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Trees and Bushes of the North - Flora
Written By: Elizabeth Barrette (Writer), Ellen Million (Writer), Layla Lawlor (Developer)
A look at the trees and bushes of the North.

The North has hardy spruce trees to fill the evergreen niche. White spruce grow the largest and are found in areas with good drainage. Black spruce tends to be more stunted, but is more tolerant to flooding and extreme temperature, so it is found further up mountains than any other kind of tree. Another variety, brewer's spruce, is found only in Smokewater Valley and other protected areas. Similar to the brewer's spruce found in northwest America, the Torn World version is the best for making spruce soda and spruce beer, two popular Northern drinks. The roots are often used as rope and as a basket-weaving material, and the pitch is used as a glue and waterproofing material. It is excellent firewood.

Deciduous trees are more varied, and among the most common are paper birch, aspen, and cottonwoods.

Birchbark is a prime construction material in the North, useful for making boxes, baskets, and even canoes. Northerners don't go saltwater boating much because of hostile wildlife; they use canoes primarily on rivers and lakes. Birchbark canoes are constructed using traditional techniques, then decorated with paintings or etchings of snow-unicorns, fish, and other designs. The wood is also excellent for burning, though not as good as spruce.


Aspen look very similar to paper birch, but lack the distinctive 'peeling' bark, and are less useful as a building material.

Cottonwoods go through two different stages of bark - the first is a smooth, greenish bark that splits as the tree ages and becomes a heavily-textured, rough surface. They are very fibrous, and not very useful for fuel or building material. In spring, they seed with a white, fluffy seed pod that can make it look like it's snowing! (Some experimentation has been done in using this to weave into cloth, but the fibers are too short to be used alone; it can be mixed with wool.) They are tolerant to flooding.

(Older cottonwoods near a river)

There are a few hardy varieties of fruit trees (highly prized!) and even fewer hardwoods - most of these are found in the thermally warmed Smokewater Valley, or in very sheltered areas that receive good snowfall for insulation through the cold winter that isn't too wet and heavy. The fruit trees of the North include cherries, apples, apricots, pears, and the methalerf.

The methalerf is related to the meffirb tree from further south. It is drought-resistant and tough, and can be found on wind-swept hills. It often fails to put out fruit, or sometimes even leaves, and fruit almost never has a chance to ripen in the North.

Apples are the most common fruit in the north (though still rare!) and treasured for their flavor, nutrition and shelf life. They are found in protected valleys, particularly those warmed by hot springs. They tend to be smaller and heartier than apples we are familiar with. Two varieties have been noted specifically:

The fruit from the sour-apple trees looked very similar to the fruit of the rare spike-apple, so it was an easy mistake to make. The leaves had the same pointed-oval, velvet-green shape, and both were short and tended to grow in chaotic tangles, sheltered in low valleys with good drainage.

Worse, they tended to grow together, and if you didn't look very closely for the characteristic bright speckles on the ripe spike-apple, you might never know it was not its innocuous cousin.


An adult snowy could shake off the effects of spike-apples, and in most humans it tended to cause only a 'spike' of adrenaline, but young snowies, just beginning to supplement their mother's milk with greens and fruit, could die of it.

- excerpt from An Apple With Kick by Ellen Million.

Crabapples also have two versions: one with fruit about fingertip size, and one with larger fruit up to the size of a hen's egg. The small fruit is consistently sour or bitter, but can be used as an ingredient for jelly, pie, etc. The larger fruit is usually the same,
but occasionally there is a tree that bears sweeter fruit.

Cherries: 'pie cherries' (small and tangy) and 'chokecherries' (actually a berry, and extremely sour). Pie cherries are harvested from smallish trees that are prone to breakage under snow or ice. They will seed, but also readily spread by runners into dense thickets. They produce bright to dark red fruit with yellow flesh, ranging in flavor from tangy to mouth-puckering sour. Few people enjoy eating pie cherries fresh; as the name implies, they are usually used for baking or preserves. They can also be dried for use in stuffings or other recipes. The fruit is often eaten first by birds, who love these treats. Inspired by 'Evans' aka 'Bali' which produces well in Anchorage, Alaska.

A tough, sweet-tart apricot has survived in just a few places. Small bushy trees bear sweet-tart golden fruit with a pink blush. They bear young only 2-3 years from seed. Lovely pink flowers appear before the tree leafs out in spring. Fruit may be eaten fresh, halved and dried, cooked with other foods, or used in apricot butter or other preserves. Dried apricots are especially useful for making stuffings or trail mixes. Inspired by Manchurian apricot (Chinese apricot).

Dessert pears did not survive, but contributed to the gene pool along with cooking pears. The result is a mishmash of small to medium trees which are prone to losing branches in snow or ice storms. Fruit is generally small and green but other characteristics vary widely. Some will turn yellowish with sweet, juicy flesh. These are delicious fresh but useless for cooking or preserving. Most Northern pears stay hard and grainy; they are crunchy and slightly juicy if eaten fresh, with a bland or tart flavor. They are excellent for cooking down into filling or pear butter, and may be preserved in that manner. Inspired by Ussurian pear (Chinese; cultivar 'Ure' developed in Manitoba, Canada).

Hazelnuts are the only nut trees that regularly bear in the North. Other nut trees are rare and almost never produce nuts.

Willow and alder, although they grow into trees in warmer climates, usually stay smaller and qualify as brush in the the North. Willow is particularly thick along streams and near water, and is favored browsing for the snow-unicorns. Willow bark is a useful painkiller and fever reducer. Willow wood is easy to carve and young stems are excellent for wicker. A Torn World variety called sunrise willow is favored for basketry because its flexible stems hold brilliant shades of pink, red, orange, or yellow when dried. Alder bark is used for a reddish-brown dye.

Similarly, hare-thorn may be found grown into trees, but is far more common as brush, and brings the first color of spring with its soft, fluffy yellow and orange catkins.

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