Elephant trees have slightly wrinkly, faintly blue, grey-colored bark and do not grow leaves--they appear to synthesize whatever sunlight they need directly through their odd bark. The branches of the elephant tree have a twisting growth habit that gives their branches the signature elephant's trunk appearance for which they were named. The tree's roots are similarly twisting, but appear to organize themselves in a more typically tree-like form than the tree's branches. In good growing conditions, the tree grows perhaps a foot in height each year until it reaches an approximate height of 17-20 feet tall.
The sap of the tree is a clear sky-blue when fresh, but is a translucent white or grey when dried. It is typically viscous when fresh, dries to a hard and brittle consistency, and tends to be intensely bitter in taste regardless of freshness. The wood of the elephant tree is hard and dense, somewhat akin to ebony, but generally an unappealing light grey color of wood. It can be polished to a high shine, however, and is fairly durable. Elephant tree wood does not float.
The flower of the elephant tree is an uncommon sight, and the blooming cycle does not appear to depend upon seasons or weather, but rather the choice of the individual elephant tree. Elephant tree flowers resemble a miniature water lily or lotus flower, approximately 2 inches wide, and are insect-pollinated. The flowers are reported to smell "like a memory," and appear to have a different scent for each person smelling them; the scent is always one evocative of a pleasant memory. If removed from the tree, the flowers wither in a matter of minutes and appear to cease to emit a noticeable fragrance. The fruit produced by the flower, if left on the plant for a week, has the appearance of a slightly fuzzy blue-grey olive and has precious little flesh surrounding the seed. The seed inside the fruit is hard, black, and lustrous like a tamarind seed. The flesh of the elephant tree fruit is crisp and pleasantly salty with a hint of sweetness.
Habitat & Hardiness:
Elephant trees exclusively grow where there is no frost, as even a light frost can pretty much kill a mature elephant tree. They can be found on floating water islands, having some tolerance to salt, and can often be found in sunny breaks in forest or jungle canopies on the Southern Continent and southerly portions of the Northern Continent. While they struggle somewhat with the chillier seasons, a few can also be found on Rysniel. They prefer strong sunlight, but can grow in bright shade, and the trees tolerate a wide range of soil conditions.
It is most common to find elephant trees growing solitary--a single tree of its kind amongst many other trees. Laelia Cragroot has observed on two separate occasions an animal carrying around a partially-eaten elephant tree fruit, and has put forth the theory that the seeds are able to psionically suggest to their hosts where they would like to grow and guide the host to plant the seed. Several other naturalists have confirmed the observation and witnessed burial of the seed by the animal carrier, lending credence to the theory. Some humanoids seek out elephant tree seeds in order to plant them in their towns or gardens for the benefit of their people, as well. Places where a grove of elephant trees have taken up residence are considered both sacred and in some cases dangerous. Groves of elephant trees almost always have a humanoid keeper (often a druid, but sometimes something more powerful, such as a treant or metallic dragon), and if they do not have one, appear to seek to acquire a suitable candidate (but never against the creature's will).
The most common use of an elephant tree is to nap under one. This can be dangerous in an unsecured location (such as in the middle of a forest), as the sleep beneath an elephant tree is typically deep and leaves sleepers exposed to wakeful creatures that may happen to wander by, but the vivid dreams which come to the sleepers often help them work through problems which stump their conscious minds. Those with psionic or clairvoyant abilities frequently will have visions under elephant trees, and several people have been known to discover latent or dormant psionic/clairvoyant talents after sleeping beneath an elephant tree. In rare cases people who sleep under elephant trees at the same time can dream together (interacting within a shared dream space), even if the elephant trees are not co-located or nearby, but this is much more likely to happen to people sleeping in a grove of elephant trees together. The trees appear to create an otherwise undetectable psionic network between all of their brethren, but are not at all reliable as a means of communication, as it would appear the trees choose to connect those they see fit to.
Specifically in cases when a person or small group of persons takes up a cause that will directly help protect a grove of elephant trees, sleeping under said elephant trees can in very rare cases cause the trees to grant a blessing upon them. The duration and exact nature of the blessing appears variable in the handful of recorded cases, but seem to center around granting a mild healing ability/feat and/or granting a passive hardiness against psychic intrusion/manipulation. This is almost exclusively conferred upon the Keeper of the Grove in trying times for the grove of elephant trees, but has been granted twice to outsiders in reliably recorded accounts.
Objects made of the wood of elephant trees are considered to retain some of the tree's dreaming ability, and are considered dreaming talismans. These objects are almost exclusively made of wind-fallen wood, as it is widely held to be bad luck to willfully damage a living elephant tree. The most common thing to find carved out of elephant tree wood are pendants/figurines of Uol. Items made of elephant tree wood are popular amongst merfolk, both for the connection to Uol and for the fact that the wood does not float and is thus easier for merfolk to carry or use.
[OOC: I have no idea how I didn't already have a post about Elephant Trees.]