Friday, November 29, 2013

Arcophylla and Myomotia: Problematic Progress

Happy Thanksgiving break, everyone!  Sufficiently stuffed on turkey and potatoes, and grateful for my many blessings, I now have some time to devote to wrapping up this batch of nereophytes, which marks the halfway point.  When I started on them I didn’t expect to get done until December; it’s nice to see I’m a little ahead of schedule.  And with twenty-six completed and posted, all that is left is phylum Membranophylla, a clade that, much like Tensivolae plants, explores some features and adaptations unseen on Earth.

Order Arcophylla was predictably straightforward, since it was a basic design I had since I first began work with nereophytes, and the Gemellocaputids more so; golden bowstalk is the quintessential genus of this family.  I had always imagined these plants sprawling over hills and valleys, the nereid equivalent of grass, and wanted to depict them as such.  I think the image captures that, and I’m pleased with how it finally turned out.  As with many of these images, where several organisms are present in the frame, there is a great deal of duplication taking place.  I think I’ve done a good job hiding it from all but the most discerning eyes.

I included the fen bowstalk for two reasons: first, to indicate variety among the nereophytes, as well as to exercise my creativity in varying the biological theme; second, to illustrate the breadth of the taxonomic family’s influence.  It took some thinking to figure out exactly how this branch of the bowstalk family tree would differ from the golden breeds, but I think I succeeded.  It was a bit of a challenge to determine exactly how these plants would differ from their cousins, but as I looked at how different grasses of Earth vary, especially those in swampy areas, design ideas soon came to mind: shorter, more succulent stalks, and darker coloration that could be just a cosmetic difference or could reflect differing photosynthetic needs.

The hourglass tree was my first attempt at taking the Arcophylla bauplan to arboreal scales, and an attempt to take the concept of “reef building” out of the ocean.  There may be some biological kinks to work out of the system, but I’m satisfied with the results at this point.  As far as the picture goes, I wonder if I’ve sufficiently captured the glassy nature of the trunks.  I also considered showing what one of the dead trunks looks like when it has collapsed under its own weight, in order to show more of the nereophyte’s life cycle, but as always time is a prohibitive factor.  Perhaps your imagination can fill in those details.

The lingayoni is one of the Barbitids, a family that caused me to do some taxonomic revision as I began to finalize their designs.  Originally, this plant would be the only featured member of a more primitive branch of Arcophylla, neither Gemellocaputid nor Barbitid, but once I realized that the other Barbitids didn’t vary greatly in their respective bauplans, it was clear that some changes needed to be made.  Some of you who were following the site at that time may have noticed some mysterious shuffling around that was a result of those adjustments.

But it was the harpweed that most influenced the design of the Barbitids.  I had a clear image of them in my mind since their inception.  I admit that there may still be some biomechanical considerations to work out, especially when it comes to the egressor tissues and how they serve this design, but at the very least I have the basic ideas down for others to examine.  I consider a lot of these plants a bit of a first draft anyway, and welcome feedback as always.

One of my first real challenges of this batch was the treebuchet; when I first started writing about it on the savanna biome page I had no real concept of its appearance, and placed a sort of “place holder” that roughly approximated how I thought it would ultimately look.  But as I began work on this plant in earnest, I didn’t want to draw a tree that was little more than a scaled up version of its cousins.  So while the treebuchet still fits within the Barbitid bauplan, it seems different enough to accomplish the diversity I want to see in the project.

Moving on from Arcophylla, it was the Myomotia that caused me some real pause in my research and designs.  I had always intended for the newel tree to be different from the others of the clade, but as I visualized it growing from the base of the trunk upwards (a trait very different from Earth plants, but quite common in Nereid clades) I began to wonder where its reproductive structures are located.  In keeping with the nereophytes from which it derived, the central stalk corresponds to the photosynthetic stalk of the Barbitids and similarly evolved structures, but that fact seems to imply that the newel tree’s reproductive organs are located near the base of the tree and not at the tip, as evidenced in the other Myomotes.  This hardly seems an effective placement, and I’m having difficulty resolving the issue; any feedback or insight here would be especially appreciated.

Flaywood starts to stretch into some of the extremes of plausibility, I think.  After reading the plant’s description it’s possible that the reader might interpret that these vines are constantly writhing and twisting; I imagine them to be much less active than that, laying motionless for the most part until stimulated, like traps to be sprung by hapless savanna nereids.  There may still be more fiction than fact in the flaywood, but I’d like to explore them further before dismissing their inclusion entirely.

The final nereophyte of this batch is also the one I most looked forward to, as it’s one of the few additions that provide the conceptual basis for an entire biome.  The coryphee is the “prima ballerina” of the ballerina forests, the nereophyte that gave xenobotanists the impression of graceful dancers.  It’s quite different from the types of plants that are found in similar climates on Earth, which makes it satisfactorily alien, but hopefully not so much so that it too strains credulity.

As always, I welcome thoughtful feedback or insights that can help me develop my work on this project further.  You can either do so here in the comments section or at the appropriate thread in the Speculative Evolution forums.