Common Name: Moon Flowers
Taxonomic Name: M. Monblut
General Appearance: A cluster of tall reedy grass-like structures, approx. 2-3 meters across, marginally taller in the center. Generally composed of two distinct parts, an A and B component. Plant is connected via underwater/underground branching roots that send shoots/stalks upwards (rhizomes). Cluster is nominally one plant, though multiple clusters have been seen intermingling.
- A Component – Multiple individual stalks surround a central point. Each stalk is 1 meter or so tall above surface of water, with a reedy green stem. Each stem is capped with an “umbrella” of leaves that vaguely resembles flower petals (leaves overlap/spread from the cap of the stem). Stems are fairly thick together, usually only 10-20 cm between them.
- B Component – Multiple stalks make up the central point. Always taller than the A component, usually by 15 cm on average. Multiple leaves are found on upper part of the stem. Each stem is capped with a tight bud wrapped in protective leaves. During the night, when the moon is at least half waxing/less than half waning, the leaves unfold to reveal a sheer white flower. Blooms within 30 minutes of moonrise, closes when moon sets or just before sunrise. B component may have collected earth/soil to make it be on a slight “island”, but this is fairly rare.
Defense Mechanism: The sap of the moonflower plant is a soporific/analgesic. Light consumption is relaxing, clouding the judgement and higher mental processes. Heavier consumption results in sedation, dulling of pain/warning signals in the mind. Excessive consumption impacts respiration to lethal effect. A components do not have much sap, and what they do have is much weaker. Herbivores will eat A components before moving in to the central B component to eat more leaves. Ingestion of B component will lead to smaller herbivores suffering overdose and becoming sedated, usually resulting in drowning in the shallow water around the plant. This provides both nutrition to the plant as well as additional food/resources to other creatures in the biome (with the risk of said creatures ingesting undigested sap).
Pollination: This occurs via moths at night. They are drawn to the flowers as they reflect moonlight. Size of the cluster leads most moths to land on the leaf clusters of the A component, picking up pollen that is then deposited on the flower. Alternative pollination can occur via wind. Modern studies have identified that A components are not all genetically identical, instead suffering some drift during the budding/stalk growth phase which counteracts the potential mono-cultural nature of plant. Seeds have a hard shell that is slightly porous. Seeds fall off the B component into the water, where current takes the seeds elsewhere. Eventually they get waterlogged and sink to the bottom where they attempt to germinate.
History: The moonflower was the central element of many lunar cults, including the largest that became syncretic with larger forge faith. Various “flower tenders” knew how to harvest the sap and do basic purification (empirical kitchen sink chemistry), and they zealously kept the secrets for decades. Eventually the source was identified, but initial attempts at commercialization failed as botanists failed to ID pollination method that was key to getting a cluster actually producing; flowers needed to be pollinated at least once to trigger full cluster growth & follow-on sap production. Initial mass production was done via hand-pollination and manual harvesting. Moonflowers were one of the first plants to be grown in basic hydroponic installations such as concrete pools.
Uses: The sap can be processed to have the active ingredients extracted, which function as a strong painkiller/sedative. It proved to be one of few natural sedatives/painkillers that did not cause significant physiological and psychological issues on consumption. Later research allowed creation of artificial pseudo-related substances.
The moonflower was something that I had penciled in a long time ago, but hadn’t really given a lot of work. I knew roughly what I wanted from it, but not really how I wanted to do it. Until (in what seems like typical fashion for myself) I had a flash of inspiration late at night. I stayed up way later than I should, but in the end I had the rough draft hammered out all in one go. It took a bit as I had to research the right words to describe what I was looking for, but at the end of the day I had a pretty solid rough draft.
As an aside, it’s worth noting that while there were several lunar cults, the only one that truly became syncretic with the forge faith was the one that had cracked the moonflower puzzle. As the forge faith was undergoing its first true schismatic crisis (around the use of steam power), various ideas had begun to filter into the lunar cults, and one of them decided to steal a few concepts and apply them to their own beliefs. This led to a better and more coherent understanding of the plant and its lifecycle, allowing them to not just survive, but merge with the forge faith in the end.