A fragrant flower native to the Chataki region of Iraka. Nika tikuma is heavily tied to ancient Chatari religious traditions, especially in use as an incense, but has become a point of contention as foreigners discovered it makes a tasty spice.
The nika tikuma is a flowering plant found only in the northern Chataki region of the planet Iraka. The plant only blooms once a year and is associated with a strong, unique spicy scent during the flowering season. The ancient Chatari religion that follows the dead goddess Nika-ta believe the plant to be a blessing from their goddess, and it is commonly used in various religious practices as incense and decoration. Recent usage of the plant as a cooking ingredient and exported good have upset the followers of the ancient goddess, however, and begun to spring internal conflict within the holy city Nikano.
When flowering, nika tikuma have a thick, sturdy stem rising up to a collection of small, red-purple flowers. The plant's stem is covered in small, spiny structures that cause a stinging sensation when handled without gloves. A distinct spicy aroma is produced when the flowers are blooming or the stem is broken.
The flowers themselves serve little purpose to the plant's reproductive cycle, leading botanists to believe this is a vestigial property as the plant has a vegetative reproduction system. However, the Chatari people who still follow the old religions believe the spirit of the ancient goddess Nika-ta produces these flowers.
Outside of the flowering season, the flower is easily mistaken for the many other plants in the region with a similar stem structure. The steam remains, but the flowers fall off and are quickly lost to the snow and ice, leaving what appears to just be a hardy grass shoot behind.
The root structure of the nika tikuma is a complex woven mass. This system allows the plant to keep a firm hold on the ground, making it difficult to uproot and securing it against the winds of the tundra. While the roots don't dig very deep, they tend to spread out in a wider area than most plants, aiding in the collection of nutrients and water from melting ice near the surface.
Ecology and Habitats
The nika tikuma is a hardy plant that has adapted to survive in the harsh, cold, windy environments of the tundra. With an incredibly aggressive root system, it's rare to find other plants growing alongside a nika tikuma as their nutrients are stolen by the aggressive flower's roots, to the extent it could almost be considered a plant-based predator. At the same time, this also means it's difficult for the flower to take root in areas already congested by other plant life, as the plant struggles to find areas for its roots to grow and sustain itself.
Uses, Products & Exploitation
Followers of the ancient Chatari religion worshipping the dead goddess Nika-ta believe nika tikuma to be the goddess' dying gift to the world. As such, the flower is considered sacred and holy and is a common garden plant for worshippers of the goddess. Due to the fragrance of the plant's stem and flowers, it's believe to contain spiritual properties that brings those who burn the stem closer to their ancestors and the goddess. Common religious uses of the plant include usage as an incense during ceremonies and the religions various holy days, inclusion in the burning ritual of the Day of Mourning and, in some cases, worn in a woman's hair during the flowering season.
Recently, it has been discovered that the steam of the nika tikuma also has a unique flavor as a spice. Foreigners and Chatari whom follow the Drakari-Ta instead of the goddess Nika-ta have begun using ground up nika tikuma stems in their cooking, to great effect on their recipes. This has also caused an export trade of stems to other regions and even other planets and nations in the Varkesh.
The use of such a holy and sacred plant in commerce and consumption has started to create a divide in Chatari culture, however. To the followers of Nika-ta, eating and selling the flowers is highly taboo, and there are recent recorded incidents of attacks by Nika-ta followers in the holy city Nikano.
Geographic Origin and Distribution
The flower is native to and commonly found in the alpine tundra in the higher latitudes and altitudes of the northern Chataki region. Nika tikuma are so common in the region, in fact, that during the flowering season, one can see whole fields of red-purple hues where these flowers grow naturally. Curiously, however, attempts to plant and grow these flowers in other regions have always failed. Botanists have yet to determine why, but theorize the presence of a nutrient or mineral unique to the Chakati region.