Monday, March 11, 2013

Tensivolae I: The More Things Change...

It seems like every post I've made about nereophytes has begun with a mention of the time it's taken to get through the group.  I admit that these groups of plants could be done faster, but I have also been wrapping up the last semester of my university studies.  I've graduated now, but I've had enough time afterward to realize that that's no indication that I'll have more time on my hands.  I'm adjusting from the lifestyle of the (seemingly perpetual) student to that of a licensed educator, with all of the job hunting, bureaucracy, and hard work that that implies.  Compound that with the fact that the next group of nereophytes is a large one, and it will be some time before I come back to this blog to post about them.
Ah well, we have others to talk about right now... 

In my last post I focused largely on the artistic representations of the featured genera of Erepofursia, both in terms of illustrative clarity and in technical skill.  While I feel that this batch is an improvement I also want to point out that some of the images turned out to be a little sparser than I had originally intended.  Bare soil is commonly seen in the pictures, and to be honest I'm not sure if that's because I chose to illustrate only the featured nereophyte and excluding all others (excluding epiphytes), or if it's an indication that Nereus may be more sparsely vegetated than Earth.  I like to think that it's the former, and that the imagination can fill in the 'empty spaces' with other plants appropriate to the ecosystem.

This group of nereophytes is really the first part of the much larger clade Tensivolae.  I decided to split the taxonomic class into two groups, with two orders presented in each.  This is the first, older, and less spectacular pair: Excoria and Radiofolia.  They share characteristics with some of the first nereophytes to survive on land, and even bear features that make them more familiar to terrestrial eyes.  That realization prompted some serious thought.  While I had intended for nereid plants to be recognizably different from Earth forms, here I have several that could easily blend in with plants we find on Earth.  I reassure myself by calling it convergence-- after all, plant shapes are rather effective-- but a part of me can't help but wonder if I should have tried to come up with more novel forms.

That said, mangrome turned out to be delightfully alien.  While I don't think any single aspect of its design is that different from what's on Earth, I think the juxtaposition of it all makes it a very interesting and unique creation.  My mind whirls with what kinds nereids could make homes under the shade of the mangrome, or even within its labyrinthine trunk.

I didn't expect the ruby yucca to be too alien, since it's largely inspired by yucca plants I saw while vacationing some years in Sedona, Arizona.  These tall stalks would reach from a spiky little bush, topped with quite visually striking ornamentation.  But since I felt like the yuccas I saw with my own eyes had a surreal alien quality, I figured they would work well on Nereus deserts too.

As anyone who's seen the ballerina forest page can tell, flakefir has undergone some design changes.  The initial design had very little time put into its design, really just slap-shod models designed to fill the space and give the image of the ballerina forest a distinct skyline.  I didn't want to stray too far from that original design (I felt I was onto something) but I really wanted to figure it out with a little more strenuous attention to plausibility.  In the end I think it served to make the plant more interesting.

The concept of the razorbush is a common one, particularly in fictional settings where even the plants are dangerous.  I always wanted to include this kind of plant in the project as it would cause grief for unwary human explorers in whatever relevant fictions I hypothetically produce, but I wanted to make sure that the plant had a plausible enough reason for having sharp, scything blades.  I like to think I came up with something that works, but as always I'd love to hear feedback.

I always intended old man's ear to be a fun one.  While I think the overall concept is conveyed, may go back and do a little redesign to it.  The plants don't seem like they could hold very much water, and I always wanted the reproductive 'tufts' to be a little more whispy lookingPerhaps this is one of the nereophytes that would benefit from some preliminary design in SketchUp before final presentation...

Finally, the fleshette should be familiar to anyone who has been following the Nereus project over the years.  It was a design for a carnivorous plant that I tried out a long time ago, with people asking why it favors larger prey over insectoids, like Earth's carnivorous plants.  The more spectacular image of game-hunting plants aside, I had a hard time imagining the evolutionary pressure for it.  What started as a pattern of shooting barbed seeds into prey so they are carried far away became a method of dissuading herbivores and even felling prey with toxic darts.  The progression seemed natural enough to me, but what do you think?

Well, those are the Excoria and Radiofolia.  They mark the completion of the first third of featured nereophytes for the project.  Like I said, I'll be working on the rest of the Tensivolae, but in the meantime feel free to post any questions or comments about these orders.