Flora

Menzoberranzan’s environs are filled with large varieties of unusual “flora”, most of which is actually fungoid in nature. Mosses, lichens, fungi, and even real plants are found in and around the city itself. Some of the flora is monsterous and even more is dangerous. The below covers some of the most frequently encountered or important. Note that the Underdark accessory says many such lifeforms require faerzress radiation for sustenance, this is incorrect. No known creatures (animal, plant, lichen, fungus, undead, or other) can survive of faerzress or require it.

Barrelstalk: Barrelstalks are found only in wet areas of the underdark. The water they collect in their centers is always pure (until they produce spores) and as such they are cultivated by many, many intelligent species. Barrelstalks are used to provide good water for animals more often than people in Menzoberranzan. Barrelstalk fungi is described in the Underdark accessory.

Bulbfruit: Bulb fruit grows on a stiff, reedy plant with the fruit either appearing at the top of a single reed (where it won’t get very large) or the base of several reeds, in the ground (like any other tuber). The fruit is edible to most any animal and has a pungent smell and taste, similar to garlic and onions (the flavor is distinct but related). Bulbfruit plants will grow in any area of sand or other, rootable base—such as guano or offal (if there’s not enough “sand” for the fruit to grow as a tuber, it tops the reed, otherwise it becomes a tuber)—with a good supply of moisture. Like many underdark plants, it grows easily in the right condition, and may even spring up as a weed where not wanted. This makes it ideal for many humanoids who lack much in the way of cultivation ability. Since they quickly develop a lot of waste of all sorts simply piling this in one area can create an ideal bulbfruit habitat. Like garlic, bulbfruit has mild disinfectant properties and so is often used in cleaning wounds.

Edible Fungi: Whether small or gigantic, mushroom, shelf, puffball, or stalk, gray, or white, or black, the various sorts of edible fungi are the true basis of underdark society. The city of Menzoberranzan, like any other subterranean city, lives off the fungi its farms produce. Fortunately, fungi grow very quickly compared to seasonal plants with small puffballs, shelf fungi, and mushrooms growing to the size of a hand within a day. Huge stalks and mushrooms taller than a man (several edible mushrooms reach 18’-20’ at full growth) can develop in less than a month. Of course, such phenomenal growth requires constant care and an adequate supply of all the necessary nutrients required so the city’s farmers are continually busy tending their crops. Many farmers also herd animals both to supplement their income and gain the manure and bats are encouraged to lair above the fungal farms, adding guano to help with growth. Edible fungi come in a wide variety of shapes, colors, and forms but a much smaller variety of tastes so while necessary for survival, everyone is always looking for ways to increase the variety in their diet. Bluecap and ripplebark, both described in the Underdark accessory, are common examples.

Fungi: A massive number of fungi of all types live in the underdark. Most are benign, some are useful, and several are monsterous. Among these last there are several found in the area around Menzoberranzan. The shrieker is utilized by many in the city, and just as many creatures living around it. In fact, most enclaves in the underdark, including Menzoberranzan’s own farms and mines, have shriekers as one of their first lines of defense. Violet fungi, looking very much like shriekers with arms, are deadly creatures that some societies risk mixing in among their shrieker fields (a process which occurs naturally very frequently, as well, in fact, violet fungi are probably why the wild areas of the dark dominion haven’t been stripped of shriekers). These creatures are so dangerous that even dead, they can infect the living. Because of this they are illegal in Menzoberranzan and eradicated whenever discovered. They are extremely common in the wilds around the city, however. Cave pigs are immune to violet fungi while creatures such as hook horrors, cave crickets, and norkers are immune to the touch of a violet fungus so long as it only touches their exoskeleton (if it reaches a joint or other soft tissue the infection can take hold). Ascomids, phycomids, and gas spores are all found in the wilds as well. Gas spores in particular are used by those societies able to lure them near their territory, usually to defend entrances they don’t use and don’t need for emergency escapes (and possibly can’t defend in any other way). Zygoms and basironds are rarer but also encountered.

