The Vorfroth plant, colloquially known as the "Bug Snapper" to most or "Airla Jaws" to humans, is a carnivorous plant native to the marshes of Hasseran, Sundast, and Jiskadar. It can sometimes also be found in the rainforest of Sereven, but the largest and hardiest specimens are in the more temperate marshlands.
The Vorfroth has a shallow root structure, only an inch or so deep. It grows by sending out a radiating cluster of leaf-shoots through the dirt or peat it is rooted in, which gradually lengthen into long, flat "stems." A secondary leaf, roughly oval in shape, buds from the end of the stem-leaf as it unfurls, gradually increasing in size and then splitting into a hinged leaf edged in spiny "teeth." This specialized leaf at the end of each leaf-stem is known as the trap or jaw. The outer leaf-stem and trap-leaf are typically green, varying from light shades to rich emeralds, while the inner Trap is colored more vibrantly in hues of pink, red, and sometimes yellow or purple. The inner trap-leaf is coated with mucilage, a moist, sticky substance that is contained in small amounts within the stems and leaves of most plants, but is produced in a greater quantity in the Vorfroth to aid in its carnivorous habits.
The Vorfroth requires a short cold season to encourage temporary dormancy and allow flower growth; this dormancy also allows for greater overall size and robustness. The most robust plants, then, are found in the marshes of Jiskadar and Hasseran. As Sereven has no true winter, its Vorfroth varieties are smaller, weaker, and typically without flowers. The flowering varieties can reproduce through seed pods that form from pollinated flowers, or by root division. Flowerless varieties like those in Sereven can only reproduce by root division. There is, however, a variety similar to those in Sereven found in Sundast's marshes of Urvaz. It is small in size, but can produce flowers, and thus seeds, in years that have a milder false "winter," but typically reproduces by root division.
At the end of the local cold season when the weather trends warmer, a single stem rises from the center of the plant, and a cluster of white and yellow flowers form. When pollinated, the flowers die off and produce little pods filled with black seeds. Without a cold season, the Vorfroth will not flower. It can also be prevented from flowering by cutting off the flower stem before it forms buds and blooms. If the plant does not flower, more traps will grow instead.
The Vorfroth uses its specialized trap-leaves to lure and capture insects. When open, the hinged leaves present an enticing lure of color and scent to crawling insects like beetles and inching worms, as well as airborne insects like flies and moths. When one walks across the inner surface of the trap-leaf, multiple points are stimulated, which triggers the leaf to snap closed around the prey. Multiple hair-triggers have to be tripped with a certain amount of pressure, so that it is in effect able to differentiate between something useless like a raindrop, the walk of a fly, or the heavier pressure of a mawz, so that it only snaps shut around the fly. The mucilage secreted is just sticky enough to keep an insect in place, while posing no trouble to something stronger and larger like a mawz. When the trap-leaf closes, the "teeth" around its edge mesh together, helping to prevent escape. While the prey struggles, a secondary response is triggered that shuts the trap-leaf shut tighter. Once it is closed, digestive enzymes are secreted that break down the trapped insect, and the interior surface of the leaves absorbs the nutrients. When digestion is complete, the leaf slowly opens again, awaiting the next visitor.
The Vorfroth does best in wet sandy soils and peat bogs, and is thus found in the various temperate marshes of Hasseran, Jiskadar, and Urvaz on Sundast. It can also be found in the sandier areas of Sundast in Sereven, though these and the Urvaz varieties are smaller and weaker due to the lack of a dormant season.
Lore & Culture
There is a certain level of mystique surrounding the Vorfroth plant, as humans, furrs, and aershaa alike are more used to foliage that stays still and soaks up the sun, rather than one that moves and consumes living prey. Given this aberration, various tales and legends have arisen surrounding the plant, in an attempt to explain why it is so different from others. Though the tales are most likely fictional, or at least drastically embellished, there are tales of a monstrous variety of Vorfroth known as the Widowmaker, which has been corrupted by a Magistorm.
Most of the legends seem to have originated with the humans as a cautionary tale they told to their offspring. They tell of a vicious wild airla (or sometimes a pack of them) that had a taste for the flesh of human children. This evil airla was big and green, with angry pink and red markings and eyes that glowed like cursed rubies. A feathery mane of white and yellow decorated its head, giving off the sweetest of scents. The airla would stalk the outskirts of villages, looking for children who had wandered off to play instead of doing their chores. When it found one, it would shake its mane and pretty dust would lift into the air and drift upon the wind, its heavenly scent luring the children further from the safety of their parents and their home. When it had them in the forest or the marsh, out of sight, it would jump out, snapping up the children in its massive maw, and swallow them whole. The evil child-eating airla was eventually defeated when the humans hired a furr mage (the race varies in the telling, usually to the most common one in the region). The furr mage used a little human child to lure out the airla, and when it appeared, smacked it over the head with her magic staff before it could gobble up the child. The airla and the furr did battle, but the furr one out in the end with the aid of human hunters who shot their arrows into the evil creature. They could not kill it, however, so the furr cast an enchantment upon it to turn it into the plant today known as the Vorfroth - or Airla Jaw. Parents caution their children against wandering off into the forests and marshes to play, warning them that the spell might give way at any time, setting the monster free to eat them. They point out how it has been reproducing, and there are now many, that satisfy their hunger on the crawling bugs while they wait for their chance to snag an unsuspecting child that hasn't heeded their parent's will. Because the naughty ones, of course, taste the best.
Alternate versions of this tale, as told by furrs, tend lessen the demonization of the airla, often excusing its behavior in part by telling of how it had gone mad, due to some unprovoked attack they humans made against it. Often, they will say that it was once a mother aershaa, whose pups were killed, skinned, and devoured by human hunters. They say that she sneaked into their towns to take their children in revenge. As she had no use for the weak human skins, she simply ate them whole. In this version of the story, the humans forced a furr mage to curse the aershaa, under threat of feeding the mage's own children to the enraged creature, or using her children's pelts as scarves if the aershaa wouldn't eat them. The furr complied, agreeing to help the humans even though they had threatened her own family harm. But the furr parents warn their own children that if they are disobedient and the aershaa awakens to its natural form, they will not be safe, for now it hates furrs as well as humans, and will devour children of all races.
The plant is not edible, but is sometimes kept as a sort of "pet" due to its intriguing carnivorous habits. Some humans and furs have managed to cultivate it and keep it in pots as a curiosity or for bug control. Its effectiveness as a pest-killer is questionable, but it holds some fascination for its owners. It cannot survive without a lot of moisture, however, so it is more common in homes in the warmer climes; it cannot survive in Siyari or North Jiskadar.
(Concept & Writing by Crystal Kemi 19:48, August 28, 2012 (UTC))