this stage, as they are only yellowing greyish stubs, horribly suggestive of human limbs afflicted with some cankerous disease. Appearance not withstanding, the tree is harmless and its decaying flesh actually supports and nourishes young sprouts which are already springing in its diminishing shadow.
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Myth/Lore. On R’unor they use the expressions “False as a Parfruit” – meaning, of course, that appearances are deceiving – and also “Pretty as a Parfruit” – never used to locals, but to outsiders ironically.

Barkath Islanders say “I’m parpalmin’ busy…” This expression is sighed in exasperation when one has too many projects on the go at one time, a nod to the usefulness of the tree.

An Island ‘false-lover’ song, probably ‘touched up’ by whatever Sarvonian bard imported it to the mainland… as the overly formal structure and care for scansion demonstrates. Compare with the second ‘false-lover’ ballad below…

Under the Parpalm’s Spreading Leaves

Under the Parpalm’s spreading leaves
My love and I did lie,
The morning sun
The midnight rain
Would merely pass us by.

The Giving Tree did shelter us
From wind and beast’s sharp eye,
Its curving roots
Our wedding bed,
We swore till we should die.

Now underneath the Parpalm’s leaves
I hide my weeping eye,
The midnight rain
It mirrors my pain,
And hides my heart-wrung cry.

Alack - the Tree was faithful, but
My love was not so true,
A morning came
My love was gone
And left me there to rue.
And left me there to rue.

And another, more loosely sung, also from the Islands:

If Only I had the Curves of a Parpalm

If only I had the curves of a Parpalm
That loose-tongued lad would never ha’ gone.
He could ha’ suckled at my leaves
Fresh dew every mornin’ ….
But he’s eatin’ her overripe fruit now.

If only I had the curves of a Parpalm
That rovin-eyed boy would never ha’ gone.
He could ha’ sheltered in my bark
For many a year’s weather…
But he’s under her leakin’ rooftree now.

If only I had the curves of a Parpalm
That wanderin’ youth would never ha’ gone.
He could ha’ paddled my craft
Over any rough waters….
But he’s sailin’ her sprung-sided vessel now.
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Receipts of the Viaquis. Most of these are taken and translated from "The Definitive Guide to Neo-Sharosarian Culture", by Déárán Zhia Icewind. We should note that the original Sharosar Empire, much imitated but never replicated, was "known for its severe social hierarchy, elaborate rituals and drawling architecture…" as a scholar notes. Neo-Sharosarianism, if we may infer solely on the basis of these receipts, seems to have elaborated still further – but we digress. Enjoy, if only in spirit, the receipts given below!

 Date of last edit 20th Changing Winds 1668 a.S.

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