This is the Vegetable Lamb of Tartary, otherwise known as the Barometz plant. It is an outstanding example of how information warps when delivered in unreliable ways, resulting in a genuine medieval-ish cryptid. This creature was inspired by two real plants, the first* of which was:

Cotton (Gossypium)

The plant was said to sprout lambs as though they were fruits. The lambs were connected to the plant by an umbilical-cord like stem, and could only eat the surrounding vegetation. After it ate everything it could reach, the lamb-fruit would die. I will also point out that medieval bestiary designers would often include cryptids in their books as religious metaphors, rather than strictly accurate scientific observations.

Even after Europeans became clearly aware of cotton, they still heard tales of a plant that sprouted from the body of a lamb. The second* plant to be mixed into this cryptid’s lore was the Woolly Fern. The rhizome that allows this fern to grow looks vaguely like a sheep, I suppose. I could imagine a situation where a European traveler in Central Asia would be taken aside by a friendly stranger and showed a funny little sheep doll, this Barometz, which would sprout into:

Wooly Fern (Cibotium barometz)
See the ‘wool’ between the stems?

Depending on who spoke of the legend, where, and when, the plant either fruited with sheep, or it grew out of a sheep-fruit. That inspired my composition to show a sheep fruiting itself from…itself! The legend fed into itself that way. Sometimes a creature is most real via hearsay, and that’s where it exists forever.

*’First’ and ‘second’ do not refer to anything chronological in terms of the legends surrounding this cryptic. I only used them within the context of presenting one plant at a time as a blog post.

Comics Tip

Preserving Textures in Photoshop with Masking
Say you want to forego the tedious experience of manually applying gold leaf to a page, or painting it on. Digital art is great for this and using Masking in Photoshop lowers the stakes even more.

To get started, bring a gold leaf texture into Photoshop on its own layer. This texture’s from pixabay.com, a great Creative Commons resource for art assets. Make sure the layer is selected, then look at the bottom of your Layers menu.

 

 

The buttons at the bottom of your menu look like this.
Click this button while your texture layer is selected.

 

The button applies a ‘mask’ to the layer, represented by the white box. The corner reticules mean all drawing will be done on the mask, rather than the texture underneath the mask.

While your Masking layer is selected, the colors on your Brush palette will change to black and white.

Black acts like an ‘eraser’ on the Masking layer. But, it’s not exactly the same as the Eraser tool, because the texture underneath the Masking layer is preserved, just hidden.

White ‘restores’ whatever you masked with black!

If you select your texture, your color palette goes back to whatever it was prior to selecting the masking layer. You can then manipulate the texture under the mask.

Try it out!

You can apply a texture of your own and mask it onto this coloring page that I’m providing under Attribution Noncommercial 3.0 Unported (CC BY-NC 3.0).

Care to read more?

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Aesop’s Crow Fable Comic

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Moebius Study Comic

Moebius Study Comic

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Bear Berries: A COVID Comic

Bear Berries: A COVID Comic

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