Winter Jasmine gains its name from of the vast quantities of white flowers it produces in late spring. Every branch has multiple blooms, that make any area covered by the plant look like it is snow covered. True to its name, the plant is also hardy over the winter. It is a deciduous perennial and its branches retain their green throughout the winter, standing out in the snow.
If it is trimmed, it could be formed into a shrub or other shapes but typically its woody branches spread across whatever surface they run into. It puts down roots from the branches every few feet and becomes hard to kill as it can spread nutrients and water for a long distance through its branches. It will wrap around trees and strangle them in just one or two seasons. It covers the ground so thick that new plants are smothered. It is considered an invasive species.
However, Winter Jasmine has an extremely long germination period and its seed coat won't break down unless it is dissolved first. Patches of Winter Jasmine are rare in the wild because of this. Typically, patches are found growing in areas with extremely toxic or acidic soil where faster germinating plants are at a disadvantage.
Once a patch gets established its shoots expand rapidly. The multitude of flowers are a boon to small insects, particularly moths. The seeds are covered in spines and stick to the moths that visit the patches at night for the sweet nectar of the flowers. The moths are spreading the previous year's seeds during this process. Many of the moth species, that Winter Jasmine attracts, make long migrations so the seeds are dispersed throughout the continent. If an area is impacted by an acid or toxin the seed will begin the cycle over in its new area.
UsesWinter Jasmine is used by many like a 'canary in a coal mine' to alert them of a problem with the soil or water in a region. It is mostly considered a pest. Farmers and Foresters will work to quickly clear any patches with fire. The seeds can survive fire so after burning the branches, flowers, and leaves, someone clearing a patch will don gloves and collect the seeds by hand or rake. The plant can become the bane of someone working the land as even a single missed seed could become a patch a few years down the road. The longest time, on record, that a seed remained viable was 16 years.
When seeds are collected they can be sold for use in creating poisons - it makes a particularly good rodent poison. There are very few people willing to farm Winter Jasmine on an ongoing basis but the hefty price the seeds can fetch can make clearing a patch more palatable.
The acid and toxins the plant encounters are absorbed with other nutrients from the ground. The acid and toxins are not processed by the plant but stored in specialized pods along the branches. It is thought this developed as a protection from predators. The longer the plant has been growing, the more toxic it gets. In large patches, the plant can eliminate wildlife for several square miles. As an animal brushes against the branches the toxins are ejected. If the animal has run deep into a patch it will take a lethal dose of toxins and become fertilizer to fuel the plant's future growth. Animals or people wandering alone into a patch have likely met their end. If someone can pull a victim to safety and rinse any wounds, that can allow for enough time to get to a healer. Immediate attention is required.
The plant has been the cause of death of many children and is universally reviled. Children are taught to stay away from the plant with 5 white petals in a star shape. Stories are told that if a child doesn't do their outside chores properly, the plant will come for them.
The flowers are pretty but most communities ban using them, because if even one seed gets carried along, it could result in a patch that they will be fighting against for years.
A Recent Encounter
Yvette and Jacques were running through the forest with Cain. They were scouting out rumors of trouble in a nearby town. Cain was excited to be out, after being confined for several weeks. A dog is meant to run. He burst ahead of the twins, then teleported back to them. Even being magical couldn't beat a good run in the forest.
Cain spotted a sunny clearing in the forest up ahead. Excitedly, he teleported ahead. Ah, the sun was warm. He trotted forward but something was wrong, something splashed him. He was losing the feeling in his legs. He fell to the ground unconscious. Yvette and Jacques reached the edge of the clearing just as he fell to the ground. Jacques knelt down and looked at the flowers "It's Winter Jasmine, Yvette."
Yvette turned around and grabbed handfuls of branches and leaves. She handed some to Jacques. He shredded them as she used her flint and steel to start a fire. He pulled out a torch to help things along. He lit it in the fire. He moved through the patch burning a path ahead of himself. When he reached Cain he tossed the torch into the patch. It burned some of the patch but did not generate a large fire. Jacques hoisted Cain onto his shoulders. He pulled his hood tight to keep any oils and toxins off his skin.
"I saw a stream about 5 minutes back. Let's get him washed up." Yvette said as she welcomed Jacques back into the forest, "Do you think we have time to clear this patch?"
Jacques shook his head no. "We better get back to town after we wash him off. We can find the patch again."