Lesson 2) The Boring Beasts

Hello everyone! I hope you have all had a fun week back to the castle. I know that I have been wandering around, finding all of my old reading spots around castle. It feels like just yesterday that I was a student here, but I am glad to be back at Hogwarts in this capacity. Professor Cattercorn asked that I let you know she is very impressed with your essays so far, and can’t wait to see what else you will submit. I must say, I have to agree with her. Keep working hard and submitting your best work, and there is no reason you can’t do well in this course.  

After our first lesson on the specifics of this field, and learning about the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures and the different creature classifications, I am sure you are all ready to learn about the content this course is known for: the creatures. We will start learning about the creatures today!

However, these creatures are nothing fancy. If you expected to learn about creatures such as dragons or centaurs this soon you are in for a surprise. The creatures we are discussing today are the only two creatures that are classified as X, or boring, by the Ministry of Magic. Today, ladies and gentlemen, we will be learning about Flobberworms and Horklumps! While they aren't extremely interesting, each of them contributes quite a bit to the wizarding world, and that is what we are going to look at today.

Before we dive into the creatures, I would like to take a moment to discuss their classification. As we discussed last week, only beasts are given an X classification. I am sure when you hear the word “beast” you automatically assume they are a large, terrifying creature. However, we did discuss that the definition for a beast is that the creature has no ability to shape magical law. The creatures we will cover today are rather dull if I am being honest, they have no ability to shape magical law. Therefore, they are classified as beasts. When it comes to their X classification, they do not have the “danger” that is commonly associated with other creatures. It is for that reason the X rating of boring was developed. Though there are only two creatures given this classification, it is still important to note that these creatures are nowhere near as dangerous as other beasts you will encounter. Now that we have discussed that at length, let’s begin learning about the creatures!

First, let’s look at the Flobberworm! Flobberworms are invertebrate worms, and can grow up to ten inches long. They are usually brown in colour, and look identical on both ends. They prefer to live in damp ditches, and move very little, if at all. To back up for a moment, I want to make sure you all know what it means to be an “invertebrate”. Being an invertebrate means the creature never developed a spinal column. This is common in worms, some insects, and different sea creatures like squids. The majority of creatures we will cover are vertebrates, like you and I, but I will make sure to tell you if that is not the case, as it will affect their bodies and if they can be used in Summoning Spells. It is also important to note that Flobberworms are segmented worms, like earthworms and leeches. This means that you can see the little rings around their body, segmenting their skin.  

Flobberworm anatomy is both simple and complex. Because they look identical on both ends, magizoologists have tried looking for eyes in order to distinguish the head from the tail. However, so far they have been unsuccessful, which has led them to believe that Flobberworms are blind. Flobberworms also have no teeth, so magizoologists are not able to distinguish between the holes used for eating and waste removal without watching the creatures.

It is unknown how a Flobberworm looks on the inside due to their rapid decomposition. Magizoologists have assumed they look similar to other segmented worms, which in all honestly is a jumble of ramen noodles after you get past the circulatory system. A Flobberworm's organs decompose within three to seven minutes after death, leaving us with no specimen to dissect. Magizoologists have used spells to see inside of living Flobberworms, but are only ever able to see a solid mass. It is for this reason that magizoologists believe Flobberworms possess a protective layer around their organs. While examining Flobberworms, it was found that their skin is very fragile, breaking at even the slightest sharp movement. Magizoologists believe this protective layer developed to protect the Flobberworm during movement. The protective layer helps secure the organs within the Flobberworm’s body and prevent an accidental death. Their Muggle counterpart, earthworms, also have a very distinctive “body wall”, allowing them to move without skin damage. In theory, the Flobberworm’s protective internal layer would be an upgrade of sorts, as the body wall is simply a reinforced skin layer, not an entirely separate layer of protective tissue like what we believe the Flobberworm has.


