One thing that’s sometimes downplayed in both fantasy and post-apocalyptic fic is the fact that people are, culturally, tool-users. In fact, we have whole disciplines built around making the tools needed to make a second set of tools to make the third set you actually need. And so on.
A lot of survival fic doesn’t really cover this. Which is, in a way, reasonable. If you’re writing action and people in crisis, they have to work with what they have on hand; they don’t have a year or more to season a bow.
Still, it’s a knowledge gap. And if a character is living in a setting where such skills are in general use, or trying to survive an apocalypse long-term, it’s something a writer ought to poke at.
One thing you generally need for long-term survival is some kind of healthy agriculture. There is a lot involved in growing your own. But one common technique for making more of a useful plant is rooting cuttings. In simplest terms, take a twig, stem, etc, put it in water, hope it grows roots. For some plants this is easy. For others… not so much.
Which is why, as one book I recently got my hands on pointed out, you need to know where your willow trees are.
First-year willow sprouts have a lot of rooting hormone in them. You can use them to make a solution that will increase the chances your plant slip will root. More roots mean more chance of a new plant, meaning more chance that everyone counting on your gardening to eat might just survive.
So one of the most important plants you might forage is something that isn’t exactly edible. And that, my friends, is tool-using.
So… what might be growing in a fantasy world that makes life just a bit less fragile, if you know how to use it right?