The Mil'no Plant is a desert plant with light pink to blue blooms used for hygienic, cosmetic, medical and other purposes due to its strong scent. Mil'no grows in bulks on solitary stalks with silvery-green leaves and can be found in abundance in half arid conditions, but can exist in drier regions also. Mil'no is up to two peds high with green soft, hand sized leaves on single stalks, growing in bulks. Its intense scent serves as a defence against herbivorous animals and sucking insects. Mil'no is mainly used by the Shendar, who need not only greater amounts of the leaves for their toilet, but use all its parts for different purposes.
Image description: A field of Mil'no Plants including the kirilit birds. Picture drawn by Quellion.
Mil‘no plant has dark green, soft, oval shaped leaves
which are about the size and nearly the shape of a small
human hand, the base broader and rounded, the
tip more pointed, the biggest leaves sitting near the base of the stem. Thin
silvery hairs cover the upper side of the leaves to prevent loss of liquid in
the dry conditions where it grows. That is why Mil'no
sometimes looks like a silvery wave when the wind bends
its stalks, though its main colour is green.
The leaves sit on hollow stems which may be three nailsbreadth thick on the bottom, but get soon thinner with every wreath of leaves which grows directly out of the stem in even intervals, most times one can find seven "circles" per stem. There are Mil‘no Plants which have only three leaves per wreath, ones with six per circle and very seldom there are even some with seven leaves. All these plants grow in different places and it is known that the variety with three leaves is able to tolerate slightly salty water better than the other forms.
It is not yet clear, if such a single stem can be seen as the plant, or if several stems are one plant as there normally are about ten to hundred stems growing in one location, though there might be several patches near an oasis. But there are places known as well where this plant covers a whole area with up to several thousand single stalks. They grow very dense, only two leaves broad or even less apart.
The flowers grow out of the point where the leaves are sitting on the stem. Several bell shaped little pink-blue blooms sit on a short stalk. The plants with six leaves in a circle have only three little blooms per leave, however the other variety has six. Only the seven leaves Mil‘no is an exception with seven blooms on the longer stalk, and here the blooms are white as well as the berries.
The berries which develop out of the blooms have tiny black seeds in a thick pulp, perhaps half a nails breadth in diameter. The flesh is pure white, but the skin dark pink to blue till black when ripe. They are tasting sweet, but otherwise like the whole plant are smelling.
Digging in the ground will show that the plant has a tuber root which is quite thick and bulbous and from there roots are going down into the sandy soil up to seven peds(!). The tuber roots are connected with each other with a interweaving of finer water transporting root system.
So the Mil‘no can be found growing only a ped high and with only a few stalks growing together in regions where the conditions are bad, but as well up to two and a half peds high in a "forest" of up to thousand individual stalks, when the outspread root system allows it to grow where is not much water available as long as a part of the "forest" is situated near a water source. However the stalks which are farer away aren't as tall as the ones located near the moisture.
Image description: Sketch of the Mil'no Plant in full height. Picture drawn by Talia.
An ensemble of Mil‘no Plants
is easily to find. They produce a strong, though not unpleasant, fresh scent
which prevents them from being eaten by herbivorous animals or damaged from
liquid sucking insects. All parts of the plant give this smell off when touched
or even cut. But it is at its strongest in the liquid which fills the hollow
stem and the hollow root. A stalk forest of course is the source of a cloud of
smell, especially when the wind causes the leaves to release their scent when
being rubbed together. This cloud is carried away over vast distances, it gives
the often hot winds a soothing component and is named by the
"Smell of the Rahaz Dath".
Territory. In regions which have a distinct climate the Mil‘no flowers in spring, the berries ripen in late summer and the plant dies with the first stronger frosts. Where the conditions are nearly the same all year long there can be flowering and berries carrying plants in the same bulk, each stalk dying after the ripe berries have fallen off will be replaced by a new one.
The Mil‘no Plant grows everywhere on the Sarvonian continent where the climate permits it. It loves half arid, hot conditions with lots of sunshine and enough water in the soil at least part of the year, even partly salty water is tolerated. There the big "stalk forest" grow. It is adapted to drier conditions as well and can easily survive several years of dryness, though it doesn‘t grow in these times.
However, where the rain lasts longer than a few weeks and when its root system and the base of the stems is too wet for longer times, it rots quickly away, including the root system. Mil'no may well survive some frost, but when the cold time is too long the above parts of the plant get black and freeze, and it has to recover totally from the root system.
Smaller quantities of the Mil‘no Plant are found all over the whole Rahaz Dath, at the forests e.g. near the Swamp Oka‘Seri, around parts of the Makadi Gadi salt pans and near the Jewels, the Narfost Plain however seems too cold to support the growth, it is only found in few places, where the gorges give some shelter from the frost, but the sun reaches it as well.
Though Mil'no grows well near open water sources, the plant is, due to its long roots, found as well where the water is available only underground like in the dry valleys of the central Rahaz Dath.
Out of strange reasons the Mil‘no doesn‘t grow in Aeruillin. Of course there have been attempts to plant it there - against the will of the Shendar - but despite all efforts to give it the right conditions it died after some time. A lot of soil where the Mil‘no was growing well was brought to Aeruillin as well, but the Mil‘no stayed alive a bit longer, but died nevertheless. So it is thought that the Mil‘no is dependent on something existing in the soil of the Rahaz Dath.
