Arcane Botanica

by Scott Noel, Dragon #357

A potential cultivator can successfully plant a seedling with a Knowledge (nature) or Profession (gardener) check at the list DC. After that, most plants require regular care in the farm of an additional check (at the same DC) at the listed interval. Failing one check results in a penalty (in most cases) on the next check. Failing two checks in a row results in the plant's death. The following table lists the DCs, time Intervals, and resultant penalties of all the plants in this article.

Some particularly robust plants (such as year-old orevine and glowvine) do not require constant care, Other plants have special rules regarding their cultivation and care, as listed under their individual descriptions.

Magic courses through and shapes the Great Wheel and all its many worlds, giving rise to no end of wondrous life. Dragons, basilisks, unicorns, and myriad other magical creatures populate the vast and varied existences. Yet, magic's effect on life is not limited to the animal kingdom. In many ways, the natural and magical evolution of flora from mystical energies is more important than the evolution (forced or natural) of fauna. For while arcane mutation has produced a host of interesting monsters, the combination of magical energies and plants has enhanced commerce, created new tools, and in some inhospitable regions even allowed life to thrive.

Many different specialties exist within the study of arcane botany, although all of them divide into one of two schools of scholarly thought: the study and cultivation of plants from other planes and the application of magical development to mundane Material Plane plants.


The fields and forests (or their equivalents) of the various planes are rife with life: life that creatures of flesh and bone might never understand, but life nonetheless. Plants from other planes (even those that appear identical to those of the Material Plane) prove difficult to keep alive when transported from their native realities. The few described here, although extremely rare, are understood well enough for sages, scholars, and planar botanists to attempt their upkeep. The following selections, while representative, reflects only a tiny fraction of naturally occurring planar plants.

Djinn Blossoms

First recorded on the Material Plane in the annals of the elven bard Kyravahne Rhylfahne, djinn blossoms often appear as part of the floral arrangements at royal wedding ceremonies. Djinn blossoms now serve as one of the more common arcane exotics cultivated for display in elven courts.

The mature plant resembles a large fern with branches like those of a quince emerging from between the fernlike fronds. On the Elemental Plane of Air these plants grow to truly enormous sizes, forming the foundation for the floating islands many creatures use as homes. On the Material Plane, the largest djinn blossoms documented grow to roughly 5 feet in diameter (although some sages claim to have raised specimens with diameters of almost 10 feet). Djinn blossoms maintain a strong link to their home plane and, as a result, a perpetual light breeze surrounds them. Rich with the lilac-like scent of the djinn blossom's flowers, these zephyrs form the principal reason the plant remains cultivated. Although the djinn blossom's perfume makes it popular, some cultivators prune the plant in a manner that prevents it from maturing. The stunted plant that results, (sometimes called a djinn fern) looks like a lush tropical fern and takes on a slightly bluish hue. Like djinn blossoms, these plants emit mild breezes in all directions. The winds of the stunted djinn ferns, however, lack scent.

Wearing a plucked djinn blossom flower provides a +2 bonus on all saves to resist inhaled poisons, toxic gases, and magical spells and effects that rely on gases, clouds, or fogs (such as cloudkill). In addition, the djinn blossom can be made into a perfume with a successful DC 20 Craft (alchemy) check. This perfume grants a +2 bonus on all Charisma-based skill checks. Both a plucked blossom and a dose of perfume last for 24 hours after application.

A djinn blossom grows to its full size in roughly a year, after which time it requires even more careful tending and pruning, lest it shifts back to the Elemental Plane of Air. A gardener caring for a mature djinn blossom (or djinn fern) must continue to make a check every month, with two failures in a row resulting in the plant returning to the Elemental Plane of Air. Provided a djinn blossom is cared for properly it can live for centuries.

A healthy mature djinn blossom sells for 3,000 gp (a djinn fern for 2,000 gp). A djinn blossom bulb sells for at least 10,000 gp and can produce 1d4+2 plants. A dose of djinn blossom perfume costs 400 gp.

Nahre Lotus

Said to be the most coveted of all magical plants, these gorgeous water lilies originally appeared on the Material Plane near a place known as the Nahre Wastes (hence their name).

