The Merloea Tree (Styrásh "Sýs'há Tree") grows primarily in northern Santharia, though a good gardener can grow the tree in just about any climate, and therefore the tree can also be found in gardens throughout Santharia, and even in regions of Nybelmar and Northern Sarvonia. Apart from being a lovely addition to any garden, it also produces a sweet, fleshy fruit that some believe has healing properties, and provides leaves and flower petals that are often brewed into relaxing herbal teas.
While few who
enjoy the trees multifarious benefits know, the tree also has magical effects, and many of those around Ximax refer to the tree as the "Sýs'há Tree". The
fruit and leaves people consume actual help return the car’all to its natural balance, and can
therefore reduce the negative effects of spells or
Appearance. The tree comes in many sizes, often dependent upon the desires of its gardener, the size of its habitat, the fertileness of the earth, etc.. Therefore, it can grow at any number of heights, barely higher than a dwarf to trice the size of a human man. The trunk, is generally of a light grayish brown, and makes up only one third of its total height, the other two thirds reserved for its branching limbs, coloured grayish-brown as well.
The branches have a malleable, vine-like quality in that they can be easily braided or made to twine about tresses or in the branches of other trees. When not coaxed into twining, the branches tend to curve upward, generally giving the leafy top of the tree a globe-like shape. The smooth sides of its leaves come to an elegant point and are very soft and thin, shaded deep green, and while they are small, generally no longer than an elven woman’s pinky finger, they grow thickly on the branches in the spring and summer months.
When spring arrives, the tree produces a multitude of flowers, though the average passerby may not take notice of the flower, coloured only a slightly lighter shade of green than the leaves. Because of the colour, the flowers blend in to the light-coloured, nascent leaves of spring. While they cannot be easily seen, the flowers can be identified the olfactory senses, as they produce a sweet-smelling aroma that serves as an indication of spring.
The flowers shed their six little petals in late spring or early summer and form into small, sweet fruit that grows to about the size and shape of the linden fruit. The Merloea fruit begins as a very light green, but as it ripens, turns lighter and lighter until it turns a creamy white. Once the fruit is ripe enough to eat, the outside layer of skin will often come off easily, leaving a creamy piece of edible fruit. While the outside layer of skin is edible, it’s a little tougher than the inside, which is very soft, and, as many have described it, tastes like honeyed milk. This fruit has a pit in its center, generally the length of a finger joint and coloured light brown.
In fall, the
Merloea Tree's leaves turn from a dark brown, into a dark purple-red, and then
to brown, at which point they descend from the branches. In the colder winter
months, then, the Merloea Trees stand bereft of their foliage, their gray-brown
branches standing starkly in the coming snow.
Territory. The Merloea Tree grows throughout northern and mid Santharia, often on the outskirts of forests or right outside town and villages. It is found most plentifully in Xaramon, where those who know of its properties to return balance to the car’all grow it often to protect themselves from the perceived effects of living so close to Ximax Academy.
However, while it
grows naturally in northern Santharia, it
can be made to grow just about anywhere. With careful and patient hands, this
tree can be made to grow anywhere from the deserts of Rahaz-Dath to the frigid plains of the Celeste Lowlands in Northern Sarvonia, and even in the
warm climates of Nybelmar.
Usages. One reason for the Merloea Tree’s growth in so many areas stems from its wide variety of uses. The fruit is not only delicious, both raw and cooked into a wide variety of meals, but also has the ability to balance out the car’all, returning the car’all to its natural state. Similarly, consuming the tree’s leaves and flowers as a tea, often added with other plants and flowers and steeped in hot water, helps balance the car’all. While few who rely on these positive effects know of the underlying magical reasoning, they know of the benefits, and Merloea tea often recommended for conditions like restlessness, anxiety, sleeplessness, irritation, and worry. It is also consumed just as a means of relaxing after a hard day or work. Because of the peaceful effects of the tea, it often believed to keep away conflict within the household and nurtures happy families.
