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Basic Information

Calluna Vulgaris, more commonly known as Heather or Ling, is a flowering plant common to the Heath (habitat) and Moorland of Europe. It thrives in acidic soil, such as found in many bogs. It has flowers of white, pink, purple or red, and leaves of green shading into gold (color), silver (color), or red.

Today, it is mostly used as an ornamental plant, but is also used in honey production. In the Middle Ages, however, Heather was used significantly for other purposes.

The term "heather" can also apply to a few closely-related plants, genus Erica and genus Cassiope, with similar properties.

Be careful what you drink

Grut Ale brewed with Calluna and other herbs is mildly to moderately narcotic and sometimes described as an aphrodisiac. In addition to that expected effect, heather leaves are often home to a form of fungus, that, like ergot, can be a potent hallucinogenic intoxicant. Today, laws exist requiring careful cleaning of Calluna that is to be consumed by humans - in the Middle Ages this effect was probably deemed a reason to brew with Ling.



Game and Story Use

  • A village goes mad from a fungus-infected batch of grut ale. Their hallucinations could get pretty crazy.
    • In the Middle Ages, various monastic orders had a monopoly by royal decree on beers brewed with calluna. So, the culprits (if the fungus-poisoning was done on purpose) may be a cloistered religion of evil.
      • Alternatively it may well have an entheogenic effect and enhance the worship experience in their community.
    • In a more shamanistic context, grut ale might be used in vision quests or as part of some other religious ceremony - or by beserkers preparing for battle.
  • Monsters move in to the local woods, turning it into a dungeon-forest that's too dangerous for the local charcoal-burner to harvest. What's more dangerous - facing them, or braving the bog to get a supply of calluna? If the village can survive this winter, next year they may be able to grow calluna at the outskirts of town, and avoid both dangers.
  • Smaller or burrowing creatures such as hobbits, gnomes or goblins, may use calluna as fuel exclusively, because it means they don't have to fell inconveniently large trees.
  • Generally anyone living on bog or heathland is quite likely to use a lot of heather as fuel due to its local abundance and the relative scarcity of decent trees.
  • Perhaps witches can't fly on just any broom - they need one made of enchanted calluna, harvested under a particular phase of the moon, and never allowed to touch the ground. Or whatever else sounds cool.
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