The World Today

The World Today
Earth in 2013

Friday, September 23, 2011

Killer plants.

Hunting Pod (Vesicafolium insidious)

Size: One of the more insidious species living in the Sun Spot Desert is a black, shrub-like plant known as the hunting pod. The plants stand about one meter tall.

Appearance: Their trunk is shaped like a pod, hence their name. Branches extend underground, as far as five meters from the pod. They rise to the surface, bearing leaves and a speartip at the very end. This spear is used to skewer any animal that passes in range. Hunting Pod’s leaves are ultraviolet, appearing black to human eyes.

Internal Structure: The Hunting Pod’s main “body” consists of a pit in the top of its trunk. Inside this pit are the toxins and digestive juices the Pods use to kill their prey and extract the nutrients. They detect prey by hundreds of root-like tendrils that extend from the branches and are sensitive to the slightest vibration. The skewering branches are also covered with leaves as well as the pod. The spears branch out to a radius of five meters, and its roots extend ten meters directly into the ground in a spike-like shape.

Diet: So poor in nutrients and water is the desert, that these plants have evolved a way of extracting both from animals that pass to near. The prey is lifted into the air and dropped into the pod, where they are quickly poisoned and begin to dissolve. These predatory plants rely upon at least one far size kill every fifty or so days, but will take smaller prey that stubbles upon them. The Hunting Pod does not “eat” its prey, instead uses the nutrients taken from it, as well as the water, to power the photosynthesis that makes a plant a plant.

Life cycle: The lifespan of a Hunting Pod is not clear. Though they die when they release their seeds, they could have dozens of clones that have propagated off from the main body, and grown to full size. Afterwards, the clones produce clones of their own, making the genetic code of an individual effectively immortal.

Reproduction: Hunting Pods’ main way of reproducing is a method of cloning called propagation. Only once in a few decades will the plants produce flowers to attract insects. After they are pollinated, the pods begin to bloat and develop seeds. When the seeds are ready to spread, the Hunting Pod will explode, casting the seeds into the air. The seeds are light and have a large surface area, appearing like propeller blades. This allows the air to carry them far from their parents. Seeds will remain dormant until enough water is available for them to germinate. Unless they land next to a spring, a Hunting Pod seed will remain dormant for decades or even centuries.

Range: The Pods are found only in the Sunspot Desert, and only close enough to the springs and oases. They seldom live more than five hundred meters from sources of water. They do not necessarily take the water through their roots, though they do in times of low traffic. Instead they rely upon the nutrient-rich animals that venture towards the spring to drink or take shelter.

Enemies: Hunting Pods, at least their branches and leaves, are vulnerable to the larger herbivores of the Sunspot Desert, such as the Grovers. They can try to spear, but Grovers’s hides are thick enough that the spear can not penetrate. On the rare occasion that they do, the branches tend to be torn off when the grazer runs away.

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