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Alpine Muskroot

The alpine muskroot is a species of flowering plant that grows in high elevations in the Talons of the Sky. An oil derived from its roots is used in perfumes and in spiritual ceremonies by those who live in or near the Talons.

Basic Information

Anatomy

Alpine muskroot grows about 4-10 inches tall. It has long, rather broad leaves, sage green in color, originating from the base of the plant. In early summer, a single stalk grows from the base about 12 inches high, and produces several light pink flower, with star-shaped petals. Below the ground, the alpine muskroot grows a cluster of tube-like roots with small protrusions. The middle of each root is where the oil is produced.

Biological Cycle

The alpine muskroot is a perennial plant, living about 5 years total. Each year, it experiences a seasonal cycle of growth and dormancy.

This cycle begins in the spring, after the air warms and the blanket of snow from the winter has melted. Once the frosts are gone, the alpine muskroot sends out its first shoots. These shoots grow rapidly, over a period of about one cycle, into the muskroot's long leaves. The plant uses most of its leftover nutrients that had been stored in its roots over winter, and they shrink from about a human thumb's width to about a quarter of that size. After this period of rapid growth, the muskroot's growth slows but does not stop. It takes advantage of the ample water from snowmelt and the warmer weather to grow thick clusters of succulent leaves, which are sometimes eaten by passing herbivores.

As spring turns to summer, the alpine muskroot sends out a single thin stalk from the center of the cluster of leaves, which grows several inches higher than the leaves. From this stalk, several small buds appear, which swell into star-shaped flowers about half an inch across. Alpine muskroots rely mostly on alpine pollinators to distribute their pollen, although they are capable of self-pollination after a long enough period of time. Pollinated flowers close up and develop into small, purple-red berries. They are poisonous to most folk but are a favorite of the birds that frequent alpine meadows, who eat the berries and help distribute the seeds farther than they might travel otherwise.

In early fall, when the weather starts to cool down and the snows inch closer, the alpine muskroot begins to photosynthesize at high rates, storing al the excess sugar and nutrients in its roots, which swell up to five times thicker than they are all summer. this is a measure to ensure that the plant can survive the long winter without needing to photosynthesize. As the frosts arrive, the leaves shrivel and wither as the plant pulls as much water and nutrients as it can from them to preserve the roots all winter long. This is the best time to harvest muskroot for oil production, as its roots are full and large, producing the maximum amount of oil.

During the winter, the plant is dormant. The roots are protected from the frost underground, and it is warm enough in the soil that the meristem, where the leaves will grow from in the spring, does not freeze.

The seeds, once they land in soil, spend their first few cycles establishing a good root system so that they might survive the winter. They grow only to about half the size of a mature muskroot, and cannot reproduce until the following summer. With each year that the plant survives, its roots grow longer and its leaves larger, so older plants are more desirable for oil extraction.

Additional Information

Uses, Products & Exploitation

The roots of alpine muskroot can be used to make a strongly aromatic oil. The roots are mashed or chopped up into a thick paste, which is strained and pressed to produce the oil, which has an earthy, spiced smell. This oil is used in ceremonies and rituals by the Unguis Cornu and the Kruilna, and has a claming, soothing effect when applied to the skin at points of pain. It is also added to mixtures of alcohols and resin fixatives to create an aromatic perfume that is popular in the high society of Qopith.

Some scholars who study the plant are concerned that the rising popularity of alpine muskroot as a medicinal treatment and as a perfume will increase the amount harvested and could lead to the decline and extinction of this already uncommon plant.

Geographic Origin and Distribution

The alpine muskroot grows throughout the Talons of the Sky on Qopith. It is generally found on higher elevations above the tree line, from about 3,000 to 5,000 feet above sea level. The muskroot grows in the alpine zone, below the elevation at which snow is present year-round.

Conservation Status

This species is fairly abundant, albeit difficult to find. Some scholars in Qopith worry that the plant may go extinct due to over-harvesting. The traditional harvesting of alpine muskroot by the Unguis Cornu and Kruilna folk is on a small enough scale as to not pose any risk to the plant's population, but commercial harvesting of the plant for perfumes is becoming a greater concern.

Geographic Distribution
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