Funguswood: Some have said that funguswood is the basis of life in the underdark. They are neither correct nor wrong. Funguswood comes in a number of varieties, all of which grow as large mushrooms or tall, straight stalks. All are generally inedible by humanoids but have other properties that are at least as valuable. Funguswood mirrors almost all the properties of one type of wood (which type depends on the specific type of funguswood). This allows many items normally requiring wood, such as staves, poles, crossbows, bows, arrows, bolts, darts, lances, spears, and so on to be built (or built cheaply if metal or stone could substitute). The fungi grows wild in the underdark and is grown in great quantities and variety by most subterranean settlements. A light funguswood that grows in innumerable straight stalks reaching as much as 35’ high (conditions permitting) and acting very much like pine is possibly the most common type of funguswood while good carving funguswood is the least common. Menzoberranzan’s farms make it self-sufficient in funguswood and it evens trades away small amounts (funguswood is generally easy enough to locate and grow that there’s no cross-underdark trade demand for it). Zurkhwood, described in the Underdark accessory, is a type of funguswood.

Gourdplant: This underdark plant is so named for the hard skinned fruit it grows. Such fruit vary in shape and size but resemblance a gourd or, as they get larger, a watermelon or pumpkin. The gourdplant has numerous uses to underdark dwellers. Many small creatures burrow into the fruit and hollow them out, whereupon the fruit dies, leaving the animal a perfect lair. Intelligent creatures harvest the fruit for their large almond-shaped seeds that can be converted easily into excellent arrow heads if kept near enough to a fire to dry them out without actually cooking them. The fruit’s flesh is not particularly nutritious or tasty to humanoids but the seeds bake well if first soaked in water for at least 5 days to remove the mild toxins they contain (eating raw or improperly prepared seeds leads to vomiting, diarrhea, and gastro-intestinal cramping for 2-8 days during which the afflicted individual cannot perform any strenuous activity, such as marching). The younger, gourd-shaped fruit make excellent dippers, rattles, and bottles while larger fruit can be used as larger bowls and baskets (some desperate tribes also use the gourds to make weak clubs but these crack easily against armored and unarmored opponents alike—25% chance on any successful blow, 50% chance if blow is unsuccessful but high enough that it would have struck if foe hadn’t had armor and/or shield, chance increases by 30% if target is wearing metal armor other than chain or ring mail). Finally, the wide leaves of the plant are resistant to heat (unlike the fruit) and stay supple when dead, making them ideal for use as wrappings for small objects (usually food if the race is so advanced) or even, occasionally, a writing surface (witchdoctor’s spellbooks have been discovered on groups of especially large gourdplant leaves in the past).

Green Slime: Universally feared, green slime finds its way to damp places throughout the underdark by unknown means. Whenever it is encountered in the area around Menzoberranzan the colony is completely wiped out either through fire or cure disease spell (depending on whether or not anyone wants some for use as potion or spell components). Long ago some houses used green slime weapons (usually ceramic globes or pots filled with an amount of the stuff) but after things got out of hand (exactly how, no one remembers any longer) the Ruling Council stepped in and banned it. All patrols have standing orders to destroy the stuff and if any is reported in the area a patrol will be dispatched to see that it is wiped out.

Kampfult: This unusual plant, so rare on the surface, has found a home in the underdark. Though rarely cultivated by drow, a number of lairs of other creatures have been found where the inhabitants had set it up as one of their guardian traps. Net form is thus the most common growth pattern this plant is found in, though single, ropey vines, are being reported in the wilds with more frequency by patrols.

Kelpie: Kelpies have been encountered in many stagnant pools in small corners of the underdark around Menzoberranzan and are generally destroyed by drow patrols when this occurs. Kelpies are aware that drow patrols usually contain at least one female and that drow are almost completely resistant to their charm power in any case so they generally try to remain hidden when a patrol is in the area. Kelpie is considered bland but edible fare by most humanoids and as a plant instead of a fungus some people in the city will pay good money for one that is brought back so they can cook it. Though no one has checked, it is presumed that kelpies live in the depths of the Darklake as well.

