Cloud Flowers

Cloud Flowers are a genus of sky plants native to the planet Collena. They are utterly tiny in size and are known to spend their entire lives in the sky thousands of meters in the air, going through their entire life-cycle without ever touching the ground. While they look wonderfully strange and hardly plant-like at first glance, all the necessary parts for a flowering plant to function are there. Normally unnoticeable to everyone, every few decades they bloom in such large numbers that they create colorful but deadly clouds in the sky and create sights unlike anything seen across all of the Cairn Sector of the galaxy. Their uses are almost none and they are highly regulated so interplanetary contamination doesn't accidentally occur.
Type
Annual Flowering Plant
Plant Height
3cm (Largest species)
65μm (Smallest species)
Berry dimensions
0.1mm x 0.1mm x 0.1mm (average)
Berry/Seed yield per plant
up to 8

Geographic Distribution
Worldwide in middle latitudes between 20-40 degrees. Usually exists entirely in the air at elevations of 100 meters or more. More commonly found in the skies of more humid climates.

Description

Cloud Flowers are small, very small. The largest specimens ever found are about 3cm across. The smallest specimens are such a small size that they challenge known science when it comes to multicellular plant life because while single-cell organisms exist that can conduct photosynthesis, cloud flowers also produce an edible berry as well as multiple seeds that are so small that single-cell algae are larger. All cloud flowers have both male and female reproductive organs.

The larger specimens still look somewhat like flowers. They have four to eight solid petals, and have distinguishable pistils, leaves, and stamen. The smaller cloud flowers have two or four transparent petal 'cases' that are actually two flower petals fused together. Inside these cases are a single leaf that produces all the plant's food through regular photosynthesis. The chamber is filled with either hydrogen or helium. The leaf doesn't actually breath here, but is instead connected to the outside through tiny tubes so it can take in carbon dioxide and convert it to oxygen.

On each side of the plant are multiple long filaments that act as the plants roots. These roots catch water vapor in the air and also assist with flying, but quickly become overwhelmed if actually put in water. On smaller species, the stamen have fused with the roots and also produce the plant's pollen. Regardless of species, pollen is spread exclusively by the wind.

 
cloud flower size comparison.png
by Chrispy_0
Size comprison between a human hand, and two common specimens of Cloud Flowers. The larger one is a Goblin Flower and the smaller one is a Fairy Flower
Cloud Flower Parts.png
by Chrispy_0
Depending on species, the fruits are grown either between the flower petals, or they migrate to the edges of the petal cases and develop there. The long filaments at the ends of the seeds assist with floating in the air. The seeds will fall off after the entire plant dies and be carried away by the wind. This usually occurs two to four weeks after they start growing.

At the center of the flower is what can best be described as the plant core. It is the primary structure holding the entire plant together and performs secondary functions while growing. On larger specimens the plant core acts as the receptacle or stem, though it isn't attached to anything other than the flower and the roots. On smaller specimens, the pistil never emerges and stays inside the plant core, which becomes the entire female part of the plant. Small holes are scattered all around the outside that accept pollen. The plant core also acts as a secondary or accessory fruit, though it is extremely bitter.

The color of the plant will vary between species. One of the more common species is shown on this page, called the Fairy Flower (C. Biletu). It has transparent violet petals and a crimson core at its center. Other species can be nearly any color flower and fruit. The roots and seeds are almost always the same color as the flower, or silvery grey, or a combination of the two. This is to protect them from flying animals.
 

Life cycle

Upon fertilization, the entire ovule will migrate away from the pistil, through modified plant veins. In larger specimens it will settle between the flower petals and develop into a fruit there to protect the seed. In smaller specimens, it will migrate as far from the plant core as possible, to the outer edges of the leaf.

After the fruit matures and breaks away from its parent plant, it will not immediately grow. It will float around the air for months or even years. The times that cloud flowers grow varies by species and is usually on specific days of the year, but generally is in late winter to early spring. When this time comes the seed will sprout roots and enlarge, eventually blooming. From here smaller species will fuse their petals together to make an airtight case and larger species will just grow larger petals to catch more air.

Within just a few days the plant will start producing pollen in large quantities, then die within a few more weeks. The total time they are alive after sprouting is less than two months. All of this happens a kilometer in the air above most of the planet where people will never even notice they exist, unless a super bloom is happening, where all the seeds sprout at once, growing trillions of flowers at the same time. When this happens, they also violate their own life cycle and seeds continuously sprout throughout the year, creating even more flowers.
Cloud Flower Parts 2.png
by Chrispy_0
   

Research and uses

Cloud flowers are widely researched on Collena and some medical breakthroughs can be attributed to it. Regalti scientists have been able to isolate several anti-inflammatory drugs out of its fruit, which does explain why it is sometimes referenced in old medical literature as a painkiller in large enough quantities. The fruit is also rich in antioxidants and are quite healthy for you. The entire plant of some species are actually edible.