The roots of a Nahre lotus reach into the Elemental Plane of Water and draw fluid across the planes to flow out of their blossoms. A healthy, mature Nahre lotus draws water through to the Material Plane at rates of up to 50 gallons per day. The sultans of Nahre cultivate these precious plants in gigantic reflecting pools carved from polished marble. These pools, and the pure sweet water produced by the mystic plants they host, are the source of life for many in the desert wastes. A Nahre lotus looks very much like a lotus or water lily. The broad leaves of the Nahre lotus stretch approximately 3 feet long and 2 feet across at their widest point, and its blossoms frequently reach the size of a man's head. The leaves are emerald green and refract light much like gently moving water. The petals on the Nahre blossom, which has no stalk but rather rests directly on the leaves, are a brilliant pink and gold, like clouds during a tropical sunset.

Cultivation of the these plants requires abundant light and large pools of water (at least 100 gallons per plant). Transporting a Nahre lotus between pools requires another check which, if failed, results in the death of the plant. A dead Nabre lotus left in water for an hour or more creates a blight deadly to other plants (including plant creatures) but only mildly unpleasant to nonplant creatures. The blight functions like a poison that only affects plants (contact; Fort DC 12; initial damage death, secondary damage 2d6 Con) and loses its potency seconds after the dead lotus is removed. A well-tended Nahre lotus can live up to 150 years. Because of its ability to produce limitless pure water, a healthy and successfully installed mature Nahre lotus plant sells for 10,000 gp. Even an untested seedling or ailing mature plant sells for 500 gp. A dead Nahre lotus plant sealed in a glass vial filled with water (used as a grenadelike weapon against plant creatures) sells for 200 gp.


Similar in color and appearance to certain varieties of wine grape, the source plant for orevine originated on the Elemental Plane of Earth. That progenitor cutting, modified over scores of generations by magical alteration and selective breeding, eventually produced the various strains of orevine known today.

Orevine plants send incredibly fine roots through stone and earth to find specific metals. Some say the orevine even reaches across the multiverse to tap into veins that exist only on other planes. A vine draws on the metal to which it is keyed, in much the same manner that nonmagical plants feed on nutrients in the soil around them, concentrating the metal in the fibers of the plant. When harvested, the plant easily gives up the metal within it. Most strains of orevine concentrate the extracted metal in the fruit or vine, while a few species collect the ore in the sap (the harvesting of which frequently leads to the plants' death).

Orevine cultivation is extremely difficult, making it a relatively rare endeavor even among the ranks of arcane horticulturists. If the target mineral does not exist in even trace quantities within 100 feet of the plant, it withers and dies within a week. In order to survive and extract metals, the orevine requires water and sunlight.

Extracting the metal from an orevine plant requires a DC 20 Knowledge (nature) check to do so without killing it. A cultivator can extract the metal once per month and then burn away the harvested portions of the plant to expose the pure metal (worth 20% of the plant's value). An orevine plant extracts all available metal within reach in 3d6 months.

An orevine plant keyed to a base metal (copper or iron) sells for 2,000 gp and produces 400 gp of metal in a month, a cutting keyed to a precious metal (silver or gold) sells for 5,000 gp and produces 1,000 gp of metal in a month, and a vine keyed to an ultra-rare metal (platinum, mithral, or adamantine) sells for 10,000 gp and produces 2,000 gp of metal in a month.

Salamander Orchids

Dwarven emissaries to the City of Brass on the Elemental Plane of Fire first discovered these gorgeous plants an the palace gardens of the efreeti scholar Azzyx Sahladyn Ybn Rhajafadyl. Since then, the plants have appeared infrequently within the largest dwarven holds or salamander warrens on the Material Plane.

Similar in form to many types of cattleyas orchids, the stalks and leaves of a salamander orchid are composed of red-hot brass, which support blossoms of gold and crimson flame. The completely smokeless flame of the salamander orchid draws all of its energy from the Elemental Plane of Fire and so does not require fuel. A single salamander orchid emits the same amount of light and heat as a torch. The flame blossom of the salamander orchid moves and shifts like all fire, but more slowly, in an almost liquid dance (rather than the snapping of normal flame).

Because of its tie with the Elemental Plane of Fire, a salamander orchid blossom reduces the cost of creating a flaming or flame burst weapon by 500 gp and 100 XP.

