Hortus Siccus
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Basic Information

A hortus siccus (Latin "Dried Garden") is a collection of dried plants intended as a botanical reference. This often takes the form of a book with the plants dried and pressed, often accompanied by illustrations of the plants when fresh.

Traditionally these would be used as reference works for herbalism and so would also include applications, notes on habitat and directions for preparation.


1. full source reference

Game and Story Use

  • The obvious application for this would be as a reference work for herbalists - and the personal hortus of a renowned authority might contain valuable and/or useful information.
  • Even in the modern era, a hortus by, say, Joseph Banks might have significant cash value simple for its historical chops. A writer of fiction might be able to create an amusing Easter Egg in their work with a passing reference to a collection of books including "a rather splendid hortus siccus written by some chap called Maturin" (even more valuable as collectors of books from that era would be well aware that Maturin was better known for his ornithological works).
  • In the age of exploration, assembling a hortus of plants from newly discovered territories was typically a standard activity. Such exotica could be worth a good deal of money even without a practical application - and the notes taken could also help with propagation of specimens at a later date.
  • In a similar vein, suppose a contemporary hortus contains samples and references to a plant which subsequent expeditions cannot locate - this could spawn an investigation in its own right. In mundane campaigns this could be either significant habitat change during the interval, or simply an extremely localised plant which hasn't spread even the short distance to later landing sites. Even if the natives deny any knowledge that needn't be sinister - the plant may genuinely not be interesting to them, they may not relate the dried thing to the real plant, or they may just be the next tribe over and not have any on their land. More fantastical explanations may also exist.
  • Even more exciting if a hortus contains a sample of a plant otherwise extinct - for example if a medieval tome containing a piece of silphium turned up. It would probably be too badly degenerated to extract any useful DNA. Probably.
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