By Barusa Galdin
The Nature of the Bloatspore
Bloatspore is a large fungus, recognizable by its mottled red pod with thick white rim. It produces a substance called bloat, a white fleshy tuber that has valuable uses in alchemy. It grows in dark humid climates, found mainly in enclosed cave systems. It once thrived along the Bitter Coast, but has dwindled to a few select caves in Vvardenfell. The blight has nearly caused this spore’s extinction across the province. Though variants exist in the Black Marsh, only through careful cultivation may the native Morrowind species be preserved.
Due to the blight, bloatspore must be sheltered from the elements. They thrive best in humid caves, in the presence of bioluminescent fungus. Cultivators use glowing magicka crystals to accelerate their growth. These crystals are imbued with power until they radiate a magicka field. The bloatspores absorb the magicka, causing accelerated growth and improved quality of the bloat it produces. The production of magicka crystals is a long held Telvanni secret. Bloatspores can be grown without these crystals; however, they will not grow as quickly or as large.
Threats to the Bloatspore
The greatest threat to the bloatspore is blight disease. This disease, often carried by infected creatures, can devastate whole bloatspore populations. Due to an increase in infected creatures sheltering in caves from blight storms, the bloatspore has nearly become extinct throughout the province.
Bloatspore is the shalk’s primary food source. The bloatspore was not under threat until blight storms decreased the food supply and tipped the balance. There are no longer enough bloatspores in existence to supply the shalk population. Lacking an abundance of alternate food supplies, shalks will travel for miles to feast on the last remaining bloatspores in the region. Shalks will always find a way to get into caves, so bloat cultivators must be vigilant in keeping them away. However, shalks are not the only threat. Any blight infected creature can threaten the spores, so any creatures that crawl into a bloat mine must be eradicated.
Harvesting bloat is a delicate process. Extreme care must be taken not to harm the bloatspore while removing the white fleshy tuber from its center. Ages ago, before the bloatspore became endangered, muck shovels were used to extract the tuber from the spore. These days, such reckless methods are far too dangerous to the dwindling bloatspore population.
Today’s methods involve carefully cutting the tuber away from the pod with a sharp knife. Care must be taken not to damage the pod, otherwise the spore will shrivel up and die. If its outer flesh is cut or damaged, a deep rot will quickly set in. If the cut is not too deep, a magical salve may be applied to the spore and eventually it will heal, but if the cut is too deep, there is no saving it. Even bruises can cause the spore to shrivel up and rot.
Found deep within the tuber is the bloatspore’s seeds. The bloatspore produces the tuber to attract creatures, such as the shalk, to feast upon it. The bloatspore usually dies at this point, its seeds fertilized by its mother’s decaying matter. Bloat cultivators remove the seeds after extracting the tuber, which can be planted in a compost of dung and decaying plant matter mixed with bloat.
If the cultivator is careful, the bloatspore will live on to produce more bloat and more seeds. It usually takes several months for the tuber to grow large enough to be harvested again. This time can be cut down to three months with the aid of magicka crystals.
The bloatspore can live like this for up to five years, at which point it stops producing bloat. The spore stops producing seeds in under two years if they are removed with each harvesting, but removing the seeds will, in the long run, produce more seeds than if they are left alone. After five years, the bloatspore will be nothing more than a toughened husk, which is broken down into compost to feed future generations of the spore.
The Future of the Bloatspore
With careful cultivation and harvesting, the endangered bloatspore can be saved from extinction. Bloatspore seeds can remain dormant for hundreds of years. The spore, under the care of cultivators, produces far more seeds than can be sustained, which are collected and stored for future use.
Research is currently being done to cultivate a hardy breed of the bloatspore. Current attempts have not yet been successful, but this line of research shows much promise. Perhaps a future breed may thrive across these blight ridden lands.