THE TANGLEWEED ("BINDWEED", "SNAGFOOT")

APPEARANCE - TERRITORY - USAGES - REPRODUCTION - MYTH/LORE

Due to its habit of growing flat to the ground underneath the other vegetation, you won't be aware of this dark green plant until you step on it, and by that time it will be too late as you will probably be lying face down in the mud with its sticky tendrils wrapped around your ankles. Tangleweed (also known as "Common Tangleweed", "Bindweed" or "Snagfoot") consists of a short central stem with numerous vine-like shoots growing in all directions away from the plant, up to two peds in length. Small, sticky pads are situated along the length of each tendril and are used to catch prey.

Each night, a small white flower emerges from the centre of the plant. The flower is shaped like a slender funnel and smells of rotting meat. When insects enter the flower they are trapped inside and get stuck in a pool of the same sticky substance found on the tendrils, where their juices can be absorbed by the plant.


Appearance. The main stem of this dark green plant grows very close to the ground, reaching at most two nailsbreadths in height. From this stem, numerous thin tendrils grow outwards in all directions to a length of up to two peds. As the actual roots of the plant are only large enough to sustain the plant in its infant state, the tendrils which grow onto land act as anchors for the plant, wrapping themselves around any object they find and sticking to it. The tendrils which grow into water become the "hunters", and also supply the water the plant needs. Some of them will float in mid-water in the search for archerfish, frogs etc, while others will lie on the bottom in wait for fish-tick beetles and other larvae.

The number of tendrils varies from plant to plant, but usually lies somewhere between fifty to eighty, although plants with up to one hundred tendrils are not uncommon. As soon as an unfortunate victim touches a tendril, it will immediately curl backwards and wrap itself around whatever is there and the sticky pads ensure it is held fast. The tendril will then continue to roll backwards until it is next to the central stem. When the victim has died and started to decompose, the plant absorbs the corpse's juices through tiny pores situated along the underside of the tendril. When all the goodness is gone, this tendril will then wither and die, to be replaced by a new, thicker shoot, which will eventually become a new plant (see Reproduction).

The size of victim the plant can easily catch depends, obviously, on the size of the plant. A young plant will only be able to take blackbeetles, fish-tick beetles etc. As it grows it will catch mice, rats and malise. A fully mature plant can take much larger prey including quwish birds and pfools. One particularly large specimen was found to have a partially digested full-grown oloy in its tendrils! After a meal of this size the plant wouldn't need to feed again for several weeks. At night, a plain looking white flower emerges from the central stem to a height of around a palmspan and a half.

The flower can be described as looking like a narrow funnel. The smell which comes from the flower can only be called putrid. It is the smell of rotting flesh and is strong enough for even a human to detect from several peds away (the smell is thought to come from the decaying bodies of the insects stored in the plant's stem, but may just be the natural scent of the plant). Insects, however, find this stench irresistible, and will fly long distances in search of the source. Once an insect has entered the mouth of the flower and crawled about half-way down the throat, small, downward facing hairs prevent its escape and it will soon fall, exhausted, into a small pool of the sticky goo which coats the pads on the tendrils. As dawn approaches the goo is sucked back down into the stem, along with the nights victims, mainly moths and other nocturnal creatures, and the flower closes and returns to its place inside the stem.
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Territory. This plant needs very specific conditions to survive. It must have waterlogged or soggy ground to grow on, be next to standing water, warm, moist air and lots of shade. It has only been found in one location to date, the Drfting Woods of Nybelmar. There are rumours of a colony of Tangleweed, or perhaps a variant or mutation, being found in the Venlaken Forest of Nybelmar. However these cannot yet be confirmed as researchers sent to locate the colony have mysteriously disappeared.
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Usages. In an emergency, small pieces of tendril cut from the plant can be used as temporary stitches for any wound. The sticky pads will hold even quite nasty sword or claw wounds shut until medical help can be found. The stickyness only lasts for a few hours, so replacement is necessary if you have a long way to go. This process was first discovered by the Ter'ei'Vikh, who guarded this knowledge for many years. However, with the aid of the Tehuriden, the plant has started to become more widely available.
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Reproduction. Tangleweed can reproduce at any time of year, and does so constantly. After the plant has caught and digested a victim, the tendril will die off and be replaced by a quick-growing shoot of about three to four peds in length. When the shoot reaches this length the tip buries itself into the surface of the ground and starts to grow small roots. At the same time, a miniature version of the adult plant begins to grow above the surface. This process takes up to a week. The new plant can begin to feed for itself in a matter of days, and as soon as it has successfully digested its first meal the stem attaching it to the parent withers away.

The young plant can only reproduce when it reaches full size, which may take up to two years, depending on food availability. When enough of the parent plant's tendrils have died away, usually about three quarters, it can no longer catch enough food to sustain itself and dies. The lifespan of the plant, therefore, depends on how successful it is at catching its prey. A point worth noting is that this plant can easily be transplanted and grown successfully anywhere if the right conditions can be provided. A young plant must be collected after it has separated from the parent, but before it has properly anchored itself to the ground. Taking it too late will result in tendrils ripping from the plant which will cause it to die. Plants collected and grown in this way tend to be smaller, less robust, and harder to reproduce than wild ones.
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Myth/Lore. Wherever you find a wild Tangleweed, you will usually find a driftspider not to far away. The spider seems to have worked out that anchoring its floating raft near to a plant will provide it with a source of free food. The spider waits until the plant has caught and partly digested its prey, then it jumps ashore and makes its way carefully along the empty space left by the curled-up tendril to the victim and helps itself to a free meal.

Needle flies have likewise realised that the Tangleweed can provide an easy source of food, and can often be found buzzing near one, waiting for it to catch something. As soon as the victim is trapped, the flies move in and drink all the blood etc. before the plant has a chance to start digesting. Heavy fly populations in a given area can seriously affect the Tangleweed colony, as the plant loses a tendril and gains nothing in return. However, there is some evidence to suggest that a plant "protected" by a driftspider is less likely to fall victim to a needle fly.
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 Date of last edit 9th Singing Bird 1668 a.S.

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