Orcweed is a tough, ridiculously hardy plant that grows almost anywhere it can find open space. With a stalk nearly as thick as a man’s thumb, shaded a bilious green hue, jagged thorns that jut out in a way reminiscent of orcish tusks, and eye-searingly vivid, powerfully rancid-smelling flowers that thankfully only blossom for a few weeks before withering, it is very definitely a survivor among plants. Even without cultivation, it grows in wild clusters across the countryside,untroubled by much of anything but the hardiest of grazers and the verminous flies that spread the orcweed’s pollen.
Some few settlements have discovered it can be cultivated, however; growing steadily around the year, if dying sections are trimmed away, orcweed can easily reach eight to ten feet in height, with wicked barbs capable of punching through boiled leather and stalks tough and springy enough to withstand an infantry charge, or dissuade most cavalry due to the thorns. For those willing to tolerate the flies that swarm when the orcweed blooms as well as the constant maintenance to keep it from spreading, it makes a fantastic palisade, capable of discouraging even the wildest of attackers - save, perhaps, orcs, who find the smell and color of the flowers appealing, often appearing bedecked in them during the brief blooming season.
Orcweed’s flaws are few, but noticable:
-The thorns are vulnerable to direct fire, which will also tend to scorch the stalk enough to release the vision-inducing fumes into the smoke.
-Orcweed flowers retain their potent stink for close to three months after the initial bloom, with the measurable increase in both flies and appearances by orcish tribes during this time.
-If allowed to die and rot, the pulp in the stalk tends to quickly rot and ferment into a powerfully repulsive sludge that bursts the stalk within a few days, soaking into almost any surface and rendering it unpalatable for anyone with a sense of smell.
Orcweed also has some few medicinal properties, if the side effects can be tolerated.
-The thorns, ground to a powder, can be inhaled through the nose to dull the sense of smell for those who need to work in potent-smelling conditions; unfortunately, for the few weeks it takes for the effects to wear off, the users are prone to spontaneous nosebleeds.
-The flowers, dried and used to brew a tea, produce a purgative effect, but leave the user suffering from a rancid taste in the mouth for several days thereafter.
-Smoke from burning green orcweed can help produce visions in those seeking them, but the hideous odor of the smoke clings to everything touched by it for days.
If harvested and dried, the flowers can often be traded or sold to orcs after the blooming season is past; some chemical component is the flowers’ scent actually smells sweet to the orcish senses, and their spectrum range is skewed such that the flowers actually having a pleasing hue rather than eye-burning.
Unfortunately, convincing the weed to remain in the stand where it is wanted is a difficult task, year-round; if care is not taken, stands of orcweed will rapidly be found blooming in gardens, middens, and in a few cases, chamberpots left too close to an open window during the brief blooming season. Added with the way that orc tribes will tend to show up every few days while the flowers retain their odor, most settlements still prefer a solid wooden wall over the orcweed thicket-wall.
Orcweed, not surprisingly, is not an entirely natural creation. The shamans of an orcish tribe now extinct were responsible for it, seeking to make a plant the tribe could use for decoration (the flowers), utility (the tough, sturdy stalks make excellent carry-poles, and can be used for shamanic visions), and weaponry (for a few weeks, the orcweed’s thorns make excellent spear points).
Unfortunately, the tribe was unaware of how prolific the plant was once bred, as up until the final generation was deemed a success and planted outside, all the former generations had been carefully controlled and kept isolated to keep the botanical breeding from going awry.
Now, orcweed competes fiercely with just about everything else that grows, having no natural predators save the orcs interested in harvesting stands for their own use.