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Border Chicory, also known as Tornflower, Tornbalm, or Travelerís Warning.
Description: Much like common chicory/cornflower, Border Chicory is a perennial with a low cluster of leaves shaped similar to those of a dandelion, with sturdy stems branching upward, and flowers (single or groups of up to three) at both branch-points and the tops. The root is also dandelion-like. Other than flower color, the primary visible difference between Border Chicory and common chicory is that the plant does not grow as tall. This is perhaps due to having evolved in a long, windy corridor between sundered areas, or perhaps, more simply, due to its ability to grow at and into the edges of the borders, or barren areas between pockets, it didnít need to stretch above other plants to get sunlight.
Flowers range from the traditional pale lavender, cornflower blue, and white to a variety of other colors, depending on the degree of sundering phenomena and environmental/soil contaminants. Additionally, where radiation is high, the flowers often glow in the dark. Like common chicory, flowers open in the early morning, and start to close by mid-afternoon.
Habitat: Border Chicory is compatible with a wide variety of soil types. It grows on both hills and flat areas, though it prefers disturbed ground, rocky ground, or ground where other plants are not growing. It is drought-tolerant, but so long as the soil is well-drained, can grow in areas of high rainfall as well. Grows in full sun and shade, though the root and leaves are least bitter if the plant is protected from direct sunlight.
Propagation: Border Chicory has tiny seeds, similar in size and appearance to lettuce seeds. It is pollinated by small bees and other insects. The seeds can be scattered around the plant, or carried by the birds that eat the seeds to farther locales.
Uses: This plant has a variety of uses, nearly all related to its ability to live in border areas.
Travelers: Border Chicory grows primarily at still-barren and deadly borders suffering the effects of the mysterious sundering phenomena and in areas that used to be border areas/ghost trails. It is one of the first plants to colonize all the way across a border after the border opens. Travelers and explorers can use the colors of the flowers to gauge whether itís safe to try to cross a border area. If the flowers are very dark or black, the phenomena are ongoing and severe. Travelers must turn back as soon as such flowers are spotted in the distance, or risk death, insanity, or severe border-sickness.
Where red, orange, pink, glow-in-the-dark, or other unnatural-looking colors are present, that is a warning that the soil is contaminated, and other plants in the area should also not be used for medicine or food.
Plants with different colored flowers are very rare; they are thought to happen only in areas of recent or current severe border instability. Like very dark flowers, this indicates the area must be avoided.
Once flowers have closed, it only takes a day for them to turn a dull, dark brown. There is little color variation in the wilted flowers, so they are not useful for indicating sundering phenomena or contaminants. The leaves and stems may show color changes, often shifting toward dark blue as the flowers get dark from time-effects, and sometimes picking up veining or color shift from contaminants. However, the traveler is warned not to believe that normal coloring in leaves always means it is safe to proceed.
Detection of poison/contaminants and Law Enforcement: Because the flowers of the border chicory are different colors if the plant grows in contaminated soil, plants are sometimes sown around factories to warn of chemical spills, and plants grown in the laboratory can be grown in or watered with a suspect substance to learn more about it. Itís not the fastest lab method, but it has the advantage of being much cheaper than chemical lab tests. The more accurate and precise chemical tests can then be performed when necessary.
Occasionally single plants far from border areas will show a color-shift toward the darker blues or purples. It is not known what causes this, but some people point to it as evidence that the border phenomena are not gone. What they say people should do about this depends on their cultural views of what caused the Upheaval and the borders in the first place.
Medicinal: It is possible to grow Border Chicory in areas with little or no phenomena present, however, the plants have only the standard medicinal effects of ordinary chicory, which is to say, in moderation, itís a weak liver-protectant and a tonic which slows digestion. It also has the effect of calming caffeine jitters, which is why some cultures blend roasted chicory root with coffee.
The plants that grow in active border areas, however, also are used by people who live in that area to treat the ill-effects of non-fatal encounters with the phenomena. Northerners use it to calm the system after an encounter with Others, though it does little, if anything, for anyone actually touched by an Other.
The strength of the medicine is proportional to the darkness of the flowers. Root, leaves, and flowers all have medicinal properties for sicknesses related to border phenomena and Others, though different cultures prefer one or the other. The lore is contradictory as to which parts are best for what.
Pesticide/Poison: The plants with red and pink flowers can be processed to yield an extract that poisons mice, rabbits, and other mammals. Orange flowers also can be used on insects. It must be processed carefully, however, lest the person making the pesticide is affected.
Coloring Agents: The colored flowers can be used in fabric dyes, but with unpredictable results. The deepening of color is caused by phenomena that scientists cannot yet explain, so it is unknown why it rarely transfers well to fabric, though when it does, the color is very durable, even in direct sunlight.
In contrast, potters in certain areas have had good success in making unusual glazes with the more odd-colored flowers. Of course, the most striking results come from the colors that indicate dangerous contamination of the soil, so is a bad idea to use them for cooking pots or dishes, and they require careful handling by the potter.
Medical Warnings: All border chicory, like common chicory, can cause vision and digestive problems if taken too often or to excess. Chicory whose flowers glow in the dark should not be handled or eaten under any circumstances, as they may cause radiation sickness. Chicory whose colors look unnatural, or which verges into red, pink, or orange should never be eaten; the symptoms of ingestion will vary depending on the exact contaminants in the soil.
Lore: The lore regarding border chicory mostly focuses on the black-flowered plants.
Border chicory is one of the most stable living things when exposed to border phenomena; it is very rare for anyone to come back with even a few truly black flowers. It is not safe to gather the black flowers except when a border has very recently opened, which is rarely apparent until the black flowers are long-gone.
As a result, black flowers and the black-flowered plants are very expensive. It is more common to find cleverly dyed or otherwise counterfeited black border-chicory flowers.
It is a common belief that a proper preparation of the black-flowers or the black-flowered plants (though there are very different traditions as to what proper preparation consists of) will grant a long life, or youth, or even immortality.
Others say that eating a black-flowered plant will allow you to walk all the way through a border, to arrive safely, or at least alive, in the region beyond.
Some northerly groups in the Empire believe that a tincture of the black flowers grants a second sight of sorts, including the ability to see ghosts, and time-shadows of both the future and the past.
The illustration is one of many instructional pamphlets that people seeking their first traveling license from the City of Affamarg must obtain.
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