The Nybelmarian Giant Marsh-Oak, also known by its elvish name "Ulintherá'ránn" (which translates roughly to "Oak Queen"), is a typical tree of both salt- and fresh-water marches, known to be found in nearly all such areas on Nybelmar. It can reach a rather impressive size, and sports a massive trunk with equally large branches, making this a tree that provides quality wood for many tribes all over the continent. An exception to this being those found in the Venlaken Enclave, where the foul waters of the marshes corrupt its heart, and twist its form.

Appearance. The Nybelmarian Giant Marsh-Oak, is, as its name suggests, one of the largest trees to be found on the continent. Supporting large, thick branches with its enormous trunk, the Marsh-Oak is one of the best suppliers of oak wood available.

A slow growing tree, like most other oaks, the Marsh-Oak may live up to several hundreds of years, specimens of at least six hundred years have been found, and the humans of the Drifting Woods claim to have even older trees still growing in their strange realm.

The bark of the Giant Marsh-Oak is of a brownish-grey hue, and becomes more rough as the tree ages. The adult tree’s surface is often riddled with ridges and clefts, allowing for an easy climb for most beings.

The trunk is much wider, proportionally, than other trees, something not unusual for various oak types, and can, as the oak reaches its maximum height of sixty or even seventy peds, reach a good six to seven peds in radius. Equally large are the tree's massive branches, which will turn and twist their way into the light above, and provide excellent nesting places for many large animals, such as the Sev’tin, or Long-Armed Monkey, and the chorakee birds, as well as being able to support human structures and dwellings.

These trees are normally densely set with leaves, which are shaped much like that of the common oak, but more elongated. The leaves are nearly stem-less, and sprout in small clusters form the twigs and branches of the tree. Young leaves will be of a bright, vivid green, that dulls with age to a more dark green hue, appearing to be slightly covered with dust.

Under the frightful conditions of the Venlaken Lowlands, the Marsh-Oak takes on an entirely different shape. While still able to grow into a huge tree, its limbs are now swollen and crooked, with signs of decaying and rotting patches everywhere. The leaves are fewer, and those that persist are magnified and blotches with disease. The flowers however, suffer the most, developing an intense stench, and growing in even larger clusters than usual. the nuts are large and wrinkled, often sporting black patches of rot before they have fully ripened. It is not at all unusual to find clusters of nuts slowly turning into black goo while still attached to the tree.
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Territory. The Giant Marsh-Oak may well be found all over Nybelmar, growing in marshes, on river banks, floodplains, and swampy areas. It spreads rather quickly, and often forms small clusters when it finds a favourable area. However, most attempts at planting these seeds by humans have failed, for they survive in a dry environment for a very short period only, making transport of the seeds difficult, and on longer distances, completely impossible.

In the Drifting Woods, these trees are found more solitary, possibly because of the tides that move around the seeds much further than the stagnant waters of the marshes. They will usually grow upward rather fast, and spread out after they reach the upper layers of the canopy. As the years pass, lesser trees standing too close to the oak will die due to lack of light and nourishment, as the Marsh-Oak invades, and eventually occupies their living space. Would one be able to see the woods from above the canopy, the older Marsh-Oaks will be easily found, standing out from the rest of the woods by forming a great bulge on the sea of leaves, making them excellent landmarks for an experienced tree climber.

The Marsh-Oaks of the southern Venlaken Enclave area are quite another sight. There, in the desolate, putrid marshes of the Tears of Askanis, or the Lowlands, as they are more commonly called, these elsewhere bold and strong trees are, like all life in those waters, twisted into ghastly reflections of their normal self. Although they can live to be quite old even in these hostile lands, there are much fewer seedlings than would be expected, and the Marsh-Oaks there are almost always solitary trees.
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Usages. The Giant Marsh-Oak has many useful qualities, that are happily exploited by those who have access to them. First of all, the bark may be dried and, when torn into rough fibres, provides an excellent form of tinder, set aflame by even the smallest amount of sparks.

The wood then is, like that of nearly every oak species, hard and durable, used for high-quality furniture, building, and many other examples of woodcrafting. Its light, nearly white colour is appreciated especially by the tribes of the southern rainforests, even though the humid climate conditions turn everything crafted from this wood that would be used outdoors a much darker, near-black colour within a year, earning it the local name of ‘Shadow-wood’. As result of this change, clever artists and craftsmen have taken to create wonderful ornaments and furniture with a variety of grey shades by using pieces of wood that have been outdoors for varying lengths of time.

Next are the leaves, which are used as cattle fodder frequently, although they are usually not harvested for this purpose specifically, but rather taken from the trees that were cut down to provide wood. Many types of tamed beasts favour this food, even though their wild cousins are rarely able to reach them. An exception is the krog of the southern jungles, as it refuses to eat these leaves when they are offered, possibly due to the slightly bitter taste, although other animals appear to like it.
Lastly, the nut-like seeds of the Marsh-Oak may be eaten roasted, or ground to a paste and baked into a hard, bread-like substance, with a slightly bitter aftertaste that is liked by the inhabitants of the Drifting Woods. Should one ever have the chance, one must taste the delightful small pastry they make from this nut, which is often little more than a hard shell of Marsh-Oak nuts, filled with various wild fruits or spiced fish, and served best when still warm.

The practice of building inside these trees is less commonly known. The inhabitants of the Drifting Woods, as well as the Krean, and various other tribes that dwell exclusively in (rain) forests will use the incredible strength of these trees to their advantage, and construct dwellings and other buildings safely nested between the branches.
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Reproduction. The flowers of the Giant Marsh-Oak are small and green, consisting of a mere four, tiny leaves around an even smaller base, and are pollinated by small flies and other insects during the night. They are set in large clusters, on a long, communal stem, dangling about a span below their branch. As the flowers are pollinated, this stem grows more rigid and thick, in order to support the increasing weight of the nuts that will be forming there. With the tree flowering in the month of Awakening Earth, the Marsh-Oak nuts are ripe from the beginning of the month of the Sleeping Dreameress, but will often stay on the tree until the next storm season to be shaken loose, fall down, and hopefully be carried away by the water to a safe place to take root.
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Myth/Lore. The known problems with transporting living seeds for human use probably originates in the way the nuts are usually spread about by nature. Depending on water to carry the seeds away from the parent tree, these nuts do not need to be extremely water-conserving, and will dry out within a few days. Attempts to transport them inside water containers have repeatedly failed for unknown reasons, but it is thought that the seeds need to be in open water, with fresh water flowing around them at all times in order to survive a long journey. Therefore, seedlings are transported instead, although this greatly reduces the profit that can be made on a load, as they occupy much more space than the nuts would have.

On the borderlands of the Venlaken Enclave, in particular those areas that lie next to the river Zylos, local belief has it that the poor, twisted shapes of the Marsh-Oaks within the Venlaken Enclave are caused by the mad dancing faeries, who are supposed to sleep invisibly within its tortured branches.

Of course, no-one would dare even to approach the trees, and risk unleashing the mad dancing faeries upon themselves. The description given in this entry is therefore gathered by careful observance from a safe distance, and broken branches found after a severe storm.
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 Date of last edit 1st Passing Clouds 1666 a.S.

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