Because of this belief, the tree is often given as a gift to newly-married couples and for couples expecting children. This practice of giving Merloea Trees as gifts is practiced most often among hobbits, but the practice has spread among humans as well, especially among farmers or those in rural areas who have the space to grow them. Because Merloea Trees often serve as symbols of peace and unity, cutting one down is considered to be bad luck.
The Merloea Tree is used in gardens throughout Caelereth, not only for its fruit and car’all-balancing attributes, but because of its malleability: the branches of the tree can be braided or interwoven with relative ease to create lovely archways. Its flowers also provide a wonderful aroma in spring. The flowers are occasionally used in perfumes, though most would much prefer not to pluck the flower, but instead let it grow into the tasty Merkael fruit, known for its creamy white colour and honeyed milk taste.
At Ximax, where the tree grows most plentiful, the
magi hold the tree special because of the fruit. Ingesting the fruit balance
one's car’all and relieves some of the
effects of negative spells. The magi often drink Merloea Tea to soothe weariness
and help focus during spell casting. The tea is made in several kinds of
varieties in the Academy's infirmary. The
healers and counselors there brew the tea mixed with different fruits to produce
a variety of flavors. The tea helps soothe patients fears to prepare them for
Reproduction. The Merloea Tree produced it s light green flowers in early to mid spring, at which point insects, like the malise, help to pollinate the tree. The flowers stay on the branches for two to two and a half months before the flowers shed their petals. Over the next few months, the remainder of the flower will grow into the fruit. Beginning as a light greenish bulb, it will expand, turning light and lighter until it reaches a creamy white. At this point, the fruit is ready to be picked. These white fruits grow plentifully on the tree, and as many as thirty can be produced by one tree in one season.
The fruit contains a pit about the length of a finger joint and coloured a light brown. Those who grow Merloea Trees generally plant the pit in late summer or early autumn. If the pit produced a tree, it will generally sprout in early spring when many of the adult Merloea Trees are producing flowers. However, for these little sprouts, flower-production won’t come for another three to four years. After these few years, the sprout will have grown to about the size of a dwarf, and will produce flowers and very small fruit.
Though no one
knows for sure how long Merloea’s live, since their lifespan is often dependent
on location and conditions, most agree that they live for an average
of twenty years, though many Merloea Trees live much longer.
Myth/Lore. The myth around Xaramon is that the Merloea Tree was introduced to the Ximaxian Magical Academy's gardens by Jakata the Wise. This traveling fae woman from the continent of Aeruillin came to Ximax long ago with the intention of learning magic. Jakarta was a teller of tales and author of many books of lore. The story goes that Jakata brought the Merloea Tree with her from the Void where it had emerged, but was now dying amid the chaos. According to her, she possessed the last of the Void's Merloea seeds and wanted to plant them in Xaramon as a way to preserve them. She promised the magi that the Merloea's fruit and leaves had magical properties, as they originated from the mysterious Void itself. The magi agreed to care for the trees Jakata planted. Sure enough, the trees thrived in their new home and true to The magi agreed to care for the trees Jakata's claims, the fruit and leaves indeed held magical properties.
For those who live outside of Xaramon, the tree is very much associated with Eyasha. Following the great Sundering, following the fall of Fá'áv'cál'âr, Eyasha walked through Sarvonia hoping to ameliorate some of the tragedy and pain caused by the brutal war. With gentle hands, she formed the Merloea Tree to comfort those faced with the greatest hardships. Eyasha is occasionally portrayed wearing intertwined branches of the Merloea Tree on her head as a crown, and this motif is has carried over such that painters and sculptors will borrow the symbol of the Merloea wreath as a symbol of a peaceful, calm, and level-headed individual. It has become a tradition in some areas to wear a crown of Merloea branches as a sentiment of good will when negotiating peace treaties or settling arguments. Sometimes, the fruit and branches are given as a tokens of peace and symbolize good will.