Coaxing a salamander orchid to survive on the Material Plane is best pursued as a labor of love, for it is both exceptionally costly and exceedingly difficult. To survive on the Material Plane, a salamander orchid requires a vial's worth of highly refined oil costing 25 gp once per month. Handling the plant requires special instruments that can withstand the plant's heat, similar to a blacksmith's tools. If a salamander orchid is handled without such equipment the handler takes 1d6 points of fire damage every round.

Salamander orchids are extremely valuable to those who collect exotic plants. A single healthy mature plant sells for 2,500 gp. Properly tended, with soil changed annually, a salamander orchid can live up to 125 years.

Arcane Gardening

A relaxing pastime for many, gardening remains a common pursuit among mages and alchemists, who often require specific plants and herbs for their crafts and experiments. It is little wonder, then, that arcane spellcasters of many stripes marry their profession with their pastime and create plants imbued with magical properties.

The small sampling of species here just scratches the surface of the wonder to be found in the greenhouses and fields of the arcane gardener.


Originally a true grape, elven wizards modified aelfengrape to use it for a variety of purposes all year round. Aelfengrape closely resembles the terrestrial vines that are its heritage, but rather than all of the grapes coming to maturity in one season, clusters of aelfengrape ripen throughout the year. Thus, flower clusters and ripe grapes appear on the vine in all seasons. The flowers of aelfengrape closely resembles those of a plumeria in both shape and fragrance.

The leaf veins, flowers, and fruits of aelfengrape provide a gentle illumination (equal to a candle). The true magic of the aelfengrape, however, comes in its utility. Aelfengrape fruit is highly nutritious (a handful provides the equivalent nourishment of one meal) and makes a wine of extraordinary potency (if not of a particularly refined taste). The flowers are also edible and make a sweet aromatic tea, while the leaves (raw or cooked) appear in many recipes. Even the woody vine has many applications, finding use in a variety of crafts.

Maintaining the health of an aelfengrape plant requires the monthly application of magical components costing 25 gp.

A single healthy mature plant sells for 100 gp. Properly tended, an aelfengrape vine can live up to 700 years.


Many fey creatures have a special susceptibility to cold iron. This weakness has led alchemists and arcane gardeners among the fey to develop coldwood. First adapted from natural hickory, coldwood replaces iron in most ways, allowing fey smiths to craft strong weapons and sturdy armors. Coldwood also allows druids to wear armor types usually made of metal.

Coldwood grows very much like hickory, only slightly slower, reaching its mature size in roughly two decades. The timber of the coldwood can be used for the crafting of any item normally made from steel, resulting in an object with the same hardness, strength, weight, and edge-holding properties of good-quality steel. Coldwood is difficult to work and harder still to cultivate, making it and the items made from it extremely expensive. The DC of any item crafted of coldwood is always 8 higher than the same item made from steel. Weapons or armors fashioned from coldwood are always masterwork items (the masterwork cost is included in the prices given below). Harvesting viable coldwood from a coldwood tree requires a DC 20 Knowledge (nature) or DC 15 Profession (logger) check. A successful check provides 5 pound of material per five years of growth (to a maximum of 100 pounds of coldwood).

For a coldwood tree to thrive it requires regular attention. Transplanting a coldwood tree or taking a viable cutting from one requires a DC 20 Knowledge (nature) or Profession (gardener) check.

A single healthy coldwood sapling sells for 500 gp. Properly tended, a coldwood tree can live for thousands of years.

Type of
Coldwood Item
Item Cost
Ammunition+150 gp
Light armor+500 gp
Medium armor+2,000 gp
Heavy armor+4,500 gp
Shield+1,500 gp
Weapon+2,000 gp
Other items+250 gp/lb.

Fey Cherry

The sailors of the great north sea sing of how each race was shaped by the deities from trees: humans from ash and alder, halflings from willows, gnomes from the heartwood of apple trees, dwarves from the roots of a mighty oak, and elves from the boughs of a flowering cherry. Sages speculate that the song might have originated with traders seeing the fey cherry palaces on faraway elven isles.

