|Official Name||Zereus Cactus|
|Common Name||Zuru Cactus, Zuruberry Plant|
|Common Use||Food, Ornamental|
The Zereus Cactus is a large, tree-like succulent native to the deserts of Farah’deen. This cactus grows as a tight cluster of columns which blossoms vigorously before producing delectable fruits. Despite several disasters striking the plant's native homes, it has continued to survive both in the wild and in cultivation. Farah’deen is currently the largest exporter of Zereus fruits, and holds plantations containing the largest population of Zereus Cacti.
The Zereus Cactus was commonly found on Farah’deen before the Great Storm. Large groves of these cactus existed across the land, including many long-lived specimens, well over a hundred years old, which grew to large proportions. Also called Zuru Cactus by the Qadir and Songaskia, this plant provided bountiful fruits and shelter for the people and animals that lived on the desert continent. After the Storm, many of these groves were lost, overturned by storm winds, buried under sand, or simply dying slowly in conditions that became too harsh even for succulents.
Nevertheless, while many perished, small pockets survived in isolated regions of Farah’deen and continued to provide nourishment for their inhabitants. Today, many pockets of wild Zereus Cacti still live on, growing from the valleys and cliffs where they are sheltered from the sandstorms that continue to plague the land even to this day. The native Songaskian Masaya currently holds the largest population of Zereus Cactus, grown in large fields to harvest its fruits, which are then exported to trading partners across the world. Due to the recent conflict between the Masaya and Regalia, and the civil war currently occurring in the Masaya itself, the export of Zereus fruits have been unsteady.
Zereus Cactus have the appearance of squat trees with a short, thick trunk from which sprout tall branches which are clustered tightly and pointed upwards. Zereus Cactus grows multiple columns quite readily in very tight clusters where each column can be several inches thick and over eight feet high. Older specimens may grow to be twenty feet high with columns that are a foot thick. The cactus has quite a geometrical appearance; each column has five ribs going down its length, dotted evenly with short, white spines.
When blooming, multiple buds appear down the cactus' ribs where the spines are. The flowers are only a few inches in size with compact petals whose color range from white to red. The resulting fruits are red with a pale white flesh, and a single cactus can produce over a hundred of them in one season. They somewhat resemble strawberries, small oblong fruits about two to three inches big, though instead of being covered with seeds on the outside, they are sparsely dotted with tiny nubs which are actually spines. They are very soft and very juicy, making them a delectable snack.
Uses and Abilities
Zereus Cactus are grown for their sweet fruit which tastes like a mix between a strawberry and a kiwi, quite sweet yet slightly tart. They have soft, juicy flesh with a thin skin. While the skin is covered in a few spines, they are small enough not to be too much of a nuisance and are usually eaten along with the rest of the fruit or picked off. The fruit is usually served as a dessert, whether eaten alone or used as ingredients for various sweet dishes. The fruit is said to be able cleanse spiciness from the mouth so it is sometimes served after eating spicy foods.
Zereus Cactus are native to arid climates and require warm weather to thrive. They are mainly exported from Farah'deen, where there are large plantations of cacti lined up neatly along stepped valleys and cliffsides. Cooler, foreign lands may have greenhouses where the cactus can be kept in a warm environment as it cannot survive frost at all and will die in cold winters. Due to the cactus' geometric appearance and lively blossoms, many gardeners may keep one as an exotic ornamental plant.
- In Regalia and other places, the fruits are usually referred using the plant's native name, being called Zuru Fruits or Zuruberries. Likewise, the fruit may be referred to as coming from Zuruberry plants, especially by those aren't aware that it grows from a cactus.
- The rest of the cactus is technically edible as well, though it is usually only eaten by lost travellers in the scorching deserts.
- Animals are known to use the cactus as homes, whether squeezing themselves in between the columns, or even digging into the trunk and living inside. The spines, while prickly, are very short and easily avoidable by smaller animals.