THE UNDERTOE HERB

APPEARANCE - TERRITORY - USAGES - REPRODUCTION

The Undertoe Herb is a lanky plant with lobed leaves and a thin form. It most frequently sprouts near the base of trees, preferring pines and other evergreen trees. For this reason, it can most commonly be found in Santhariaís wooded areas, be they larger forests or small copses dotting the countryside. The plant has shallow roots and usually a slightly minty scent. The small berries are often used in dyes, whilst the leaves are most commonly used in the treatment of foot odour problems.

Appearance. The Undertoe Herb rarely grows higher than a grown manís knee, but appears taller because of its delicate stem and apparently over-sized leaves, which grow on average to a palmspan in length. The leaves are a bright, summer-green in all seasons, even in early winter before the snow chokes them out. They are lobe-shaped, being wider at the ends that at the base where they are connected to the sturdy stem. The leaves drape a little, generally being too large to stay stiff and erect. The leaves are thin but not dry.

The Undertoe Herb generally has but one firm stalk; branches donít often diverge from the solid stem. When they do, they are short and brief, usually diverging for the purpose of budding additional flowers when late spring is beginning to warm into summer.

The flowers of the Undertoe Herb are small and white, dainty and star-shaped. They are hardly more than a nailsbreadth or two in length, and one plant will usually only produce four or five flowers; however, Undertoe tend to grow in small groups of three or four, and create a lovely scene with their white flowers blossoming together in floral camaraderie. The Undertoe blossoms for a few weeks until finally falling away in mid-summer.

The base of the flower swells, then furcates, usually into three or four smaller bulbs. These continue to swell and deepen into a deep blue. The berries rarely find their way into a pie or cake, being a bit sour, but tend to be preferred by many woodland creatures, including deer, rabbits, and birds. Such creatures will carry the Undertoe berry to other places in the forest to sprout.
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Territory. The Undertoe Herb grows in many forests throughout mid-Sarvonia. It prefers slightly colder climes where evergreen forests are more common, and can therefore be found in forests such as the Shaded Forest, Thaelon, and Bolder Forest. It can rarely be found farther south than the Goltherlon Forest. In addition to the larger forests, it will commonly occupy small wooded areas, so long as it is shaded and wooded enough.

The Undertoe seems to prefer growing at the base of evergreen trees for reasons yet unknown. In some cases it has been known to grow at the base of a wooden house built of evergreen trees. Its roots are shallow and so do not disturb the trees around which it grows. As it is a fairly common herb, it is not often found in gardens.
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Usages. The Undertoe Herb has a couple of common uses. The first, and most well-known (particularly among the sartorial or painter community) is as a dye or paint. It is very popular among Caltharian weavers and dyers. The deep blue berries are often crushed and treated to make a bright blue colour. Because of the nature of the berries, the dye or paint it creates can be easily mixed with others to create other colours, and it is therefore often used in the creation of purple and (particularly) green dyes and paints. However, it must be treated thoroughly or its longevity will suffer. The best quality dyes created out of the Undertoe are created by the Caltharians and occasionally exported to other dyers as far south as New-Santhala.

The Undertoe leaf has a pleasantly minty scent and is often used in the treatment of foot odour. Many herbalists will crush the leaves by mortar and pestle, combine them with alcohol and/or vinegar, and work them into a paste that can be spread on the inside of the shoe or directly on to the foot to decrease the potency of the smell. This method is usually more effective and longer-lasting.
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Reproduction. Like many plants, the Undertoe Herb starts life as a little seed, usually deposited with a number of other Undertoe seeds in a fertile collection of dung, preferably at the base of some tall and sturdy evergreen tree. It will sprout little roots, then a little stem and leaves, usually when spring is just shaking off winter. It will grow at a moderate but respectable pace, enjoy the season, growing taller and taller as it soaks up spring rains.

As spring is preparing for repose and summer is peacefully waking, the Undertoe begins to effloresce, its white flower blossoming in the lazy summer shade of the forests. It may attract a malise or butterfly or two, but the flower seems perfectly content to wave its little head in the zephyrs strolling through the thickets. When summerís youth has gone, the flower will be gone, too, but leave the beginnings of a berry in its wake.

And the single berry will turn to two or three or four, and molt out of its greenish hue, darkening until it ripens to a deep blue. Its deep colour flirts and coaxes the forest creatures to dine, and deer and rabbits may come to nibble at the small berries, or a little bird may come to gobble them up. Carried in this manner, the berryís seeds will find home in another part of the wood, where it will sprout come spring.

Autumn will come and go without much change to the Undertoe, but winter will quietly steal it away, though it may rise again when the snow melts at last.
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 Date of last edit 10th Dead Tree 1672 a.S.

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