Numbthorn

At the Latimer family house, Isabell Patience Latimer escorted a group of guests into the garden. There they saw several trees and fences climbed by thorny plants with large flowers. One of the guests gasped as he recognised the plants. "You are growing Numbthorn in your garden, miss Latimer? I thought those did poorly outside greenhouses, what is your secret?"   Isabell knew exactly how to answer, since this was a question she received a lot. She responded with a measured friendly smile, playing up her part of the perfect host. "Fertilizer. I order a special mixture that suits them well. I also grind up fern leaves for them, and plant thin-weeds alongside them. They won't bloom during the Cold season, but still bloom four times a year."   Sounds of admiration came from her guests, young merchants and the like, who had enough knowledge to understand the difficulty. She showed them the flowers and some woven hedges, as she continued. "The venom varies in strength, it's best to clip them during the Cold Harvest season. And of course the smell is lovely, while the hip jelly is just delicious. I do have to stop my Short Furs from eating the hips before my harvest."   The guests chuckled as they looked at the giant plated rats that were enthousiastically following them around, imagining the sight of a grumpy Isabell berating her naughty pets. When they sat down and got to eat some Numbthorn jelly as part of their lunch, they simply couldn't resist and snuck some to the rats, which consumed the snacks with great vigour.

A Thorn So Sweet

  The Numbthorn is an evergreen climbing plant native to the rainforest area of the southern area of Grayburn. A sturdy climber which defends itself with venomous thorns that numb its victims, people have long since used it to construct natural defenses and ladders. In the current age, its petals and venom are harvested for the production of scents and anaesthetics.   While the Latimers never had the Numbthorn play a central part in their commerce, as they found it too unreliable for usage in ship building, they did make good use of it in defensive construction. Thorn-weaving, as the art of guiding Numbthorn branches to create barriers is called, is still an art considered extremely valuable to keep animals away from storehouses.  

Basic Information

Growth Rate & Stages

Used to a year-round humid and warm environment, the Numbthorn is unlike many other plants in that its growth doesn't follow an annual cycle. As such, it only has three stages: Early growth, adult, and dying.   The early growth stage tends to only take roughly two Seasons, in which the plant spreads thin thornless branches and leaves. If the plant fails to gain enough food to survive this stage, it will quickly die off. If instead it manages, to stretch far enough to climb in relative peace, the Numbthorn will start growing thicker branches and thorns.   In the adult stage, lasting anywhere from four to nine decades, the Numbthorn will keep stretching but will not grow much thicker. It will start growing flowers which eventually leave behind hips that are consumed by animals, before new flowers start to bloom. This stage normally takes roughly six Weeks per cycle, though it is far slower in difficult habitats. As such, a Numbthorn will usually bloom six to seven times per Steam Year. Further north, this can be once to thrice instead.   Near the end of its lifespan, the Numbthorn's branches become far less flexible. It will start blooming less and less, and even stop producing venom. This dying stage can take a few years, before eventually the plant completely stops growing and its leaves begin dying off. At this point, the plant lacks defenses. It is still sturdy, so a dead plant may remain intact until damaged. Once damaged, it will grow moldy and deteriorate, a process that takes one to three Seasons before the entire Numbthorn can easily be torn apart.  

Additional Information

Uses, Products & Exploitation

The Numbthorn is primarily used in four ways. Both living and dead it is used for construction, its flower hips are used for food, the flower petals are used for their smell, and the venom covering its thorns is used as an anaesthetic.   The flower hips of the Numbthorn have a tangy taste to them with a subtle sweetness. The tanginess is too strong for most people, so instead the hips are usually processed into jelly. This is done with a simple recipe involving hips, water, and cane sugar. As with any other food ingredient, they also are used for creating liquor, though the tangy sweetness makes them unsuited for mixtures. As a result, Numbthorn liquor is rather unpopular.   The flower petals have a rather strong sweet smell, which grows stronger as the flower blooms. This smell can be overwhelming, which helps disrupt predator noses. Because of this aspect, hunters have long since used Numbthorn perfume to chase off predators, which generally avoid Numbthorn smells. Prey animals, on the other hand, tend to consider Numbthorn areas relatively safe. In industrial areas, diluted perfumes are used on masks, so that they help block the smell of smoke. One of the primary buyers of Numbthorn perfume are tanners.   The thorn venom numbs its victims, which makes it very hard for predators to properly walk and climb when stung. It is carefully harvested by doctors and Alchemists to use as localised anaesthetic, though if no processed supply is available, sometimes patients are stabbed with fresh thorns instead. Additionally, many a village will plant Numbthorn next to its palisades, as to help ward off any predators that may try to climb the fence to get into the village. Some farmers and hunters may carry special gloves so they can quickly create a defensive barrier if they detect a nearby predator.   Branches are popular in construction. Living branches might be woven into either wall-like structures or guided to be used for constructing ropeladders. These ladders are used when people climb trees to harvest fruits. Meanwhile, dead branches are popular for creating huts, due to requiring less processing than timber. They will have their thorns removed, be cut into pieces, then get tied together with vines.  

