Notes on the Mineral Bearing Trees (book)
Among the many fair trees of our world, perhaps the rarest and
most valued are the various species of mineral-bearing trees that
can be found from time to time.
Known in the vernacular by their content, we see such trees as Silverwood, Goldbark and Copperleaf. Many others are hinted at by rumor or traveller's tale as well.
The phenomenon resulting in such trees is not unknown in the plant world but has not usually been seen in this form. Many plants are known to extract substances from the soil and rock that they either need or that they wish to filter out as unhealthy to themselves. The saltbush for example, that thrives in estuaries, excretes excess salt from the ground in crusty deposits on the underside of its leaves is only one such example.
But still, this does not explain the reason for the mineral trees' existence. The metals and such they accrue seem to serve no real purpose in terms of natural survival in many cases. Though it has been argued that, at least in the case of the Goldbark tree, the thin gold layers in the bark serve to protect the tree from extremes of heat and fire but this remains unproven.
The theory I put forth and subscribe to is the trees are not a natural phenomenon at all. But rather are left-overs from some vanished culture of scientists and tinkerers with nature.
It is my hypothesis that these trees and related growths are remnants of the semi-legendary Lost Empire, rumors of which constantly float about our world.
While little is known of their technological skills, the many stories, tales and fables of that vanished era point to a time when mighty wizards could and did bend nature to their whims in many ways we might now deem wondrous or even dangerous.
Given the modern Elves' skills with Life-sculpting, it is no stretch to imagine an older time with a society of Elves perhaps who are more inclined to the realms of thought than is now current. A time perhaps when Elves combined their skills at manipulating growing life with the purer sciences.
We must indeed, perforce, assume a long perspective on these growths. The Silverwood tree for example, takes at least one thousand years to reach a harvestable size and the Goldbarks seems to take even longer.
This further argues for Elvish involvement since they possess the lifespans and the outlook needed to regard a planting that needs a millennium to harvest as practical.
Elotheans such as myself of course, have such a long-lived perspective but we are concerned more with the realms of thought. It is for others to get down among the mold and forest dirt to play with making things grow.
I will list here the known species of mineral-bearing flora for the education of those new to this subject. Others may be found, so this is by no means a definitive listing.
Silverwood - Famed for the veins of fine silver that permeate the wood. Properly cut and polished, the wood and silver form a harmonious blend of colors and textures highly sought after for furniture and decor. Silverwood is also reputed to have some useful effect against spells when used as a shield but no definitive work on this has been done.
Goldbark - A tree with a coarse-appearing shaggy bark. When the bark is removed and carefully cut open, it will often be found to contain fine sheets of gold leaf in many layers. This is highly prized by artisans for gilding work and the bark itself is sometimes used in decorative ways.
Copperleaf - A wide-spreading tree with an unusual feature. The leaves secrete copper onto their surfaces during the fall season. This causes a most spectacular color change as it oxidizes. The trees also when found in groves sometimes make a form of music as the metallic leaves strike each other they sometimes generate a soft tinkling sound like wind chimes.
Ironwood - A solid and heavy tree with tall straight trunks that can become extremely thick. This tree infuses iron crystals into the substance of itself especially into the heartwood deep inside.
This makes the tree extremely strong and sturdy. Many a woodsman has found a bit too late such a tree when his axe blunts itself after two or three strokes.
There is rumored to be a grove of such trees that rise over 500 feet tall but no substantiation has yet been found.
Those who can afford the high cost use these trees for ship's masts or for building fortifications as the wood retains its incredible strength after being cut down due to the iron being encapsulated by the hardening tree sap and thus being protected from rust.
In the realm of rumor or wild traveller's tales are Diamond Oaks, Crystaltrees, metalwire bush and the (reputedly) dangerous Sunburner plant that is rumored to use reflective petals to focus the sun's light on predators to the point of ignition, if such a tale can be believed.
One should take final note of one of the more pleasant whimsies of these legends: the Singing Bell plant, alleged to form tiny bells of silver or similar metals that tinkle and chime in the slightest breeze. Such a curiosity would fetch a princely sum from any collector of curios or rare plants, let alone anyone with a fancy for something unique in their gardens. As for me, I will believe they exist when I see one.