THE TAREPTAIL WEED ("SNOWPUFF", "MOTHERS-SCORN")

APPEARANCE - TERRITORY - USAGES - REPRODUCTION - MYTH/LORE

Tareptail is a common, low-growing bi-ennial flowering weed, bane of the gardeners of New-Salantha and the source of much mischief for children. It can be found wilder near the Sharadon Forest, particularly in places of mild habit and has some use in cooling teas and aids to fluid expulsion. Tareptail Weed is also referred to as Common Whiteball, Snowpuff, Wet-a-Weed and Mothers-Scorn.

The Tareptail
View picture in full size Image description. One of the most common Santharian weeds: the Tareptail or Snowpuff. Picture drawn by Bard Judith.

Appearance. When in its prime, Tareptail is a low growing, two palms tall, plant, usually characterised by a ground hugging crown of dark red serrated leaves and two to three flower stems issuing from its heart. These flower stems are topped by a single flower each of white hue and of bushy character, these last no longer than a month. Individual petals are thin, of no more than a nailsbreadth in length and spray out like rays of a pale sun, or spines on a bleached sea urchin. Beneath the ground, Tareptail is possessed of a single strong taproot of a palmspan in length and tapers from two nailsbreadths at its top. This root has a white milky flesh and a brown, rough skin.

After the flower has passed, the petals fall from it and the base of the flowerhead swells to contain the seeds within. After a week or so, though shorter in fine weather, the seedpod will split open, exposing an untidy bundle of seeds, no bigger than a grain of sand, thickly coated in feathery white hairs so that they might fly further in the wind. Indeed, pale clouds of snowflake-like seeds are seen to fly a dash or more with a kind zephyr to aid them.
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Territory. Found in temperate climes, Tareptail prefers warm summers and cool wet winters and springs, though it can with some complaint, tolerate frost and may be seen as far north as the southern rim of the majestic Thaelon Forest in northern Santharia. The muggy summers of the Narfost Plain are too hot for it, however, for it never ventures further south than the shady north of the Sharadon Forest. It is seldom found near the coast, as Tareptail cannot abide the salt nature of such places, but will be found most often in places of rich soil, high humus and occasional shade. As such, while often a common sight near the edges of forested land, Tareptail has taken to places of refuse and other dumping grounds on the limits of larger settlements.
New-Salantha in particular is 'blessed' with widespread patches, known as Tareptail hills, which were formed when the council of New-Salantha ordered that the refuse of the town had to be carried out past its borders and dumped there. A great amount of refuse has been disposed like this in the thirty years since the edict, and when the hills grow too high, another new 'hill' is opened. The older ones are left to rot, creating an ideal place for the pioneer weed Tareptail, till other plants claim their right on these newly made fertile grounds. Return to the top

Usages. A seldom used plant, sympathetic to the sanguine humor, Tareptail leaves have in the past been dried and used sparingly as a component in cooling teas to combat an overabundance of this warming humor. Given that the leaves on their own have a bitter and astringent taste, this reluctance to use in any quantity is understandable.

The milky sap of this plant, which all parts, barring flowers, contain, has the well known property of being a diuretic - so well known, indeed, that it is not only responsible for its names as 'Wet-a-Weed' and 'Mothers-Scorn', but that it has featured in many a child's prank - with the 'victim' child enduring the so-called 'Mothers Scorn' effect a mere two hours or so after the consumption of even small quantities of the sap. While this may be of great amusement to children, it is found that sometimes this effect can be beneficial to those who find themselves filled with unpleasant waters.
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Reproduction. The tiny gossamer coated seeds of the Tareptail are easily carried on the breeze, far from the mother plant, and in late months great clouds of these seeds can be seen swirling and catching in spiderwebs and all but clogging puddles and streams. Those seeds that do find fertile purchase sprout some weeks later, issuing forth two smooth dark red leaves which in time give way to the more characteristic serrated leaves. It is only in the second year that Tareptail will give forth flower spikes and eventually bloom.
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Myth/Lore. There is a tale that tells that Tareptail sprouted from the ground when a mage of olden times, who had taken the form of a fleet-footed tarep to escape capture, was pierced in the tail by an arrow loosed from the bow of his lover's husband. The arrow sorely rooted the distraught mage to the ground, and only by a hasty spell was he able to free himself, but in the process lost his tail. His tail became a flowerhead, white and fluffy, the arrow became the stalk and where his blood had hit the ground, sharp looking leaves grew.
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