Valued for their great beauty as well as their utility, fey cherry closely resemble the common cherry trees cultivated in orchards, save only for their enormous size. Properly tended, they can grow larger than a giant sequoia, rising more than 500 feet in height with a trunk diameter of 50 feet at the base. These arboreal giants are much more than merely larger versions of their mundane cousins. Fey cherry trees possess a supernatural strength that makes them ideal platforms for tree-based dwellings. Their relatively narrow but long leaves provide a mystical protection from the weather, moderating the temperature within the tree's canopy and preventing most wind, rain, and snow from pushing through (the canopy reduces wind beneath its boughs by 20 miles per hour). Within the canopy, the temperature never drops below 50 degrees nor rises above 80 degrees. Wood and leaves harvested from a fey cherry do not carry the tree's magic with them, but items made from fey cherry wood cost 10% less gp and XP to enhance magically. While it produces blossoms every year, a fey cherry tree only creates cherries once a decade. A fey cherry provides a creature who eats it with the benefits of a protection from evil spell for 5 minutes (CL 5th) once per day. Eating more than one fey cherry per day grants no additional effect. Once picked, a fey cherry retains its magical property for 1 day; after that time it simply becomes a normal cherry. Gentle repose lengthens the cherry's magical properties for the duration of the spell.

A fey cherry tree requires little attention. Transplanting a fey cherry tree or taking a viable cutting from one requires a DC 20 Knowledge (nature) or Profession (gardener) check.

A single healthy fey cherry sapling sells for 3,000 gp. Properly tended, a fey cherry tree can live indefinitely.

Flame Clove

A favorite with travelers, flame clove is a garlic-like herb imbued with energy from the mental Plane of Fire.

Raw flame clove contains a mild but unpleasant poison (ingested; Fort DC 13 initial damage 1d6 fire, secondary damage 1 Dex). When boiled in salt water and crushed and blended into food, however, flame clove has a taste similar to garlic and keeps hot food hot for 1d4 days without drying out and with no outside heat source.

Adding a sprig of flame clove to alchemist's fire (which must be done when crafting the alchemist's fire originally) makes for a more potent batch. This enhanced alchemist's fire deals double the damage of normal alchemist's fire and burns for twice as long.

Flame clove is remarkably easy to grow and reaches maturity a mere five weeks after planting and remains viable for three weeks after that.

A single healthy mature bulb sells for 20 gp.


Mages have long cultivated a number of varieties of glowvine for various types of soil and climates. The root plant for glowvine is the morning glory it so closely resembles, save the nocturnal blossoms.

Opening in the early evening and then closing again with the coming of dawn, the blossoms on each foot-long stretch of glowvine give off the same amount of light as a torch. Glowvine clings to walls and trellises in a manner identical to morning glory plants, and it grows almost as fast.

Glowvine grows 1 foot every two weeks. Once per month, a DC 15 Profession (gardener) check can be attempted to prevent a glowvine from growing for the following month.

A single healthy seedling sells for 500 gp.


This parsleylike herb traces its ancestry back to plants growing along the banks of the River Oceanus.

When crushed and rubbed onto meat, the lakeleaf ensures the meat never dries out, regardless of how overcooked it is and even if set on fire. Chefs with expertise in blackened dishes favor the flavorless lakeleaf in their recipes.

Using sprig of lakeleaf when casting gentle repose doubles the spell's duration. This increase does not stack with the effects of the Extend Spell feat.

Lakeleaf reaches maturity fourteen weeks after planting and remains viable for five weeks after that.

A single healthy mature sprig sells for 20 gp.


First created by the Lich King Amryn Sul to foster the complete and excruciating destruction of treacherous servants' minds and bodies, lichbriar can thrive only in very specific conditions.

Similar in appearance to bougainvillea, lichbriar - also known as rackthorne, hellroot, and doomrose - can reach a length of up to 50 feet under ideal conditions. Lichbriar grows and spreads as a canelike vine with long, sharp, poisonous thorns and fine hooks (used to cling to almost any surface), covering and spreading much like ivy. Its pale green leaves, marbled with bone-white veins, are vaguely hand shaped, with tips that curl at the end. As the doomrose pseudonym suggests, the blossoms of the lichbriar - which grow densely over all its vines - closely resemble roses with petals of a faintly iridescent white.

In order for a lichthorn to grow, at must sink its myriad hooks into a living creature, and as the vine grows an increasing number of hooks embrace its helpless victim. As the hooks spread, so too do the plant's thorns, with more scratching and impaling themselves in the victim each day, introducing ever-increasing levels of poison. Lichbriar is not a particularly strong plant and has no motive ability. In order for lichbriar to take root and feed, its victim must remain still for at least one day to allow the plant to latch on with its hooks. A victim who is not immobilized can attempt to struggle free on the first day by making a DC 5 Strength check. The DC of the check increases by +2 every day until it reaches DC 20, at which point it increases by +2 per day thereafter. Failing the Strength check results in the victim being pinned, as if grappled. With every attempt a victim makes to escape he takes 1d6 points of damage from the thorns and is injected with poison (injury; Fort DC 14 initial and secondary damage 1d2 Strength + 1d4 Dexterity).

