APOCRYPHAL HERBARIA

The Complete Guidebook, Vol. II, page 158

Alaudra mortemii 

The pale green stem and austere leaves of Alaudra mortemii, commonly known as Mortemia, will remind you of your meaningless existence on an earth older than time. Its uncaring appearance has been described by many owners as uncomfortable, and it makes for an unsettling addition to any room you suspect may contain the lingering spirit of a vengeful victim. 

During the first two weeks of acclimation a new plant should be placed near a south-facing window, where it will wither and dry like the illusion of a world filled with mystery, eventually crumbling to reveal its gray, hollow center. From this desiccated corpse, a new stem will emerge wholly adapted to the unspoken truths of your family’s household. 

After the acclimation period, move the plant to an area that receives only minimal, indirect sunlight. Water sparingly for the next 2-3 months, during which you should begin to see the formation of black spores appearing on the underside of each new leaf. Once developed, these spores will seep with a blood-red fluid that, when dried and steeped in boiling water, produces a bitter tea that brings upon the longing despair of unrequited love. 

At this point, the plant is fully mature and can be placed in any room or corner where a feeling of creeping dread or anxiety is desired. If properly neglected, nodules along the stem will release noxious fumes which make visible the sickening forms that lurk beyond traditional human sight. 

Seasoned horticulturalists may wish to attempt producing the fabled Mortemia berry, of which residues have been found in and around pre-historic volcanic sacrificial sites. This process is complex and can result in a lustful and/or melancholic desire for beautiful death, and thus should only be undertaken by experienced gardeners with extreme care. 

To begin, the plant should be placed in total darkness; an unused closet, or a crypt devoted to the decomposing corpse of a deceased lover, are both well-suited locations. During the first week the plant must not be seen by anyone who has not experienced betrayal of a most heinous nature, and some growers recommend thinking malicious thoughts towards loved ones while misting the plant’s leaves daily. 

After the initial week, the plant will require an additional 7-10 days of complete darkness and total solitude. It is vital that the plant not receive any light or companionship whatsoever throughout this period. Many gardeners report hearing grotesque sounds of what can only be described as agonizing transformation emanating from the plant behind closed doors.

Once a full 10 days has passed, it is safe to retrieve your plant. You should notice a newly-formed stalk protruding from the upper stem, roughly 8-12 centimeters in length, and ending with a round, fleshy bud. Over the course of several days, this bud will slowly unfurl into a mesmerizing inflorescence interwoven with hues of violet and turquoise. Beware, this cluster of flowers can produce a temporary, but complete, loss of mental capacities if beheld too long. 

The plant should then immediately be placed so that the flowers are in full view of an unspeakable act of violence. If sufficiently vile and unholy, this act will trigger a pollination event, at which point each individual flower will rapidly fertilize and produce a berry the color of a dark and rich purple twilight. 

Each berry will stay ripe for less than a minute, so successful growers will have a very limited opportunity to harvest. Approximately one in every ten berries produces such strongly concentrated psychoactive compounds that, when consumed by one who has meditated upon a mountain range of cataclysmic origin, will reveal the true nature of the universe’s deterministic march toward formless oblivion. 

However, the majority of berries do not contain these compounds in sufficient quantities and will instead cause an overwhelming desire to return one’s organic material to our ever-changing celestial body. This often leads to growers entering a mindless, trance-like state as they wander into the woods seeking a secluded patch of time-forgotten forest; then proceeding to burrow themselves into the dirt, joining themselves to a becoming earth. 

Interested growers can often find new sprouts by visiting these locations during thunderstorms occurring in suspicious timing with the disappearance of a local recluse. 

Mortemia prefers to be rootbound in smaller pots and will require fertilizer between the months of August and November.

Ben Lockwood is a Ph.D. candidate in the Geography department at Indiana University. He studies a lot, but doesn’t know very much. You can find Ben wasting time on Twitter and Instagram at @brlockwood.