Lichen: Lichens are actually a symbiote, two life forms working in harmony to survive. They are rarer in the area around Menzoberranzan than fungi, mosses, or molds, but have the added value that none are monsterous or deadly. They tend to be hard for most creatures to consume as, unlike mosses, molds, and fungi, they grow right on the surface of the rock and do not stick out so an ordinary mouth can easily get purchase on them. Instead, they must be scraped away. Lichens also do not grow nearly as fast as their competition so they are a much less reliable food source. Still, lichens can often be found in areas of the underdark where even fungi cannot grow. Fire lichen, described in the Underdark accessory, is a particularly valuable species.

Luurden: Described in the Underark accessory, this plant is grown by only a few houses and businesses in areas around the city. Waiting 4 years for one crop is simply not economical enough to be worthwhile. On the other hand luurden wines cost 10 to 20 times the price of common underdark wines and oils and elixirs produced from it are expensive. Rumor dating back at least a decade says luurden fruit is an ingredient in potions of magic resistance but other claim to be able to disprove that since luurden doesn’t seem to be regularly purchased by some producers of potions of magic resistance in the city.

Mold: A number of benign molds, some even edible, are found in the underdark. They compete with fungi (technically they are a fungi but most Realms dwellers draw a distinction) to reclaim (or consume) waste matter, including all sorts of carrion. Three molds in particular are extremely dangerous. Yellow mold is well known for killing animals and is never used in the city or by any other animal-based creatures (cave pigs are notably immune to them and the most common means of wiping out a patch, if the cave pigs can reach it). Russet mold is considered even worse, turning victims into vegepygmies that then build a society and attempt to control territory. Unfortunately, russet mold and vegepygmies both are found south of Menzoberranzan, in the underdark beneath the High Moor (the vicinity of Eryndlyn) so incursions of these creatures and the mold they rely on to reproduce is common in the southern area of the dark dominion. Vegepygmies been known to deliberately colonize farther afield as well, though drow raiding parties are sent to deal with the threat whenever a settlement is found. Finally, brown mold is both dangerous and desirous. Those who have the proper magics can control it and use it to make cold storage areas for food, though those who can afford them prefer to use spells.

Moss: Moss is one of the favored foods of the city’s inhabitants as well as being found growing in many other moist areas of the underdark. Moss makes an excellent food, as well as being a change of pace from fungi. One moss in particular, however, is extremely feared in the city. Any patch of obliviax memory moss that is found must be eradicated as soon as possible by law. As far as anyone knows, this law has never been disobeyed (a rarity given all the secret dealing and skullduggery that typically go on). Note that cave moss, as used in the Underdark accessory, is a common name for many types of otherwise normal but inedible mosses, not just a single variety. Luminescent mosses are deliberately planted in many areas of the underdark as markers, warnings, and simply for their soft, phosphorescent light.

Reeds: Darkreeds grow wild in the underdark in marshy regions and along the shores of underdark bodies of water. The drow long ago harvested some from darklake and have since transplanted them to the edges of Donigarten as well as shallow areas of water they have established in the mantle. The reeds are good grazing for rothe and many other subterranean omnivores and herbivores as well as being used to add texture to some dishes served in the city (they have almost no nutritional value for humanoids but can be eaten). Their major importance is as the primary ingredient in papyrus produced in the city.

Shrieker: Shriekers are used by many houses (especially the lower houses that have fewer troops and resources) as warning devices and most farms, mines, and other operations outside the city also use them for this purpose. Shriekers of various sizes are raised outside the city on farms and can be purchased in the bazaar. Many who have their own homes or shops in the city also choose to purchase one or more as an added measure of safety.

Slime: In addition to various common sorts of normal slimes, like slime mold, and the infamous green slime dealt with above, another monsterous slime exists that is rarely encountered. Olive slime, with its ability to change creatures into slime creatures, is both highly mobile and highly dangerous. No coordinated effort to exterminate the slime has ever been made in the dark dominion. Drow patrols have orders to destroy it when it’s encountered and never to let any escape.

