Black Gum Tree
The Black Gum Tree is a member of the eucalypt family of trees found in the Kingdom of the Dead Marches in southern Fieren. So-called because of the viscous black resin that oozes from the trees when the bark is damaged, the Black Gum Tree is used by the denizens of the swamps and marshes as a binding agent for herbal remedies and alchemical creations.
The Black Gum tree has a single trunk, ranging from 5 to 15 feet (1.5-4.5 meters) in diameter. Mature trees range from 33 to 98 feet (10–30 meters) in height, with the lower 1/3 of the trunk bare of branches. Black Gum trees have a wide foliage crown, between 10-20 feet (3-6 meters) in diameter. The Black Gum tree grows a new layer of bark every year, shedding its previous layer in strips, ribbons, or flakes. Occasionally a tree will shed large slabs of bark. Prior to oxidization, fresh bark presents a rainbow striation pattern, typically in an angled or vertical direction. Once the bark has oxidized, it fades to a color somewhere between alabaster and pearl, with streaks of a darker grey shot throughout. Black Gum leaves are lanceolate, presenting in varied shades of waxy or glossy green. Leaves are covered in oil glands, producing copious quantities throughout the year. Black Gum trees are considered an evergreen species.
Genetics and Reproduction
The Black Gum tree reproduces by cross-pollination between trees. Mature trees flower when the average temperature reaches 55º Farenheight (12.78º Celcius), emitting a strong, sweet odor that attracts region-typical pollinators., which then carry the pollen between trees. Once pollinated, a flower dies off as it germinates to a small fruit, known as a Gum Nut (alternately: Black Nut). The fruit grows with a thick rind, protecting a cluster of hexagonal seeds (between 5-10 per fruit). Once the fruit has ripened, the rind begins to give off a savory smell akin to acorns or walnuts that attracts both birds and larger herbivorous/omnivorous animals. The fruit passes through the digestive system of those animals, breaking down until the seeds are excreted.
Ecology and Habitats
The Black Gum tree grows in tropical and a range of temperate climates, but can be damaged by cold weather (below 23º F/-5º C). It thrives in marshy wetlands and coastal floodplains.
Uses, Products & Exploitation
While the tree can be used for timber or pulpwood, most often they are cultivated for honey production, oils, and the resin that gives them their name. The black resin acts as a binding agent for alchemical substances, herbal poultices, and similar substances. By itself, the resin can be chewed to release a menthol flavor that is prized by the Bayuk Oroka and Fenblood Euaira of the region. The oil of the Black Gum leaves can be used as a disinfectant on wounds, as an inhalant to reduce respiratory issues such as cough and congestion, or as a pest repellent. The elders of the Bayuk Oroka use the oil, mixed with the resin of the tree, to make a liniment that soothes joint pain and inflammation.
Honey ProductionApiarists maintain hives of pollinators who collect nectar from the Black Gum Trees. Returning the nectar to the hives, the honey produced has a darker color and sharper, tangier sweetness than traditional honey blends. The predominant producers of "Black Gold" honey are located in the southwestern regions of Falcrest, where plantations of Black Gum trees are established.
Geographic Origin and Distribution
The Black Gum Tree is native to the southwestern marshes of Fieren, in the area known as the Kingdom of the Dead Marches. It can be found in most tropical and sub-tropical regions with adequate moisture, but is vulnerable to frost and severe cold, so it is not found in the northern or southern latitudes.
The Black Gum tree is prolific in its natural habitat. Outside of the Dead Marches, it can flourish in nearly every temperate or warmer climate, and as such is not in danger of extinction. No conservation efforts are in place in any civilization.
16-33 Feet (5-10 Meters )
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