Beginning on the second day, as long as the lichbriar remains attached to its victim, it draws away life energy in the form of experience points. On the second day (the first day of XP drain), the lichbriar steals 10 XP. The number of XP drained doubles each day (20 XP on the third day of taking root, 40 XP on the fourth day of taking root, and so on) until the victim is reduced to 0 XP. At that point, the victim dies. This experience drain is permanent and can only be reversed by a miracle or wish.

Successful handling of lichbriar requires a DC 20 Knowledge (nature) check every round it is touched. A failed check indicates the handler pricked himself with a thorn, taking 1d6 points of damage and injecting himself with the poison.

Lichbriar requires a great deal of water when not feeding off a victim. When attached to a victim, lichbriar is immune to cold and electricity damage and gains fire resistance 10. Planting a seedling, transplanting one, or taking a cutting require a DC 20 Knowledge (nature) or Profession (gardener) check. When feeding off a victim, lichbriar needs no further maintenance or attention, although a DC 30 Profession (gardener) check can be attempted to prevent a lichbriar from growing any larger (and thus draining any additional XP). A later DC 20 Profession (gardener) check can restart the plant's growth, allowing it to drain XP again.

A single healthy seedling sells for 5,000 gp.

Tahtoalehti (Wishfern)

Tahtoalehti - the most treasured, yet hardest to raise, of all magical plants - also goes by the common name of wishfern. Tahtoalehti closely resembles ferns from the temperate rainforests of the northern coasts, save that it grows much larger and into a deeper, darker shade of green. This incredible fern marries the power of magic with the plant kingdom's ability to restore itself and draw energy from the sun.

A tahtaolehti plant only blooms once every 5d100 years, and always on the night of the winter solstice. For that one night, the wishfern wears a flower of unparalleled beauty, a fist-sized blossom of luminous white. The blossom contains incredible power, for if properly harvested without bruise or damage (requiring a DC 40 Profession [gardener] check) it grants one wish, as the spell cast by a 20th-level sorcerer. With the coming of the sun the blossom withers and disintegrates, living behind a single seed, whether or not it granted a wish.

Notoriously difficult to grow, in part because it requires almost total absence of contact, a tahtaolehti only blooms in an isolated forest setting at least 500 miles from any other wishfern. Planting or transplanting a viable seed without killing it requires a DC 40 Knowledge (nature) or Profession (gardener) check. Once planted, a wishfern is best left alone, as the merest touch from a living creature can kill it. Whenever a living creature touches a wishfern without first succeeding at a DC 40 Profession (gardener) check, the plant must attempt a DC 12 Fort save (with a +0 bonus) or die. As a result, most growers protect their tahtoalehti with spells and natural barriers rather than guards. Any attempt to coax a wishfern to produce its blossom early or to push it to produce multiple blossoms at once results in the immediate death of the plant.

A single healthy seed sells for 25,000 gp.

Aelfengrape15One month -4
Coldwood15One year -2
Djinn Blossom, (first year)20One month -2
Djinn Blossom, (after first year)---
Fey Cherry15One decade-2
Flame Clove15One week-
Glowvine, (planting)20--
Lakeleaf15Two weeks-2
Lichbriar, (unattached)30One day-4
Nahre Lotus25 One month -2
Orevine30One month-4
Salamander Orchid30One month-6
Tahtoalehti, (planting)40--

Druids And Magical Plants

The creation and care of magical plants is almost wholly the purview of arcane spellcasters. Druids - who seem the mostly likely candidates to breed, cultivate, and adapt magical plants -only occasionally do so. Most non-evil druids find the artificial enhancement and manipulation of plants to serve the needs of mages an extremely heavy-handed and distasteful use of magic.

Druids who come across such altered plants typically try not to interact with them, ln the case where the plant's presence unbalances the natural order most druids attempt to either remove the plant or direct it into a more natural cycle.

When queried as to the creation and care of such plants, most druids feign ignorance or try to misdirect the questioner with answers they know to be false.

Magic in the Realms