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Bread trees, distant palm relatives, grow to about 100 feet, making them one of the lower-canopy trees in the Rainbow Rainforest. They are slim, for their height, maxing out at about 5 feet in diameter. They have large, umbrella-like leaves that grow only in the top 10% of the tree. These leaves are nearly four feet in length when full grown, purple on top and brilliant green on the bottom. The full grown trees have a very tough, thick bark around a loose, starchy center.
With no appreciable seasons in the Rainbow Rainforest, the trees have a cycle based instead on insect triggers; every several years, following a big caterpillar hatch and subsequent predation, the tree loses a portion of its leaves and puts out a cluster of large blue flowers, 1-2 feet in diameter, that bloom and die in a matter of days. Fine seeds from these flowers are scattered by insects and birds and sprout in loose soil. New trees grow extremely rapidly, but are very susceptible to boring insects in particular before they reach their full height and depth of bark.
The starchy core of the tree is what gives them their name; the starchy center is nutritious and can be dried to be a shelf-stable flour, nutty and slightly tangy in flavor, that is good for several months. Improperly cured bread tree flour will develop a toxic mold, but it is obvious by flavor and rusty color.
The tough bark makes a strong building material: light, flexible, and sturdy. The Purists use it for walls and shingles.
The leaves of the bread tree can be boiled to make a bright yellow dye. This is particularly used by the Purists in tattoos. It is also used for textiles.
The rare blue petals of the flowers can be made into a pretty but very pale purple or pale blue textile dye, depending on which mordants are used. Simple boiling makes an even paler dye, useless on its own for tattoos, though it is sometimes concentrated and blended with the dye from the leaves to make a yellow-green hue. Due to the rarity of the trees and the importance of the trees as a food source, the Purists only harvest the petals when they have fallen away from the flowers.
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Stories and poetry related to this article: Kin and Ink (1520.10.05)
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