The Blackmoss is a plant that grows in moist, forested areas in moderate climates; it is most commonly found in the northern half of Santharia. It is colored a dark greenish brown, with tiny yellow flowers. Its roots, stalks and flowers contain a pigment, which will become dark black if mixed with a weak acid. The black liquid is commonly used as cloth dye or as cheap writing ink.
|Image description. The typical tiny yellow flowers growing from the dark greenish brown Blackmoss (also referred to as "Browniemoss"). Picture drawn by Bard Judith.|
Blackmoss grows in patches of moderate size on shady
forest ground and on some trees. Its stalks are long, slim and thinly spread;
their color is a dark greenish brown. Its flowers, which usually bloom from
Molten Ice (smól'evathón) to Changing Winds (méh'avashín), are colored a dark
ochre yellow. The flowers always have five petals which are long and narrow. The
diameter of one blossom is about half a nailsbreadth.
It grows only in forests or around trees, and it will usually flourish best in the shade of trees or on treebark on the side pointing to the north. It spreads well in moist ground, growing in patches ranging in size from a pen up to three or four pens. Its roots are so matted that it is hard to pluck the plant without ripping it out whole, but luckily the roots tear easily and even a small root fragment left in the ground will grow a new plant, preventing it from dying out. The roots are very thin and smooth, and they reach uncommonly deep for a moss. They are of a dark black color when unearthed. The moss is not very eye-catching with its brown color, but when its flowers are open, the patches of brown sprinkled with yellow look very decorative.
Attempts to cultivate the plant, for example for planting in herb gardens, have not been successful, since Blackmoss will only grow in the vicinity of trees. However, in forests where it grows naturally it can be effectively and easily harvested, leaving most of the roots in the ground. The time of spring is usually chosen for the picking of the moss, since it contains the most juice during that time. During winter, from Dead Tree (coór'pherán) to Turning Star (córt'ometrá), the moss is dormant and will assume a dark brown, almost black, color. The plant is very dry at this point, and is therefore usually not harvested in winter.
Territory. Blackmoss is usually found in forests throughout the northern part of Santharia, but it grows very scarcely in any single place. The climate of the lands south of New-Santhala is for the most part too dry and hot for the plant, which is very dependent on moisture in both the ground and the air. The area it grows in generally needs to experience heavy rainfall for at least a week in a year; high ground moisture causes it to produce more of its pigment. It usually grows only in light forests, because the rain has to reach it. Thick, primeval forests are not suitable for its growth because they do not allow enough rain to fall on the plant directly. It never grows in open areas, needing the shade of trees to protect it from the sun's heat; but it grows well on most ground structures, provided that they are not sandy nor dry. The roots of trees hold the water in the ground; another reason for the moss's preference for forests. Regarding composition and acid/alkaline content of the soil, the moss has no special preferences, but on alcaline earth, the juice extracted from the plant needs more acid to turn black.
Usages. The Blackmoss has a rather useful, if mundane property: Its juice will, when mixed with an acidic liquid, form a deep, inky black that is so strong that it can be used as ink or dye for clothing. For preparing this ink, swaths of Blackmoss are picked, leaving most of the roots in the ground for regrowth, and bundled together. This harvest is usually done in spring, since the moss grows best and most lavishly in that period, and the flowers will yield additional juice. The whole plants are then stirred into hot water below boiling temperature to extract the fluids; boiling temperature will destroy the pigment. From a patch of 1 pen, about a mug of the solution can be prepared. The resulting liquid is a pale yellow, to which an acid is added. The acid varies; vinegar (produced from grapes or other vegetation) is used for dying cloth, while wine is commonly used for ink. Wine has a more pleasant odor than vinegar, and the alcoholic solution dries faster, making it easier to write with. Vinegar is cheaper, and therefore used for the large quantities of dye, which is not as closely worked with as the ink. Another, cheaper alternative to vinegar is urine. Being a freely available resource, it makes a cheap substitute if vinegar cannot be obtained. Thankfully, the strong fragrance of both vinegar and urine will fade away completely after the dyed cloth has been washed thoroughly.
A major disadvantage of Blackmoss ink and Blackmoss dye is that they will fade over long periods of time. Even well-kept documents written in Blackmoss ink will usually stay readable for hardly more than a century, the black ink fading first from black to dark green and through a pale yellow to invisibility. Nevertheless, the ink, being so easily produced in large quantities from a cheaply available resource, provides a cheap substitute for other inks, such as the highly expensive kraken ink, or the oak-gall ink that is very labor-intensive in production.
Reproduction. The moss reproduces itself by the fertilization of bees, and once its seeds are fully developed, it just lets them fall on the ground. Since the moss grows very easily, the close vicinity of plants does not matter, and the plants can easily grow together into a single one. The seeds are light, and can be carried by the wind for several peds if there is strong wind, but the moss mostly spreads with its roots.
Myth/Lore. The Blackmoss, whose name originates in the black dye made from it, is associated with the Brownies for some reason. One possible origin of this tradition is a common folk name, naming it Brownmoss or Browniemoss for the color of its stalks. Another, more mythical reason is that the Blackmoss is seen by many as a symbol for life or rebirth, since the moss so quickly regrows after picking: Its deep-reaching roots tear easily and stay in the ground when the moss is picked, which is invisible to most. These roots sprout new plants in a matter of several months, causing its reputation for indestructibility. Blackmoss is therefore seen as an embodiment of the force of life, and associated with the Brownies' life-magic.
Another folk tale is that the extract of Blackmoss mixed with a woman's tears will produce an eternal ink that never fades, as opposed to the mundane Blackmoss ink. The long-standing legend has of course never been tested; nobody has so far shown the callousness of collecting the tears of a weeping woman, and it would be difficult to prove the ever-lasting quality of the ink, because even the mundane Blackmoss ink will outlast most humans. Although the myth has never been verified or disproved, its truth is highly debatable, and has been vigorously denied by most alchemists of renown, their major argument being that tears are, in their natural state, not acidic in the slightest, and any result whatsoever would have to be supernaturally induced.
Information provided by Arancaytar Ilyaran