Waterorb: Described in the Underdark accessory, these aquatic fungi are present in a number of areas of the Darklake as well as in certain areas of the dark dominion. Note that the waterorb’s size is limited by the local water so in many places it only reaches to pebble sizes, rather than boulders. In any event, most waterorbs never grow larger than 8’ to 10’ in diamter and 12’ diameter specimens are extremely rare. Some amphibious and aquatic creatures will dig a lair in a waterorb. Waterorbs removed from the water dry out quickly (within one day per foot of diameter) and afterwards become brittle and fragile, raising great plumes of powdery spores if damaged (a large spore cloud can be deadly due to difficulty breathing and seeing but the spores are not deadly to animals in the way of yellow mold and other monsterous creatures). Waterorbs aren’t particularly edible to most creatures but cave crustaceans (crabs and crayfish) can survive on them. Many aquatic animals, from fish, to crustaceans, to salamanders, like to hide among groups of waterorbs and their slowing of the current generally allows other aquatic flora to take hold where they otherwise wouldn’t be able to.

Whipweed: Whipweeds aren’t commonly seen in this area of the underdark, whether because they are destroyed when encountered or for some other reason no one is sure. What people do know is the whipweed can be very dangerous to those happening in range of it and small areas can become dotted with a number of the plants over time. They are considered edible though their taste is something even goblins have trouble stomaching.

Wisp Lichen: Despite its name and appearance, wisp lichen is not truly a lichen for the simple reason that it is only one organism, not a symbiote. Its ability to capture and consume prey is particularly nasty as is its growth on ceilings where most creatures that would consume it, such as hook horrors whose exoskeletons defend themselves against the plant’s touch, cannot get to them. Despite this the plants is very rare in the dark dominion. Many humanoids will transplant cultivate patches of it near their lairs whenever they find some (its location makes it a favorite defense when drow lizard patrols are a concern or levitating or flying enemies might approach the area while still leaving it safe for surface dwellers if the ceiling is high enough). Wisp lichen is described in the Underdark accessory. Without continuous contact, the paralysis induced by the strands only lasts 10-15 minutes. However, the fall can cause serious injury and incapacitation. Strands grow up to 10’ long unless they contact a shelf or some other form of floor beneath them (stands touching the floor or nearly so have been referred to as “curtains” by many surface dwellers though the strands are are spread out a few inches apart from each other). Wisp lichen helps refresh the air in any cave where it is present (as most plants do) but is most commonly encountered in areas with good air circulation. Constant moisture on the ceiling is also required for them to survive.

Witherweed: Witherweeds are considered by many drow to be one of the nastiest creatures of the underdark. Firing them not only is deadly to any nearby but it also serves to save the weed as the underdark has no wind to dissipate the smoke so the fire soon dies from lack of oxygen, leaving the weed alive and with a noxious cloud that will kill anything entering it (which the weed can then feed on). There is generally felt to be no good way to kill a witherweed (since drow usually lack plant-affecting spells) and the permanent dexterity loss can be disasterous for a race that relies on their nimbleness and movement to survive (the need for a cure disease to reverse the loss is well known but the danger is still very real in the fickle and backstabbing world of the drow). Witherweeds are not edible to humanoid races and must be killed before rothe, cave crickets, and other creatures can consume them—a process that usually destroys the plant anyway.

Yellow Musk Creeper: With their yellow musk zombies to transport and defend them, yellow musk creepers can be found anywhere in the underdark. Drow are told many tales of the dangerous plants and they and their zombies are a kind of boogeyman used to keep youngsters from wandering off alone into the underdark (as if any more boogeymen were needed given how dangerous the underdark would still be without yellow musk creepers). Yellow musk zombies and creepers are both destroyed when encountered, though sometimes patrols will try to capture a yellow musk zombie (such as with a web spell) and save it. This is almost always only done with a specific reason in mind (a duergar is desired to be questioned to reveal secrets of his people, a drow is wearing a house brooch, etc.). Yellow musk zombies that are slain are then destroyed completely, or at least their heads are smashed with maces and the already growing seed is destroyed. Standard tactics when dealing with a vine are to fireball it (flaming sphere works just as well on the immobile plant but spells like burning hands that require getting within its range are to be avoided) in order to destroy the flowers (and any yellow musk zombies) and then approach while it’s safe and kill the central plant.

Flora

Menzoberranzan Aeylric