Illithor Orchid (ill-ˈIH-thor)
The Illithor Orchid was always hard to locate. A sky-dwelling plant, this yellow, spotted flower lived high in the canopy of the Nalruthian Jungle. The plant could survive solely on rainwater and the debris that would settle in the nooks and hollows of Alosrin trees. The flower was originally held sacred by the Songado elves of the jungle. The pollen of the flower was used to create a potent drug, Metzla, when mixed with the Songadoan drink, Tasar. It was only used in a specific dream-trance ritual by the tribe shamans. Their apprentices would climb high into the canopy to search for the flowers and harvest their dual pollen pods. Only the most experienced of shamans, however, were able to use the drug with a fair amount of safety within the framework of the rituals. As the Omaceran Empire encroached closer upon the jungle and the lands of the Songado, items of foreign make began to infiltrate the Songadan culture. Realizing that Illithor pollen could be traded at a premium for other goods, some tribespeople began harvesting it themselves and taking it to the nearest trading post, Naexi. There was a strong market for Metzla among religious sects and nobles looking for entertainment. Soon, this was a common practice, until even the tribal shamans had trouble getting ahold of the pollen. Without pollen pods, the orchids could not reproduce, and they quickly became an endangered species. Within a decade of the Metzla trade establishing itself in Naexi, there were no orchids to be found anywhere in range. Today, the beautiful Illithor Orchid is considered to be completely extinct. Any plants that escaped the overharvesting would have been destroyed as the jungle was cleared from various countries so the land could be used as farmland and pastures. The small remnants of the jungle are not big enough to support the delicate flower.
One of the largest orchid species, the Illithor produced up to three flowers at a time. Each flower had a bucket-like section where pollinization took place. Pollen was not scattered, but contained within two distinct pods. These pollen pods needed to adhere to another orchid's stamen for reproduction to take place.
Genetics and Reproduction
The Illithor orchid depended largely on a complicated trap-and-release mechanism for the specially evolved Illithin bees to ensure its two pollen pods reached another orchid. It held a reservoir of liquid that was attractive to male bees, and it was shaped so that if they fell into it, the only way out was through the pollen pods. The plant would then hold the bee long enough for the pods to adhere to its back, then release the bee to move on to another orchid. Here the process was repeated, except the next orchid would remove the pollen pods onto the stamen to fertilize itself.
Uses, Products & Exploitation
Pollen clusters were harvested and used in making Metzla, a potent drug. When mixed with alcohol, the pollen would produce a dream-like trance state that was once solely experienced by Songado shamans, but later was considered a novelty and often an addictive experience for elves, who are unable to dream. At least one religious sect, the Sylriotes, used the drug in their rites. At its heyday, the bulk of pollen collection and trading was in a large region centered on the trading town of Naexi, on the border of the Nalruthian jungle. Songado elves would trade it for "luxury" items like metal, fired ceramics, liquors, and blown glass. The traders sold it at a sizeable mark-up to caravans heading to the main cities. The caravan merchants would then auction the pollen to the highest bidders. The income from these small pollen pods was what enabled Naexi to grow into a full-blown town and not just a trading outpost, and made many caravan merchants rich enough to buy noble titles.
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