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A shrub is a small plant that grows naturally, as opposed to a domesticated farm crop. They can be found all over the world in grassy areas, savannas, forests, and deserts. They will also sprout on muddy stone underground. Shrubs are instrumental for plant gathering, and in environments with a significant amount of vegetation they can be an excellent supply of food.
Gathering subterranean shrubs is also a requirement in obtaining quarry bushes, as rock nuts cannot be purchased during embark or obtained via trade.
Shrubs can be collected by dwarves with the herbalist labor enabled in order to produce plant items. Early on, shrubs can be an important source of food before the cave river is located and farm plots can be set up.
To collect plants, find green, healthy bushes –
" – rather than the dead or dried up brown ones –
" – and designate them for plant gathering. Dwarves with the herbalist labor enabled and little else to do will rush out and start trying to gather plants. When a herbalist attempts to collect plants from an aboveground shrub, there is an 80% probability that he or she will fail to glean anything usable from it, regardless of their skill; underground shrubs, however, will always yield usable plants. There is usually plenty of available vegetation however, so designate a wide area and leave them to it.
Most plants collected from bushes can be brewed or cooked, and some can be used as dyes. Brewing or eating (but not cooking) plants will also produce seeds, which can then be planted (for underground crops) or cooked into meals (for outdoor plants).
A stockpile should be created for storing the collected plants, or they will just be left outside to shrivel up in the sun. A general food stockpile will do, but a custom stockpile for specific plants will prevent the stockpile filling up with other junk. On the other hand, ensuring that all gathered plants can be stockpiled will result in a severe performance penalty as the herbalists run all the way back to the stockpiles after every successful harvest. In fortresses with a small number of herbalists and many haulers, a useful technique is to temporarily disable Food Hauling in the orders menu during the harvest (so that they drop the plants at their feet and immediately run to the next shrub), then turn it back on afterwards so the haulers can quickly gather everything.
A shrub is a type of map tile, similar to trees and walls in that they are a state that can be designated for action, such as to be dug out or removed. They only occur naturally but tend to grow up very frequently during the year.
In fortress mode, it is not possible to know what type of plant a shrub will produce until it has been harvested. In adventurer mode, however, all shrubs are clearly identifiable upon examination.