Geographic Origin and Distribution

Natural populations of the Numbthorn can only be found in the rainforest. Its primary growth location is at the edge of clearings, where it can both climb and catch enough sunlight. While they can be found and grown deeper into the rainforest, there they will bloom far less often and spread slower. Outside the rainforest, it hardly spreads due to the lack of supporting trees.   While it fails to spread north by itself, populations of Numbthorn exist further north due to both bird droppings and deliberate replanting by people. However, it has a harder time growing in other environments, usually growing far less thick branches and spreading more slowly. The thinner branches make the plant far more vulnerable, requiring extra care to help it survive. It also cannot handle droughts and cold weather well, unless it already has grown thick branches.   Various means of aiding the plant's development have been researched, so that small populations can be grown for its venom. Examples of measures with decent success include specific forms of fertilizers, accompanying plants that help produce specific nutrients, and greenhouse environments to help with the temperature and humidity. Alchemists and merchants primarily use greenhouses to obtain their required amounts of venom, petals, and hips.   The Exploration Alliance has managed to maintain a large population at the Lonely Isle, with help of the Alchemist Union. Their methods are primarily aimed at fertilizer and accompanying plants, so that they can quickly grow natural defenses on expedition. So far, their efforts have born enough fruit for them to have included the Numbthorn in their Grand Expedition plans.  

Symbiotic and Parasitic organisms

While the Numbthorn climbs trees, it does not feed on or suppress its host. Its leaves will rarely clash with its host's, instead they will primarily cover the bark of the trunk and branches. The thorns aren't harmful for plants, while they help ward off herbivores. As a result, young trees co-existing with Numbthorn speciments will generally develop better, due to being consumed less by predators. Meanwhile, birds and insects have no trouble avoiding the thorns and will still play a role with fertilizing any fruits.   No plantlife appears to deliberately interact with the Numbthorn, though smaller animals and birds appear to prefer trees climbed by Numbthorn for their nests. Observations suggest this is not a coincidence, the preference is present even in oblivious populations. It appears that either instinct, or the way the branches make for good natural protection, is why so many will nest here and be protected against predators this way. No species have been observed to manipulating the plants the way the Gray Southerners do.
Grayburn Rainforest
Grayburn Region

Characteristics
Average Lifespan
Seventy Years
Maximum Height
Fourty paces uninterrupted
Ninety paces with branch-support
Maximum Thickness
Quarter pace
Natural Habitat
Southern Grayburn Rainforest

Numbthorn Jelly Recipe
Ingredients & Materials
  • Two large soup pans
  • One straining cloth
  • One foam spoon
  • Storage jars
  • 1/2 a pan of ripe flower hips
  • 1/4 a pan of water
  • 1/16 a pan of sour liquid
  • 1/8 a pan of cane sugar
  Put the flower hips and water in the pan. Boil until the hips are soft, then mash.   Strain the mixture through the cloth into the other pan. Add the sour liquid and cane sugar. Stir while bringing the pan to a hard boil, then skim off the foam.   Transfer the jelly into the storage jars, then cool the jars in flowing water. A large tub of ice-water works if stirred.
Numbthorn Ladders
To construct a ladder, first one needs to span two ropes against trees, and place fresh Numbthorn branches against each rope. Often people span up to five ropes, in case some of them fail. Then, wait three Seasons for the branches to finish growing up the ropes. Alternatively, spiral a rope around an existing branch with the occasional knot to keep it in place. This is riskier due to all the thorns, but doesn't require waiting.   Next, use thick gloves to protect against the thorns. Use cut thick treebranches as steps. For each step, use knots to tie it to both the original ropes, and the connected Numbthorn branches. The steps are now harmless, but animals will end up touching the thorns when climbing.   Depending on rope material and quality, a rope ladder can last anywhere from one to fourty years. Wet ropes can carry less weight, and break down faster over time.
Numbthorn Venom
A single sting from a thorn will spread numbness over an area the width of an arm. This numbness costs approximately a third of the sensitivity of the affected area, and weakens muscles as well. It will generally take over two hundred counts before the numbness starts to decrease.   Getting stabbed repeatedly, or breaking off a thorn from its plant while it continues spreading its venom, will stack in area size, numbness effectivity, and duration. Being stun by four thorns in the same limb is enough to lose all feel in the limb, taking on average seven hundred counts before any form of sensitivity returns.   With anaesthetics, one ml of venom is enough to fully numb the area for nine hundred counts. A dose of eight ml or more will impact the entire patient and may very well cause them to fall unconscious for up to a quarter day.