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Image courtesy of S.R. Million of Slytherin

Flobberworms feed on vegetation; mostly cabbages and lettuce. Although we do not know much about their internal organs, it is believed that Flobberworms have taste buds. This belief developed due to the Flobberworm’s refusal to eat iceberg lettuce. This is a trend that we see amongst many animals, such as rabbits and turtles. Iceberg lettuce has a bland to bitter taste to animals, and no nutritional value. Because Flobberworms will not eat iceberg lettuce, it is thought that they do have taste buds, even though we believe that they lack other senses like sight.

In terms of reproduction, Flobberworms are hermaphrodites. One end of their body contains male reproductive organs, while the other contains female reproductive organs. When ready to produce offspring, the Flobberworm simply has to rub the male portion of the body over the female portion of the body. Because of this, the male reproductive organs are fairly close to the end of its body. After fertilization, the eggs are dropped in the soil around the Flobberworm to hatch. Flobberworms reproduce whenever they want to, and so we have an abundance of Flobberworms in the wizarding world. Thankfully, they do have several different uses that are incredibly beneficial to us.

Yes, on the surface they don't appear interesting, or important. No, they aren't dangerous. You could fall asleep watching them, like I happened to do during my first Care of Magical Creatures lesson. However, they do secrete mucus. This mucus is sticky and a sickly green color. The mucus is used in several different potions as a thickener and is an essential ingredient to the Wiggenweld Potion. Flobberworm mucus also doubles as an emulsifier, allowing immiscible liquids such as water and oil, to form a homogenous mixture. Remember, an emulsifier is a substance that increase the potions stability, and a homogenous mixture is a potion with uniform appearance and composition. This is incredibly beneficial, as we can see the separation of potions if the brewing process is not quite correct. If a potion has separated, it is not effective in the slightest.

Flobberworms are also used in the culinary arts, as you all know. Flobberworm Fritters are very popular and are served at Hogwarts, but I know I don’t eat them! Their mucus can also be used to make a jelly of sorts, but that is not as popular. Flobberworm mucus is also spread on the roof beams of the attic at Hogwarts. While the reason isn’t particularly well known, it is used to create a lining to protect the beams from termites and Chizpurfles. This would make sense, as there have never been any termite problems at Hogwarts, and this practice has been used since the school was opened. I do participate in this practice, spreading it over the beams of the hut every so often, and I have never had a problem either. Who would’ve thought such a small creature could have so many uses!

I would also like to share a rather interesting fact with you today before we move on. Flobberworms are one of the only creatures that can be summoned using the Summoning Charm. This is thought to go back to their protective layer, and our inability to see their internal organs using magic. The Summoning Charm cannot work on living beings. If their organs, and thus their heartbeat and respiration, cannot be seen using magic, then they won’t be considered a living thing when casting the spell. To me, this is rather fascinating, and also makes brewing potions just a bit easier, as you can summon them easily.

Now, onto Horklumps! Horklumps are usually bright pink mushrooms, covered in black bristles. Mutant breeds of Horklumps have appeared in several parts of Europe and are green or yellow in color. Magizoologists cannot determine if they are any different from regular Horklumps, as there are no differences between the them other than color. A group of magizoologists believe these mutations developed from regular Horklumps becoming immune to different venoms previously used to kill them. It has since been found you cannot kill mutant Horklumps with Acromantula venom, though it was used at one point as a way to exterminate infestations. This thought has yet to catch on in the wizarding world, but the team is working towards having significant evidence of the theory.

Horklumps were originally found in Scandinavia, but are now found throughout northern Europe. Their only source of food is earthworms, which are found in the gardens they infest. In some occasions, they will eat Flobberworms if they are in the soil. This is not a bad thing, just a random event that happens because of how similar Flobberworms and earthworms are in appearance. They breed fairly quickly, and can cover a garden in a matter of days. It is for this reason they are considered pests. Another pest, gnomes, love to eat Horklumps, so it is recommended to gain control of the infestation as soon as possible, or else you may have two infestations on your hands.

Horklumps are nocturnal creatures. This means that during the day Horklumps stay rather dormant and don't move. They do still use their tentacles, which are incredibly similar to roots, to capture worms during this time, but do not eat them until the evening. At night, the black bristles on top of the Horklump start to move around, creating whistling noises as they rub against each other. It can be a rather shocking sound the first time you hear it, but it can become soothing after a while.

