THE TULMINE TREE

APPEARANCE - TERRITORY - USAGES - REPRODUCTION - MYTH/LORE

The Tulmine Tree is also known simply as the Tulmine, the Tulmine Pine, and in northern areas simply the Tul-pine. It is called the Ret’tif (lit. "bag tree") amongst the Kuglimz, the O'bejón (lit. "evergreen") amongst the elves, and some obscure dialects refer to it as the Nuriouse.

The Tulmine Tree (as it is known in Santharia) is one of the more abundant evergreen trees in the world. With a quick growth cycle and long lifespan they have come to cover league upon league of land in some places. The Tulmine comes in both male and female varieties, each of which have a distinct appearance. Some consider the Tulmine a fruit tree for its useful berries, others a lumber tree for the good wood it produces - this is indeed one tree with many different usages!


Appearance. The height of the Tulmine seems to depend upon its location. Those found in Santharia and in the more mountainous or rocky regions of Northern Sarvonia get to be only four to five peds. However those found in the great forests of the North can reach a height of seven to eight peds on average, with some of the older trees being nine to ten. The mountain version, or Tul-pine (some researchers classify it as its own sub-species, though most do not) is a little more full than its brethren. This effect is created by the fact their branches start only a fore above the ground and slowly angle inward as it reaches the top, nearly creating a triangle. The branches on lowland versions of the Tulmine start about one third of the way up the tree.

Rather than having broad leaves like many trees, the Tulmine has a scaly, rounded leaf. It ranges in size from a grain to a nailsbreadth in width and height. Due to their long, narrow shape and stiff, waxy consistency, these leaves are usually referred to as needles. The length of each needle is dependent upon the size of the branch that it is on. The average length at the midway height of the average tree is about four nailsbreadths in length. The largest branches can have needles one and a half palmspans in length. These needles are a dark green throughout most of the year, but in summer they get a slightly bluish tinge to them. This imparts a majestic, yet soft appearance to the tree.

The flower, if it can be called such, is at the end of the branch where there is a cluster of needles. It appears as if the end of the leaves have popped open since there is not much in the way of external form to the flower. The tips are white and sharp to the touch. In the middle of the flower there is a small yellow bud no larger than a grain in size. There doesn’t seem to be much in the way of a scent that can be discerned from the flower. It is not known if that is because there is no actual scent, which would be unusual, or which is more likely the case, the pine-scent from the sprig and needles is so strong that it overpowers the weak perfume of the flower.

The bark has flat grey ridges, and readily flakes off during the summer months. In fact, just rubbing your hand across it will dislodge small dry pieces of it. This is a favored material for tinder to start fires. During the wet season, the bark seems to absorb the water and becomes smoother. At this time it can be peeled off in strips and can be braided into rope. When the bark is in this stage, it is a favorite nest-building material of several different birds.

The wood itself, when sawn into planks or beams, gives good strength while still having some bend to it. With soaking and steaming the wood becomes even more flexible. The wood has a reddish tint to it and has a wavy grain to it that makes it desirable to craftsmen. The wood also has a slightly aromatic smell that is more noticeable when small curls of it are burned.

During the summer months the female trees produce small berries. The berry begins as a completely white sphere the size of a brownie, and when it ripens, several weeks later, there is a blue tint to the sides and especially to the bottom. The berry is slightly sour until ripened and has a slightly earthy flavoring. As it ripens it grows to a nailsbreadth and it becomes sweeter and sweeter until it is almost reminiscent of honey. In fact some people nickname the berries "pine honey". These berries are a favorite fruit of many birds and some small animals.

The male counterpart of the Tulmine Tree produces cones instead of berries. The cones are much smaller than most of the cones found on evergreen trees and average about a nailsbreadth in size. The cone is brown and egg-shaped. It usually has five different layers of spade-shaped wooden protrusions, overlapping and growing larger from top to bottom. In between each layer an uncounted number of small spores reside. These spores are orange in coloration and nearly invisible (however when it is time for the spores to be released, so many are released that there are literally gusts of orange wind).

