This week's post regarding the lifeforms of Evandar is a bit of a departure from my usual format. I wanted to share with you how I develop plants for my world. I don't have an exceptional grasp of botany. I do have the beginnings of an understanding of herbalism. I have a small reference library and the all wise oracle known as Google to answer my questions. Fortunately, this is relatively adequate for what I am working on here.
I wish I could say that my plants were dreamed up on the basis of scientific theories and such. That, alas, is not the case. I start out with the question of how these exotic plants will be used. I look at what purpose they serve the story - which usually means how are they used by people. Some of my plants are developed to create unique 'flavors' for Evandar and the world. I want to present things in my world that are there for the purpose of making mundane matters such as cooking more interesting because most anyone can make a plain loaf of bread with a bit of time and effort.
At the same time, however, I recognize that most plants that arise do more than just influence food and drink. There are plants that have medicinal qualities and also serve as magical implements. If you consider the folklore that I devised around plants, you will find many parallels to English and American folklore regarding plants. There is, for example, a cognate to mandrake. Mandrake has a very rich body of folklore surrounding it. I have taken elements of that folklore and tweaked it a bit to make it fit the folklore of Evandar. Still, I have retained enough of the parallels that it is still somewhat recognizable that this is something that serves a role like that of Mandrake.
I try to describe the plants as I would anything that I find in our world. I do my best to make my descriptions like those of many popular herbals that are out for people in the pagan community. I confess, I do this because these herbals were my first real introduction to descriptions of plants in common language rather than the scientific language used by botanists and biologists. My background as a student scientist, however, does color my writing about these things.
I try to assemble my information in a manner that makes logical sense. And I work hard to answer questions about matters like where these plants would grow and what role they play in the ecosystem. Sometimes the answers come fairly easily. More often the answers are difficult and require research. It may sound odd to say that I have to do research about a plant that I am creating for a fantasy world. My research is into plants that fill similar niches within the ecosystems of Earth to get a better understanding how the plants arise.
I hope someday to put together a book like the Voynich Manuscript. It is most likely going to be a purely artistic effort. My goal is to write descriptions of the things I illustrate (plants and animals) as well as put down other things that are typically found in medieval codices. If I can manage it, I want to include marginalia that is reminiscent of what is found in those ancient books as well. This may sound like a maddening degree of work just for a few interesting plants.
My codex is more than a scratchpad for ideas. I have a separate notebook for that, though I haven't anything for marginalia or drawings in it at the moment. No, the codex is in some respects an endgame project. My devising recipes, folklore, and mythos that are drawn from the well of medieval Europe's history serves the ultimate goal of somehow managing to recreate something of that world in my own life. One person stitched a Bayeux tapestry styled tapestry detailing the modern saga of Star Wars as an expression of their medievalist interests and their other passions. My codex would serve the same role in my own life. Or at least, that is my mad dream and the main driving force behind my particularly detailed descriptions of these elements of my world.