When you ask Oxford Dictionaries to define the word ‘Herbarium’, it retorts:
1. A room or building housing a herbarium
2. A box or other receptacle in which dried plants are kept
The two definitions set my mind astray. At once, I envision a faded, Victorian glasshouse, built to house the dead as opposed to the living. The panes of glass have long since shattered; all that remains is the skeletal frame. This ‘receptacle’ of plants is a preserver
of memories. But the memories are timeworn; dried out specimens exist between pages of thick and dusty volumes. There are hundreds of these books- and they all line the shelves of the old herbarium. But why might someone wish to preserve the history of plants? The history seems particularly relevant when I consider Amaravella.
Amaravella is the planet of our terrestrial nightmares, the place where wildlife meets mass extinction. There must have been millions of plant species, all with their separate uses, remedial and ritualistic practices. But now in the wake of planetary drought they are limited. One can walk a mile through seas of barren earth, subject only to the metallic reflection of the sun. In the interest of world-building, I would like to know what once grew on the planet of Amaravella. What has faded? What has been lost?
In the real world, people are striving to rediscover the ‘forgotten knowledge’ of plants. Books like Herbarium have been published in the contemporary era. Furthermore, the internet is rife with foraging guides and herbal cures. (Here’s something I tried the other day). The emerging trend of new-age medicine, not to mention the resurgence of modern witchcraft is surely born from a desire to make contact with the natural world.
With this in mind, I have decided to construct a Herbarium for my own imagined planet. In the last episode of Amaravella, Panthu is given a yellow root to eat after making friends with an old shaman called Floyd. The root has powerful properties. Panthu begins to have visions of Phantom creatures roaming and grazing upon the land. She is exposed to what Floyd calls ‘the Nostalgia Realm’, a glimpse into prehistory when the planet sustained a lush ecosystem.
If Panthu wishes to resuscitate the natural magic of Amaravella, there is perhaps more to be said for plants and their communicative powers. If plants have their own language (It could be called Symbotany), their ability to speak must be subtle and submerged. To successfully pursue a state of ecological harmony upon Amaravella, Panthu must imbibe plants, enter their worlds and speak with them through methods that are unheard of, neoteric in discipline.
I leave you with a few plants I have animated and written imagined properties for… and I do hope this post has sparked your imagination.
Purple Shaman Weed
Known Properties >>>
Shamans smoke the powdered roots of this plant to have ritualistic hallucinations.
Depending on the maturity of the plant, the shaman may temporarily inherit telepathic powers, entering an induced state of floral consciousness.
Mauve fibers sprouting from the stem may also be woven into a fine fabric.
Known Properties >>>
The Bloodflower commonly grows following a season of intense 'red rains'. The red rains began to occur after the greatest mass extinction of Amaravellian wildlife took place.
Some believe the Bloodflower to be a regenerative plant, a symbol of hope. Others see it to be vicious weed; vulture-like, the Bloodflower thrives on the sacrifices made by the natural world.