Heart of the Forest
Hearts of the Forest
Foresthearts are unique in appearance: a broad, flat, low-lying woody shrub, with branches radiating outward from a central stem, resembling a roughly circular disc of dark green ligneous sprigs with small leaves growing symmetrically off either side.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, foresthearts tend to be found in the hearts of forests: that is to say, they thrive in areas with plenty of shade, moderate rainfall, and copious neighboring flora. They adapt acceptably to transplant and potting, and exhibit the curious phenomenon that specimens gathered from the wild are often observed to be slightly less efficacious than those harvested from well-tended domesticated plants.
All useful preparations containing foresthearts require the presence of both its stems and its leaves to obtain results, as its medicinal efficacy arises from a reaction between the two. To obtain the ideal ratio of stem to leaf, use a small knife or scissors to prune the woody stem a few inches from its end, yielding a segment with five or six young brightly green leaves attached. Portions harvested from farther stems closer to the base of the plant, with older, darker green leaves, are slightly less potent. Foresthearts left to dry in open air will quickly crumble into flakes of inert dust; to prevent this, they must be immersed in mineral oil, which seems to preserve them nearly indefinitely. Some of the active compounds will slowly leach into the oil, but most applications calling for foresthearts are not ill served by simply pouring the oil into the recipe along with the plants themselves.
The only common purpose to which foresthearts may be tasked is the preparation of bandages treated with their essence, an application which serves to prevent infection of wounds, especially second- and third-degree burns. Preparation of these bandages will tend to tire the herbalist’s wrists, challenge her patience, and test the mettle of her mortar and pestle, as it is quite the chore to grind the stiff stems and leaves down to a smooth paste. The effort will be paid in efficacy, however; not to mention that any woody grit left in the bandages will tend to cause no small discomfort when applied to a sensitive burn wound. Once the paste is attained, it can be both thinned and concentrated with a quarter-hour at a low boil.
The medicinal quality of foresthearts is highly susceptible to annual variation. A mild summer with slight but steady rainfall yields the finest specimens, while seasons marked by high temperatures, or unusually high or low volumes of precipitation, impair the plant’s utility in herb-craft. Among some herbalists there exists a niche market in trading “vintages” of foresthearts cultivated in especially fine growing seasons; of locally-grown foresthearts, it is of note that the harvests of 1378 and 1375 were quite ideal, while 1380 yielded a comparatively impotent crop.