However, these black bristles have an important purpose: reproduction. Horklumps mate asexually, meaning they do not need another male or female to allow them to mate. This means that only one individual is needed to spawn new offspring. When the Horklump is ready to reproduce, which depends on the food supply, one of the black bristles will break off and fall into the soil. From it, a new Horklump will grow.

Now, some of you might be thinking, what about the Flobberworm? It only needs one individual, is it completing asexual reproduction. The answer is no. Because sperm and eggs are involved, it is not considered asexual reproduction. So, let’s update our definition of what asexual reproduction is. Asexual reproduction is when an offspring is derived from a single individual through means other than sperm and eggs. If you cut a worm in half and two individuals develop, that is asexual reproduction! Fascinating what different organisms do, isn’t it?

While some people like Horklumps, others feel they are pests. They are considered a pest by the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures. They are very difficult to get rid of and very few substances in the world are effective poisons against them. However, one substance which is known to be effective is Streeler venom - which we will cover in later lessons. Because Horklumps feed on earthworms, a food source is never a problem for them, so trying to remove them via starvation will not work.

With that, it is important to note where Horklumps won’t live. Earthworms do not live in deserts, as they live in environments with more water. If you attempted to plant a Horklump in sand, you would need to provide it with food on a regular basis. An earthworm a day keeps the gray away! Horklumps turn gray as they starve, slowly shriveling until they are completely dried out. Now, this is not beneficial for us, but we will get to that in just a minute!

Horklumps, though they seem unimportant, are actually very useful in the wizarding world. They are used in healing potions, and herbicide potions, which are used to kill plants. Herbicide potions do not work to get rid of Horklumps because they are used in the making of the potion.

Horklump juice is believed to possess magical properties when combined with other ingredients. It is used in several types of potions. To collect Horklump juice, you must dig up the Horklump from the ground. Make sure to shake it gently, so the dirt falls away from the roots. Then, place the Horklump in a jar. Seal the jar, and poke a small hole in the top for air. Because the Horklump will not be able to find any food or soil, it will quickly become stressed, and start to sweat out their juice. You can place the collected juice in a phial. It is recommended after collecting one phial that you replant the Horklump, so as not to cause it any harm. It is for this reason that starving out a Horklump is not effective to collect its juice. If it is shriveled up from not eating, it has no water in its body to sweat out. If the color of your Horklump is starting to dull, it is best to replant and feed it immediately, even if you have not collected a whole vial of juice. You need to treat the creature humanely, and killing it for juice does not fall into that category.  

 

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Image courtesy of S.R. Million of Slytherin

If you really want to, you can keep a Horklump as a pet. You would need to plant it in sand and feed it once a day, to keep its reproduction in check. While they may not be the most interesting of pets, some people enjoy listening to their whistling. It certainly isn’t my cup of tea, but if you are interested in keeping one please let me know. I know some great breeders that I can put you in contact with.

Boring you say? These creatures are very important to the wizarding world. Even though the are classified as “boring” by the Ministry, we must remember their importance and significance. That will conclude today’s lesson. As for assignments, you have a ten question quiz to complete. Remember to read the questions carefully and slowly to make sure you select the best answer. Next week, we will discuss a very popular creature in the wizarding world, and I can’t wait to see what you think of it during the short answer. I will see you soon!

All pictures are found using the Google Images search engine, and belong to their owners.

 

Care of Magical Creatures is the course for any beast lover. During your first year in the course, we will discuss the Ministry of Magic, the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures, and of course, the creatures of our magical world.

Professor and PA contact information can be found at the following link: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1c9P67EfSYtecxuspa2oZ-mT3Zi9SwYmHica-AD9BRtQ/edit?usp=sharing

Past Design Contests hosted by the CoMC Team can be viewed here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1CJ3vw-2m7fK5FbWly5yflVCsyJJUv5YR6NNAKm4ujp4/edit?usp=sharing
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