Sketch of the Mil'no Blooms and Berries. Picture drawn by Talia.
Special Characteristics. The Mil'no's strong smell
prevents it from being eaten or damaged otherwise and it suppresses the growth
of other plants, but provides an excellent refugee for animals of all kinds.
So you can find not only a variety of birds who breed in Mil'no
regions, either on the ground like the blackheaded nele or making their
nest high in the air by binding some stalks together like the blue-green
kirilit, but small mammals like the spring mouse and the striped kara, whose
ability for smelling seems not to be hindered by the strong odour of the
Mil‘no, reptils like the gold spotted lizard and a lot of
insects as well. Occasionally even a dragon fly is
seen where open water is near. However, the safety from predators from the air
or bigger ones who are not able to follow their prey into the stem forest is
treacherous. So the egg snake not only finds its food on the ground, but is able
to wind itself up the stems to find the nests there and the silver milá pays a
visit now or then, though the scent is disturbing to its
Young Mil'no leaves are also smooth and soft and have the ability to drain every little bit of moisture out of the air to supply itself with the necessary water to survive in arid landscapes. The main characteristic however is its very strong fragrance and sterilising properties, especially of the liquid which the hollow stem and the root contains. Even in dried state it has a very strong, though not unpleasant smell.
Another characteristic is the way Mil'no dries. The leaves aren‘t as soft as fresh ones, but they are still very strong in their consistence and don't tear apart when under stress. Only when kept more than two years they rot finally and the structure breaks up leaving fine dust behind.
All these characteristics make the plant so valuable for the Shendar (see Usages).
Usages. The Shendar use the Mil'no Plant in several ways:
Harvesting and Storing
The whole stem including root is digged out and if this is carefully done the liquid which the hollow stem contains is kept safe in the inside. So the plant keeps fresh for several months till it is used.
If space is a problem, the leaves are dried and kept for later use or for trade. The liquid is filled either in special jugs made in Uderza or in leather hoses. In these cases the liquid stays fresh due to evaporation, but it might get unpleasantly strong as well.
The leaves are used as described in the Shendar toilet (see there). The liquid is a strong disinfectant and serves for many purposes. It is added to the Shendar toilet to enforce the smell of the used leaves, it makes dried leaves scent again stronger. Added to the washing water it keeps the water fresh and nicely smelling.
Medical and Cosmetic Uses
For medical purposes Mil'no can either be used internal in case the toilet is needed much more often than desired, or external to disinfect open wounds. How much Mil'no is diluted lies in the experience of the healer.
It is said that the Shendar healer use a undiluted, specially strong mixture to make a patient unconscious before a major surgery by holding it under his nose for several minutes, but this assumption is not proved.
Mil'no is also very valued as repellent against the Tra‘mat fly and high prices are paid by the elves of the northern tribes for who this beetle can be lethal.
Generally can be said, that the liquid can be used for disinfecting needs of any kind. The disinfecting properties have conserving effects as well, and though salt is preferred for this purpose, the Mil‘no is used as well for shorter time spans, either by wrapping the meat e.g. into fresh leaves or by rubbing in a mixture out of oil and Mil‘no. A drop in the drinking water keeps it longer fresh.
In greater dilution with water it is used by girls to clean their face, though they might add other flavour as well (rose leaves).
The leaves, the liquid and of course the berries of the Mil'no are used for cooking as well, though it is less cooking than producing alcoholic beverages. The berries are dried and sold as sweets, just for eating them or adding them to cakes and other dishes. However, they are not only the main ingredient of the Shendar wine, but along with a few leaves and other desert herbs they are the source of the excellent liqueur called "Desert Love" the Shendar make. The wine and the liqueur are well loved beverages in all Truban towns, the artists in Bardavos especially like the expensive variety where only the white berries of the seven leaves Mil‘no Plant is used.
Another alcohol is the "Mil‘no Fire", a high percentage clear spirit. It is destilled out of the liquid with some added berries to provide the needed sugar. It is said to be undrinkable for non-Shendar.
Uses as Musical Instruments
The hollow stem, deprived from its leaves and its liquid stored is washed out and then used to make two different kinds of flutes. Either one single piece of the lower part is cut of and holes at certain distances are thrilled into it, or the whole stem is taken, cut apart where the leaves sit and bound together in a special way. The hollow tuber root is used in a similar way.
The Shendar, used to the strong smell of the Mil‘no, are sometimes not aware of it, however the people they meet are. This may be the cause for the contemptuous looks and words they sometimes encounter, being called „Smelling Nomads“, even if the daughters of these people use the same - diluted - liquid to clean their faces.
The propagation happens either through the growing root system or by birds who
feed on the berries and carry the new seeds elsewhere.
Myth/Lore. There is even a saying which refers to the Mil‘no plant. If somebody was so unfortunate to come in a very unpleasant and awkward situation of any kind and has to take the blame for it for himself it is said from him: "Seems his Mil‘no was a bit too old!"
Information provided by Talia Sturmwind