Cover image: Spiny Thorn by Marzena P.

Comments

Please Login in order to comment!
28 Mar, 2021 02:25

I like how you've incorporated practical uses for the venom - local anesthetics -- in what would otherwise by sort of a nuisance plant. Because that's how people work. Well done!

Author of the Wyrd West Chronicles and the Toy Soldier Saga Eater of pickles, Friend of nerds, First of her name
28 Mar, 2021 02:56

I came up with the venomous thorns, decided on its exact effect, then indeed went 'wait a second, you can use this as an anaesthetic!' And so it was written.

Too low they build who build beneath the stars - Edward Young
Eternal Sage AmélieIS
Amélie I. S. Debruyne
28 Mar, 2021 10:10

Great plant! I like how you made it very practical for your people.   Some notes I took while reading:   Can your plant stay up after it dies off? Just stay in the position where it has grown. Even without actively producing venom, there will probably still some left in the thorns and the thorns themselves will still be painful. How long would it be able to stay up then before it is jut destroyed?   You could use a quote to show the jam recipe.   Hunters using the flower perfume would work to prevent them being hunted themselves, but would it not warn their prey too? Unless the prey think it's natural thorns that are around? Would the animals not learn after a while?   I like the idea of using the perfume in masks!   And I love the idea of doctors just stabbing their patients with thorns! XD It is indeed quicker that harvest the venom and put it in a syringe.   I think I need more details on how the plant is used to make ladder, since that seems dangerous with the thorns.   You can also use a quote to show some gardening tips.   You can also make your sidebar bigger by adding things like max size, blooming cycles etc. Maybe also some info on how much venom would have what effect.

28 Mar, 2021 12:05

Thanks for the feedback! I'll see if I get around to reorganizing a few things in the remaining time. Excerpts on usage might help fill up that sidebar.

Too low they build who build beneath the stars - Edward Young
3 Apr, 2021 01:15

Changed paragraphs on living, dying, and petal usage for hunting perfume, added some stuff in the sidebar, and a piece of fiction for miss Latimer. It's a shame species don't do full-width headers, though.

Too low they build who build beneath the stars - Edward Young
28 Mar, 2021 11:54

Cool plant! I like the different uses that people have found for it even though it's a bit of a nuisance plant. The use as perfume or in masks is especially nice. I have a question about using it as defence though. If the plant dies pretty quickly does that mean that people have to replant them around pallisades pretty often?

Feel free to check out My Ship entry if you want to see what I am up to!
28 Mar, 2021 12:04

The lifespan is approximately 70 years, so you only need to plant extra like every human generation or so. It's only really vulnerable in its first stage of life.

Too low they build who build beneath the stars - Edward Young
28 Mar, 2021 12:06

Oh ok sorry I understood that wrong then :)

Feel free to check out My Ship entry if you want to see what I am up to!
6 Apr, 2021 13:42

This is a really interesting plant! I love that it has so many different uses, and god these thorn based jellies sound absolutely delicious.

Author of Interarcanum.
11 Apr, 2021 04:16

I really like the idea of thorn weaving as art and defensive barriers. I like the uses for the plant, specifically medicinally, and I also really like your sections on jelly and the ladder.   The added info on the venom is good, but I think this sentence could use rewording: "Being stun by four thorns is enough for an entire underarm to lose full control..."

- Hello from Valayo! And Happy Summer Camp!
12 Apr, 2021 11:49

Cheers, tried a bit of rephrasing. It's hard to phrase those things while acknowledging they're not as scientifically-detailed yet.

Too low they build who build beneath the stars - Edward Young
14 Apr, 2021 00:19

This is such a pretty lookin' page. That was the first thought I had immediately. As someone who messes about with code all the damn time, I just wanted to start with that. Is pretty.   I like that it's such a 'nice' plant for the things around it. Seems to get along well with the flora and fauna that it affects.   So it did throw me a bit because you use venom when referring to the plant - it's not something I've seen commonly. So I did have to go over the information to make sure I was reading that right. Most of the time it's about poisons and touch when it comes to plants. The side bit about what exactly happens when someone is stung clarified it a fair bit, but I am left wondering if the leaves themselves have an affect on people too? It might've been mentioned and I was too busy trying to figure out the thorns...   Either way, great plant and a lovely page overall.

What would an ocean be without a monster lurking in the dark?
14 Apr, 2021 08:16

Ah no, the leaves aren't poisonous, it's just the thorns that leak it for self-defense. I guess it'd also have made sense for the leaves to have the same toxin, but then it'd have to produce far more. And yeah, I had to look things up to verify if it was poison or venom, but since it's stinging and not just touching that causes the transfer, apparently it counts as venomous.

Too low they build who build beneath the stars - Edward Young
Powered by World Anvil