large, meat-eating plant was discovered only a few years ago, growing in the
marshland area of southern Nybelmar known
as the Tears of Askanis. It has a voracious appetite, and is capable of actively
seeking out prey if none presents it with an easy meal by walking into it. So
far, the only person to have researched the plant is its discoverer, Miraran
Tehuriden, and it is he who must be thanked for providing much of the
information contained within this description.
Appearance. The Giant Venlaken Tangleweed was thusly named by the first person to research and describe it, and indeed, the first (and second!) person to survive an attack by it, Miraran Tehuriden, although it has since been agreed by most herbologists that it isn’t, in fact, related to the Common Tangleweed found in abundance in the Drifting Woods of Nybelmar.
Its appearance, however, makes it easy to see why he chose to name it so. Like the Common Tangleweed, the Giant Venlaken grows many long tendrils from a short central stem, some of which act as roots or anchors for the plant, whilst others grow along the ground in search of prey which, when caught, is dragged (in most cases kicking and screaming) into the centre of the plant where it is killed and eaten. Here, though, the similarity ends.
Where the tendrils of the Common Tangleweed grow to perhaps two peds in length and have a girth of around one nailsbreadth, the Giant Venlaken’s have been measured at up to ten peds in length and two palmspans around. The shoots which act as anchors or roots are generally shorter and thinner than this, but are still significantly larger than those of the common variety.
The number of shoots growing from the central stem is also different, with usually around fifteen to twenty anchor-shoots and eight to twelve feeding-shoots to each plant. This reduced number of shoots is suspected to be a consequence of their greater size (which takes up more of the plants energy to sustain) and the greater size of the prey caught (which means the plant doesn’t have to feed as often). As with the common plant, the Giant Venlaken’s anchor-shoots also act as normal roots by drawing up water, a task which is made easier by virtue of the fact that the plant actually grows from the muddy beds below the waters of the Misty Marshes. They have not been observed to catch any water animals for food, but it cannot be ignored as a possibility.
The shoots, or tendrils, which act as the main feeders for the plant grow in an almost identical manner to those of the Common. They snake their way across the ground, weaving their way beneath the undergrowth in such a way that it appears that they are aware of the camouflaging effect this has. They are leafless, and are possessed of a myriad of tiny holes which run along their length, enabling them suck the goodness from the corpses of their dead victims.
At the end of each green shoot is the device by which the plant attracts and catches its prey. A teardrop-shaped bulb of around the size of a mans head is attached to the end of the shoot, with the broadest part being at the base of the bulb. The colour is green at the base, changing swiftly through green-red to bright red at the tip. When the ‘flower’ opens, which it does to such an extent that the petals lay flat instead of in a bowl-shape like other flowers, it reveals that it is made up of three individual tear-shaped, fleshy petals, set around the base at equal distances, which overlap each other very slightly at that point. The inside of the petals is coloured the same bright red seen on the tip of the exterior. Around the inside edge of each petal can be seen many small, sharp, white, tooth-like growths, which on closer inspection prove to be small, sharp, white teeth. These are used to hold fast any creature unfortunate (or careless!) enough to wander too close to the flower.
Once an animal has strayed too close, either by being attracted to the flower (which emits a smell of decay strong enough to be detected even over the stench of the marshes) or just by sheer misfortune, the plant seems to detect its presence and will suddenly strike out at the creature, snapping shut the flowers petals around it, where it is held fast by the small, backwards pointing teeth around the insides of the petals. The tendril will then begin to coil back on itself, making its way back to the centre of the plant, where its poor victim is taken under the murky waters of the marshes and held there until they drown. Once this is done and the body starts to rot, the plant sucks all the rotting flesh-soup out of the corpse by using the hundreds of tiny holes which line the length of its tendrils.
When the plant has devoured the body of its victim, the tendril will die off to be replaced by a new shoot, which will begin to grow from the space left by the recently deceased shoot. It takes at least three growing seasons before the new shoot is mature enough to produce a ‘flower’ large enough to catch prey bigger than a rat. The Giant Venlaken Tangleweed knows no bounds in its choice of prey, the skeletons and partly-eaten bodies of corbies, vultures, wolves, jackals and feral dogs having been found within its inescapable grasp. (A perhaps significant point to mention is that, as yet, no black unicorn bodies have been found within the grasp of any of the Giant Tangleweed which have, to date, been examined. Is this due to some natural skill in avoiding their clutches on behalf of the unicorns? Or is it, perhaps, evidence of their non-existence?)
