This article originally appeared in the November/December 2023 issue.
|Large central stem up to 3m tall with secondary and sometimes tertiary stems
|C/H/O/N, broadly compatible with human
|Photosynthetic, Carbon dioxide inhalant, dioxide exhalant. Can exist in atmospheres from half to up to five times the standard pressure.
|Temperate forests and scrubland
|Prefers rich soil to allow it to grow, it can grow in poor soils but the plants are then be much smaller and easier to remove.
|Produces small flowers that are pollinated by insects. Seed dispersal achieved by being eaten by birds.
|Lifecycle and ontogeny
|Perennial. Plants are known to have lived for up to fifty years.
Adult plants consist of a strong central stem about three metres tall. The stem then splits into around eight to twelve branches which arch over and reach the ground, three to four metres away from the central stem, where they then take root. Each branch then has other branches off-shooting each of which contain thousands of needle-like spines up to two centimetres long. These all point towards the main stem. Any animal that wanders into a patch of malgorse and into an area between the main branches, is shepherded towards the centre as the spines bend to allow access but not egress. Once the creature has reached a certain point, it cannot leave without serious injury and the only way to progress is further in. Once inside there is no escape and the animal will slowly die of hunger, its carcase providing nutrients for the plant.
Animals with a thick hide can usually escape and for sophonts a leather jacket and trousers are thick enough to allow escape from most malgorse clusters with only a few scratches.
Sometimes the branches can turn into secondary trunks, creating a maze of malgorse that once entered it is almost impossible to escape from.
Malgorse is incredibly difficult to remove from an area where it has become established. The main trunk and branches do not burn easily due to a fire-resistant resin that is produced in the plant’s bark.
The plant can easily be cut down but since it has an extensive root system, it can regenerate quickly. The plant can grow at a rate of a centimetre a day in optimal conditions, meaning that within ninety days the main trunk can fully regenerate.
The only way to permanently remove it is with defoliants and herbicides. It is particularly vulnerable to Frazinch, a herbicide manufactured by Schunamann und Sohn, AG, LIC.
The plant produces small orange or yellow flowers that are pollinated by insects. Each flower produces a single spherical green fruit that ripens to a red colour about five millimetres in diameter. The fruit has a nutritious outer casing and is eaten by birds and other flying animals. If the seed is ingested whole, it usually passes through the digestive system unharmed. The three millimetre round brown seed is then excreted with the fæces.
It is thought that malgorse has been spread to other worlds via the muddy boots of the careless. The recommended way of removing the seeds is with a power-hose.
Uninfected worlds within a jump distance of infected planets sometimes insist that all vaccsuits are hosed down before being allowed out of the spaceport.
It is rumoured that malgorse was deliberately introduced by a Vargr corsair group onto a planet as a punishment. Details are sketchy as to which band of corsairs and which planet this was.
Some animals have adapted to life with the ‘gorse. Small rodents often make their home there, safe from larger predators. The only animal known to eat it, is the spine-moth, the larvae of which burrow into the spines. The female moth once mated, flies into the gorse, often shredding her wings as she does, there, she crawls about the plant laying an individual egg at the base of each spine. Each female can lay up to about fifty eggs after before she dies of starvation.
The larvae hatch within twenty days and grow to maturity in around thirty days. The adults feed on pollen and nectar and only live for a few weeks.
In worlds without spine-moths, the small insect-analogues have been deliberately introduced to try and contain the spread of these plants.
Malgorse in campaigns
Malgorse should not be a major threat to a warned adult sophont, though a lost child in an area where malgorse has spread uncontrollably would be very difficult to find.