Lesson 3) Stand Tall, Redwood

Good day everyone! I hope everyone enjoyed last week’s lesson. It was your first time learning about creatures, and I hope everyone enjoyed it! Today, we will be covering some rather amusing creatures. They are quite well-known in the wizarding world, and were widely publicised by Newt Scamander. Students, today we will be covering Bowtruckles! I know many of you have probably encountered Bowtruckles while out exploring, so I am hoping the lesson will help inform you about these creatures better, making you prepared for your next encounter.

Bowtruckles are tree guardians, about the size of a human hand. They resemble a stick in order to blend in with their home tree, or the tree they are guarding, and have two razor sharp fingers on each hand, which are used to defend themselves and their home tree against an attacker. Because they are attempting to blend in with their home tree, this means they can come in a variety of different shades of browns and greens. They are classified as XX by the Ministry of Magic.

Bowtruckles are typically rather aggressive towards anyone, or anything, that comes near their home tree. Because most magical trees have Bowtruckle guardians, if you need leaves or wood from the tree, you will need to distract the Bowtruckle. Bowtruckles can only be distracted by one thing: food.

Bowtruckles are considered omnivores. They mostly eat woodlice due to their availability. Woodlice, the singular version being woodlouse, are crustaceans with long, segmented exoskeletons, and fourteen limbs. They are more known by their common name, roly-poly, because they can shape themselves into almost a perfect sphere.

There are over 5,000 different species of woodlice, and it is currently being researched to determine if Bowtruckles favor a particular species. Most magizoologists assume that Bowtruckles are accustomed to the species of woodlouse in their area. Offering the Bowtruckle between ten and fifteen individual woodlice will distract it for anywhere between five and ten minutes, as they are accustomed to eating them.

As mentioned above, a study is currently on-going in the United States trying to determine if Bowtruckles favor certain species of woodlouse over another. So far, it has been determined that the Bowtruckles will eat any woodlice given to them, which is not surprising. This could be because there is no difference in the taste between the species, or because Bowtruckles are not picky about the lice they choose for consumption especially when food is being provided to them and they don’t have to hunt for it. .

When lice is not available, Bowtruckles may eat other insects like aphids, or consume leaves in the absence of insects. Bowtruckles, while enjoying woodlice, are better won over with fairy eggs. Fairies lay their eggs on the undersides of leaves. A fairy can lay an average of fifty eggs at one time.

Fairy eggs are considered a delicacy to Bowtruckles because even though they live in the trees where fairies lay them, fairies are very vicious in guarding their eggs and it is highly unlikely that a Bowtruckle will be able to steal any on their own. Offering the Bowtruckle anywhere between twenty and thirty eggs will take the Bowtruckle's attention off of you for about twenty minutes, because they take their time to taste the delicacy. When attempting to use fairy eggs as a distraction, it is best to have enough for two or three meals, as the Bowtruckle will keep eating the fairy eggs until there are no more provided, and you may want to have as much time as possible, depending on the type of wood you are attempting to take and your experience level in collecting wood. Bowtruckles love to gorge themselves on fairy eggs. They can actually give themselves a stomach ache, but this doesn’t stop them from eating them.

Another interesting part of Bowtruckles is their skeletal structure. Bowtruckles have bones like birds. They are very lightweight because they are filled with an air cavity instead of bone marrow. The outer portion of their bones are made up of a modified mineralized osseous tissue. This means that minerals are deposited on the outside of their bones. We see twice the amount of holes in Bowtruckle bones versus the bones of other creatures. They also don’t have “joints” in their arms like we do. The arm bone is one complete bone, yet they are still able to bend it appropriately. It’s similar to  how you can bend a stick before it will snap. Their fingers have four bones, each in between a joint.

Bowtruckle reproduction is also rather interesting. When a Bowtruckle dies, one of their bones remains active instead of collapsing to dust. By active, I mean that cells are still dividing and reproducing. This bone then grows into a new adult Bowtruckle. Bowtruckles will live an average of fifty years, though some in older trees have lived as long as their home tree. The oldest Bowtruckle on record is 400 years old, living in an old pine tree. The Bowtruckle gender does not change from rebirth to rebirth. One thing to note is that the average age is a combination of those that die from natural causes, and those that are killed by humans or disease. Tree fungus will bring a Bowtruckle down very quickly, as they do not have advanced immune systems. During the witch trials of Europe, the "moving sticks" seen by Muggles were seen as a sign of witchcraft, and trees were burned, killing massive amounts of the Bowtruckle populations. Burned Bowtruckles cannot regenerate, as none of their bones remain active after being burned.

Now, because the Bowtruckle reproduces this way, this leads us to how they became a part of our world. Between the years of 200 C.E. to 450 C.E., the time is inexact due to records, a wizard enchanted sticks for his personal amusement. However, these sticks started to live on their own when the wizard grew elderly. They eventually got away from the wizard. It is believed that the wizard continued creating these enchanted sticks, desperate for their entertainment and company during his dying days, and the same problem kept occurring. We do know that a thriving Bowtruckle population was born from this. These sticks grew on their own, with the magic altering them over the course of several hundred years. While this is a very simple example, it is not the first time magic has been used to create a new species. While this was not the elderly man’s intention, this is when magic is not kept under control.

Image Courtesy of S.R. Million of Slytherin

Though you must distract a Bowtruckle to get material from their home tree, Bowtruckles are very important to the wizarding world. They guard the trees that we have found make the best wands, and this prevents Muggles and wizards alike from killing the tree for any reason. Bowtruckles help protect what is left of our wand materials, and can be neutral to wandmakers that have come to their tree before.

While Bowtruckles strive to protect trees, their tree can also be their downfall. When a tree has contracted a disease, like a tree fungus, Bowtruckles will know. They will abandon their tree and move to a new tree, so they don’t contract the disease. They can contract diseases from their home tree because of their close relationship with it. If a tree disease kills a Bowtruckle, it is very unlikely an active bone will remain and that Bowtruckle bloodline will die out.

Bowtruckles are most prone to fungal diseases because their diet is hardly balanced, and with an immune system that is rather weak to begin with, a fungal disease can kill a Bowtruckle within 48 hours. Bowtruckles cannot treat themselves. However, if a wizard finds them in time, healing charms can be used to treat them. Fungus on a Bowtruckle appears bright purple in color, no matter the fungus. It starts at their fingers, and spreads throughout the body, covering their head last. Bowtruckles cannot spread the fungus to each other.

Before we go, I would just like to cover population size. While many trees only have one Bowtruckle, some larger trees will have more than one. If a tree is very tall, a Bowtruckle would be located at various points on the trunk. This would protect the tree on all levels. I feel it is also important to note that trees that can protect themselves, like the Whomping Willow, do not have Bowtruckles. As we all are well aware, the Whomping Willow can be incredibly violent, so it does just fine keeping people away.

Now, you have a quick quiz below to test your attentiveness to my lecture. You also have an optional short answer to complete. Next week we will cover one of my favorite creatures, both to keep and to handle, and one you will encounter not only in your studies in this course, but in Potions as well. Good luck on the assignments, and I will see you next week!

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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.

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