This medium sized plant, long admired by residents of the Shoals for its beautiful flowers, is just recently becoming the object of much interest and study. The Haloen's Tail, named after the haloen bird (also called "firebird"), has a unique colouration that starts with a deep red colour at the center, blending out to a bright yellow. It has deep green leaves that bush out around it like an upside-down bowl. It has only been found in three of the islands of the Scattersand Shoals, so at the time being is very rare. This plant has a unique defense from predators, it produces and excretes (through its leaves and flower) a very mild aceed. Recently it has been discovered that if properly boiled down, the distilled aceed is very reactive, and will quickly burn through most any substance but glass.
Picture description. The rather uniquely shaped flower of the Haloen's Tail as found on the Scatterscand Shoals. Pic by Seeker.
This plant is aptly named because of its appearance. Its
colouration evokes images of the firebird,
more precisely the
tail feathers. It is a flowering plant that bears a single, beautiful flame
coloured flower for approximately eleven months out of the year.
The thick trunk of the plant averages half a span between ground level and the base of the leaves. These 15-18 fairly stiff overlapping leaves can easily reach lengths of a fore or better, with a width of 4-6 nailsbreadths. They branch out in every direction forming a rich sognastheen green bowl, as they arc away from the sturdy center stalk which supports the flower. This bowl shape helps to collect and funnel water, and collect debris and dust/dirt to fertilize the plant.
Flowers are approximately one and a half to two spans high and a little over a half span wide, and about 2-3 nailsbreadths thick. If handled, it has a crunchy succulent plant feel to it. A tough outer layer contains a softer, liquid soaked interior, much like many desert cacti. Warning: handling is not recommended without proper gloves and tools! The leaves and flower appear shiny in appearance because the plant excretes a clear, waxy substance. This substance rubs off easily when touched, and creates a burning sensation on the skin. If not treated promptly, the substance will start burning away the top layers of skin before becoming inert.
The flower is a rich deep red down the center with yellow highlights starting about 2 nailsbreadths from the center line. The yellow and red mix, fading to a bright injohue yellow along the outside edges, give the appearance of a large, flaming bird's tail. If for some reason the flower is broken off, or is destroyed in any way during the flowering months, the plant will grow a new, full sized flower section within a fortnight, ensuring successful seed production.
Territory. The Haloen's Tail has only been found in tropical climates. The only known outcroppings of this flower have been on the small islands of Aiden, Rufi, and Triam, in the Scattersand Shoals, located south of the Sarvonian continent. Of all the islands there, these three alone seem to provide the right soil and growing conditions for the flower.
Several attempts have been made to relocate it, in hopes of having a ready supply of the flowers for distillation. So far, the flowers have not survived the journey. Further attempts are being planned, awaiting research on the soil contents, and environmental requirements present in healthy plants in the Shoals.
Usages. A very potent aceed can be distilled from these plants. Appropriate safeguards must be taken, but if distillation is successful it results in a watery, clear liquid with a slight reddish tint that is able to burn through almost any material.
This process has only been successfully completed 3 or 4 times since the discovery of the substance's properties. It requires an extended period of cooking, at fairly even temperatures, in glass containers only. Trial and error has shown that if heated too hot, the aceed combusts rapidly, with a violent explosion. If the heat is too low, the aceed substance is not melted from the flower. Accidents have occurred also by heating too fast, or using containers other than glass. This process, in conjunction with the inability to grow the plants anywhere else will ensure that for the time being, this aceed will be a very rare and expensive commodity.
The aceed is still being tested for further uses, but so far the alchemists are pleased with its basic ability to melt through just about anything.
Reproduction. During one month out of the year, the flower starts to separate and the center stalk grows to a ped or more in height. This separation of the flower exposes the stamen and carpel inside each section of the flower, so that pollen can form on the stamen and be transfered to the carpel of different flower sections.
This happens in a very short time period of approximately two weeks. After fertilization occurs, the center stalk immediately starts to dry up and within a week the seeding flower and stalk break loose from the plant.
Once free of the plant, the stalk falls over and the flower sections spill out the seeds, like a cup spills the dice. These seeds are a favourite of the local birds however, so very few survive to grow new flowers. It is evident by this that the seeds either do not have the burning properties of the plant, or that the birds are immune to the weaker version of the aceed contained in the seeds.
If great care is given to prevent the birds from eating all the seeds, perhaps a greater number of plants will be available, resulting in a higher production of the Haloen aceed. Master gardeners, brought in to consult on this plant, have indicated that there should be no reason why these islands could not support a much larger crop of Haloen's Tail. They have, however, warned against overharvesting - to prevent extinction of this remarkable find.
Myth/Lore. In 1664, a mage returning to the Ximaxian Academy after an extended research trip around the southern Sarvonian continent, recounted a story from a traveler he met in a tavern in Strata.
The story he told was of a plant growing in the Scattersand Shoals that looked like a flame, and would actually burn the skin. Wanting to find out more information about this plant the Academy sent two mages to the Shoals to study this plant the next month. After their initial research was done, the two set sail for home with a tome full of notes, a package of seeds, and a rather dried out sample of the flower in a glass jar. Unfortunately, during a storm at sea, the package of seeds broke open and the seeds all rolled away across the deck, with nary a one found afterwards.
Twice more in the next two years, the Academy sent researchers to bring home live samples, with no success. The next group of five researchers brought equipment with them when they came in the later half of 1666. All further research up to this point has taken place at their outpost in the Shoals. Seeds have been sent back and planted several times in the greenhouses at the Academy, unfortunately, the seeds always fail to grow.
After a period of testing in the Shoals, it was discovered that the plant could be distilled down to produce a very strong aceed. Unfortunately, during the initial testing, several different mages were seriously wounded by the substance before proper safeguards could be developed for safely distilling the aceed. The process is so involved, and takes so much time that the chance of error is quite large. Thus, not every batch of aceed has turned out viable.