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.


  1. I read your comments about not necessarily having more time after graduation with interest. I hope you will find time to work on Nereus (otherwise it will turn into a 30 year project like Furaha...).

    Anyway, I love your new plants. I had similar problems in designing alien plant forms, and am still thinking about the solution.

    As for the sparse plant cover, I would not worry: your illustrations do not attempt to depict a photorealistic landscape, so I did not get the impression that there were too few plants. You often see a similar lack of ground cover in some dinosaur reconstructions (particularly the BBC's Dinosaur Planet of 2011). There I suppose the reason was that grass has not evolved yet. But, given the enormous appetite of sauropods, there must have been plenty of plants, and in a lush environment I cannot believe that most of the ground would stay bare.

  2. I had a lengthy reply to your comment, Sigmund, but it was swallowed by the elusive internet monster. I hope that this one says everything I wanted to say in the last one...

    I imagine I'll still have time to work on Nereus, but even if I manage to complete a nereophyte a week it will still be months before I'm done with this next group and will then post in this blog again. Perhaps I should do two blog posts for these next nereophytes...

    I'm glad that you enjoy these recent nereophytes, and also glad to hear about your similar thought processes for Furaha's foliage. Based on what's on your website, I can see some convergences that indicate to me that we've tried some similar solutions. For example, the flexibility of Furaha's flare tree you describe is much like the as-yet-unpresented telepinu of Nereus.

    I'm content with the current style of my artwork on Nereus, but at some point I want to delve into more photorealistic representations. My artistic skills are almost entirely self-taught, and influenced heavily by art found in comic books and graphic novels. Thus while I hope that my illustrations convey enough detail to paint a picture in the viewer's mind I admit that it is a little 'cartoony'. Again, that's fine for this current iteration, but I'm hoping to expand into other styles as well, and that will take some real work on my part...

    I'd heard the same thing about BBC's shows, particularly that they wanted to find filming locations that didn't have grass in them in order to better represent the world in which dinosaurs lived. I would imagine such a decision severely limits where they could film, though. Oh well, that's what makes the imagination such a marvelous and useful device...

  3. There is no reason to fear the plants look too earthly. It may be the norm, at-least in temperate/tropical climates, where this arrangement of plant tissues is most efficient to capture sunlight and gas/minerals exchange through the leaves.

    I have followed the example of kelp, sea-weeds belonging to the chromalveolata kingdom, not the plant kingdom. Referring to them as "plants" is a misnomer. Yet, most resemble earthly plants, and reproduce by spores like early plants on Earth.
    flake-fir's way of growth reminds me of an onion: The outer shell is the dead-old peel. The inner core is the young growth. I have in my garden "Ornithogalum Caudatum" which has hyacinth-like leaves, and the bulb (which grows above the soil) photosynthesizes as well. It is green. Each year it sheds the outer dead layer revealing many small bulbs which you can take and plant.

    It is very interesting to trace possible evolutionary paths of sexual reproduction, some may be unlike anything encountered on Earth. Here are three possible pathways worth investigating:
    - Plants produce spore-bearing fruits, an evolved form of sporangia. Once fruits of two different plant individuals are eaten by an animal, spores inside the guts have a chance to meet and mate, producing a fertilized spore which may grow on the rich dung left over by the animal. The closest thing on Earth to multiply this way: Truffles.
    - Sporing plants produce male spores or female spores. Female spores remain attached to mother plant until fertilization by a windborne male spore. Fertilized spore detaches and grows into a new plant. (A primitive version of pollination)
    - Like the second possibility, but the spore remains attached to the mother plant. It grows into a seed, bulb or plantlet which detaches and grows as a new plant.

  4. I think the Old Man's Ear could probably hold enough water. The Bromeliad of Earth doesn't always look like it could hold as much water as it does.