Rich Earth Cactus
Also known as: Rich Cactus, "the REC", Fuzzy Sticks.
Identification and Field Marks
A well-known member of the Green-Things-That-Hurt-If-You-Get-Close family (though far less mobile than the goats of the Sarfelogian Mountains, whose definition of "close" is determined by their current mood), the Rich Earth Cactus can grow to 1 unanit tall, though the average is usually half that. The plants vary in the shade of their green (less ominously so than the aforementioned goats), and have no "branches" or "leaves" as one would normally suspect. Instead, the "leaves" have evolved into sharp and pointy spines which, in addition to allowing less water to evaporate than regular leaves, defend the cactus against water-seeking animals. Thousands and thousands of these spikes cover its entire surface area. In place of "branches", the Rich Earth Cactus is a single pole of 1 to 2 nanit thickness, sometimes with upwards of ten smaller poles sprouting from the primary and each other.
The Rich Earth Cactus blooms whenever the hell it wants, which infuriates the still-life artists that have taken up residence to the south of Iganefta. When they do "stretch their limbs", as these fuddy duddy creative types call it, the small flowers are often in the most vibrant colors of red, orange, yellow, blue, indigo, and violet. Some naturalists have admonished that the plants also bloom green, but the still-lifers claim this is "nature being beautiful and unique for its record keepers." Alternatively, artmongers suggest that a painting made up of all green would never sell well, and some have even whispered that the artists simply ran out of that color during their painting of the plant's body.
There are numerous variants on the cactus formula, mostly dealing with size, shape, possibility of pain, greatness of pain, and length of pain. Some are small and round, with no poles whatsoever. Others have very few spikes, making them delectable treats to the horrors of the south. Still others harbor poison instead of water. There are many variants awaiting discovery, but so few souls brave enough to explore.
Rich Earth Cactii, and their brothers and sisters, are only known to exist in the dry cactus forests of the south. Of late, the south remains largely unexplored to known inhabitants of Ghyll, primarily because of the perfectly natural and ordinary deaths of a group conducting a study of the forests, as well as Baron Claude Lloyd Albert Smallwood's (furiously denied) connection with it and the doggerel plague.
Even the still-lifers, who make their living selling the "beauty of the cactii" camp on the very edge of the desert, "near, but not enough to disturb the serenity!", peering in cautiously and intently for their artistic inspirations. Because of this "respectful distance", the plants received an early nickname of "Fuzzy Sticks", until a much later discovery that cuddling is rather more than painful.
Besides "avian spearing", in which rocks ("3 for an Ooo!") are thrown at flying birds (of the same species of fowl used by TransAvian) in hopes of them falling and being impaled on the top of a Rich Earth Cactus ("Feeling bad for what you've done? Try Crank, Jr.'s Happy Tonic, guaranteed to grow not only hair, but smiles!"), the Rich Earth Cactus currently serve no economic importance. There may be some measure of truth to the rumors that cactus poison has been used in some assassin attempts, but we've yet to find anyone willing to step forward with their Bill of Sale.
--Morbus Iff 15:44, 11 Feb 2005 (EST)