The central stem of the plant grows to a height of around one fore, but this seems dependent on the depth of the water the plant grows in. If the water is shallower than this depth, then the stem will be shorter, and if it is deeper, then the stem will be longer. The plant has not been found growing in water of depths greater than a ped. The reason for this is unknown
Calling the central growth of the plant a stem is perhaps a misnomer. Whilst on first observation it appears to be just that, it is in fact a bunch of very densely packed, dark-green leaves, growing tightly around each other in a circular manner. Their use will be explained later in the Reproduction section.
Territory. As can be deduced from its name, this plant is found in only one place, the Venlaken Enclave of south-central Nybelmar. To be more precise, the area of the southern Enclave between the Zylos Delta and Repose Bay, known more familiarly as the Tears of Askanis, is the sole location which provides the heat and moisture this plant would seem to need for its survival.
There are rumours, however, that Miraran Tehuriden, the well-known meddler in experimental herbology, has somehow managed to obtain a live specimen which he intends to cross-breed with some of his more dangerous acquisitions.
Usages. Research is still being carried out into possible uses for this remarkable plant, however, the difficulty and danger involved in this research are proving most troublesome, not to mention the cost of awarding large financial incentives to any apprentices willing to take on the task. Tests made on the efficiency of using the tendrils as rope have met with some small measure of success, but the tendency of the shoots to decay quickly after separation from the parent plant would seem to indicate that this is a fruitless avenue of investigation.
Reproduction. Each time the plant feeds on a victims flesh, the surge of goodness which races through it seems to provide it with the necessary strength to reproduce.
After the plant has started to take in the soup of rotting meat, one of the tightly-packed leaves which make up the central stem begins to unfurl itself from the rest, gradually flattening itself until it takes on a heart-shaped appearance. At the point where the two halves of the heart come together, a short stem attaches it to the main plant. This stem begins to grow upwards towards the gloomy light above until the leaf lies flat on the surface of the water. Once the leaf has reached the surface, the stem stops growing upwards and instead begins to swell at the point where it joins the leaf. Inside this swelling a seed is developing, and after several days growth, the stem detaches itself from the leaf, which then floats away with any current, eventually sinking to the bottom of the marsh where the seed can take root and begin the long cycle of growth and feeding.
It has been observed that whilst one leaf is growing upwards to develop into a seed-carrier, the parent plant will produce no more leaf-stems, no matter how well it feeds during this time.
Myth/Lore. Some twelve years ago, Miraran Tehuriden, the famous herbologist, set out on a trip to the Tears of Askanis, during which he hoped to discover the fate of the numerous apprentices he had dispatched to the area. The following is his own account of what befell him during that trip, written in his personal diary. This account can only be presented here thanks to the diligence of one of Mira's apprentices who, having been left in charge of watering his mentor's private collection, just happened to accidentally find the diary hidden underneath a heap of poison receipts, which were themselves stuffed into a locked trunk in the bottom of a wardrobe.
"I came upon a flower I
had not seen before. So beautiful was it that I quite forgot where I was
and all the dangers the region contained. Even though the stench emanating
from the large, three-petalled bloom was enough to make me gag, I could
not resist moving closer to inspect it and perhaps pick it for pressing in
my 'What I did on my holiday to Nybelmar' diary.
More of this diary entry
cannot be shown, as the apprentice who provided this information only managed to
rip this single page from the book after hearing his mentor's footsteps on the
wooden stairs outside the room.
As discoverer of this new species of plant, the honour of choosing a name for it fell to Miraran, owing to its unusual hunting methods, and its resemblance to the Common Tangleweed, he chose the name of Giant Venlaken Tangleweed. Others, perhaps with a hint of jealousy, dubbed it “Mira’s Bane”, a name which, to his eternal embarrassment, has become the most common title of this truly remarkable, not to mention dangerous, plant.