Another thing that is commonly found on the Tulmine Pine is the larval sack of the Zutin Moth. In the fall months the Zutin larvae begins spinning silk fibers around several of the scaly needle clusters. The scales and ridges on the needles catch the fibers very easily. The Zutin uses the strength of the fibers to draw the needles together. It continues building its cocoon by spinning downward, this makes the needles layer with their ends and the prickly flowers pointing downward, which gives the cocoon greater protection. By the time the larvae is done, it has an almost egg-shaped structure that is approximately one and a half palmspans in length.
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Territory. The Tulmine is found throughout the cold climates of the Sarvonian continent. It is found in several of the different mountain ranges in Santharia including the Mithral Mountains and the Tandala Highlands. It has a far more extensive habitat in Northern Sarvonia. There it is known as the Ret’tif (lit. "bag tree") amongst the Kuglimz, the O'bejón (lit. "evergreen") amongst the elves, and strangely, as the Nuriouse in some obscure dialects.

In Northern Sarvonia the Tul-pine is not restricted to the higher mountain ranges, rather they can be found well-represented in the tree mixture of the vast forests. It should be noted that they do not however grow in the Kanapan Peninsula, though they can be found in the bordering Vindel Mountains. They also are not known to grow in the far north-eastern section of Northern Sarvonia. It is thought that the trees cannot grow well in the near-perpetual darkness or freezing temperatures that cover this area.
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Usages. There are seemingly as many uses for this tree as there are names for it. First, the Tulmine is used for its wood; the strong clean lines make it perfect for building. The attractive, wavy grain and aromatic odour makes it desirable for fine craftsmen as well. The berries are picked when ripe for eating out-of-hand and jelly-making. The Kuglimz pick them before they are ripe and use them as a vital ingredient in their famous mead. The Kuglimz also harvest the pupae of the Zutin and weave the fibers together to use as bags and sacks. This is a very durable material that can survive the rough life they live. Due to the roughness of the fiber, though, it is not used for anything else.
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Reproduction. During fall the male tree grows small, light brown cones. These pine cones are only a nailsbreadth in size and are pollen-bearing structures. As winter comes closer, tiny orange spores can be seen growing in the depths of the cone. By the end of winter the spores have actually extended beyond the pine cone. As spring nears the spores are released in even the slightest wind. If one is walking through these trees at this time and a strong wind comes along it is as if an orange haze surrounds one, almost blinding them. These spores can travel a long distance and find their way to the small flowers at the end of the female leaves. They become pollinated and berries are produced from that in summer.

Birds and animals eat the berries, and the small seeds remain undigested. They are tan-coloured and spade-shaped. When the seed is passed through the animal's digestive system, the point of the seed tends to strike the ground. The seeds are both covered and fertilized by the feces and easily begin to take root. The Tulmine saplings will grow to two peds in height within the first two years. After that though, the tree grows more slowly at approximately half to a full ped per year until it reaches its full height.
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Myth/Lore. With such a proliferate tree, that is spread throughout the world, there are many different legends told about it. These legends vary between the races as well. The most common one is about two lovers:

This version is the preferred one, especially amongst elves. For, as the story goes, an elf of disgraced parentage fell in love with the daughter of a Ránn. He tried continually to catch her attention so that she might return his feelings, however, all he ever received was a prickly sarcasm for all of his expressions of devotion. She mocked him for his small stature and unsightly appearance and while her mockery stopped many a suitor, it never turned him away.

In time - months some say, others say years - he finally proved to her that he would not leave and that he, unlike so many others, would not just give up on her or get weary of who she truly was. She never lost her sarcasm or tone of mokery, however she showed her love for him as well, in her own prickly way. However, all of the years of struggle that had gone on before had poisoned her mother’s view of her suitor. The Ránn decided to disallow their union. All of the pleading did them no good, for the Ránn had her mind made up. With no other choice, the lovers fled into the depths of the forest vowing that all they needed was each other.

The couple made its way through the forests and while they were traversing a range of mountains they were caught in a sudden snow storm which left them trapped in a small ravine. While neither feared death, they did fear the loss of their love. This passion, accompanied by their great need, allowed her to unlock magical abilities which she did not know she even had. They were both turned into trees, a growing and surviving species.

It may seem an odd thing, but it was actually perfect. Two distinct trees were created that were true to the people they were before. Just as the lover sent declaration after declaration of love to his lady, so too do the spores flood out in countless numbers toward the female Tulmine. The female Tulmine tree has small prickly flowers which represent the she-elf's sharp. But just as her mockery grew and changed with love, so do the flowers change into berries that are loved by all.
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