Regalti have been known to make a bitter wine out of it, though it is not a particularly common thing they do. The plant cores are often crushed into a juice and placed into barrels made of Veilwood, left to ferment for a year or more, then filled into glass bottles where it could be decades before they are finally opened.

Due to the bold color of the plant core, it has been used as a dye in the past. Examples of clothing have been found dating back thousands of years of Regalti history and traces of hundreds of different species of the flower have been found. The clothing color indicates when cloud flower super blooms occur, and have assisted in tracking when they happened.

Despite having these uses, Regalti have high levels of access to the flowers only when super blooms happen, otherwise there are too few of them and they are too dispersed in the air to gather in any meaningful quantities. Attempts have been made to grow them in space, but the last attempt known as the 'Goblin incident' stopped Regalti from trying to grow them in space forever. They now take advantage of them only when naturally occuring super blooms occur, otherwise, cloud flowers play no part in modern Regalti culture.
Vusinor Research Log
VMN 604
Not even close to the smallest flowers I have researched, not even by a moonshot! And their growth cycle makes them far too dangerous to research applications on other worlds. These Regalti and always thinking they have the most wonderfully weird stuff in the galaxy! The universe is much larger than their planet, or the Cairn Sector for that matter!
I will give them this though. These things taste wonderful! They're so small, but the taste hits me hard the moment it touches my tongue! It's a shame they are banned for export.....I need to think of an excuse to come back to Collena in the future.

-Zilda Marn, Class B Research Agent
The Goblin Incident
The Goblin incident was an attempt by a corporation to grow cloud flowers in mass quantities for commercial production. It did not end well.
About three decades after the Exodus, the Violet Sky Corporation experimented with flowers on a company owned space colony, called the Sky Cradle and was a dedicated research facility for low gravity plant applications. Their cloud flower of choice was the largest known specimen, the 'Goblin Flower'. They started cross breeding them in an attempt to trigger a super bloom to better understand how they occur, which did end up happening.
Unfortunately, their de-contamination procedures weren't being properly followed. A researcher went home one day, unaware he had several seeds hitching a ride on his coat that did not go through the UV filter. Within a few days, the colony's air filtration systems were clogged with pollen and the flowers were growing literally everywhere. Attempts to beat back the flowers ended in several failures.
The company board decided that the best answer to this situation would be to evacuate the colony, but their decision came just a little too late. 13 people in the colony died of asphyxiation and 20 others had permanently damaged lungs. The colony was sent straight into the star Fevaultar and no further attempts were made to purposefully trigger a super bloom from cloud flowers.
 

Super Blooms

While it varies by species, cloud flowers will bloom in extremely large numbers every few decades, but depending on species, it could be centuries or millennia between these 'super blooms'. The exact mechanism for how and why these occur are not known. Using things like the dates of cloud flower wines and older objects like ancient Regalti clothing, scientists have learned to track and predict when these super blooms occur with some success but often they still happen without warning.

Cloud flower blooms can be dangerous and even deadly for all ecosystems. The flowers multiply so much they completely fill the sky, suffocating flying animals and causing many of them to fall from the sky. The pollen and dead flowers from these plants will eventually fall and settle on land, but until then, they can stay in the air for weeks, causing allergies and choking animals and people. It isn't that dangerous for Regalti, or animals that are large enough that the pollen doesn't do anything to them...unless they happen to have an allergy, in which case the next few months are a hellish experience for them.

So much pollen can fall that it will turn the surface of most objects a reddish color. The pollen will also settle on water in large quantities, forming a thick sludge that will stay in place for months until it rains enough to wash away. Surface feeding fish risk suffocation. Water insects are unable to enter and exit water and mass deaths occur as a result.

Luckily, the ecosystems of the planet has developed ways to deal with super blooms. These blooms correlate with super swarms of insects that only eat specific species of cloud flowers, mitigating the effect (but also creating massive clouds of bugs instead for weeks at a time). Most animals can tolerate the pollen and even eat it.

himmel-wolken-hintergrund-farben.png
by Andrea Stöckel
While sometimes deadly, cloud flower blooms do look pretty.
 

Regulation

Due to the Goblin Incident, there is fear of what may happen if cloud flowers ever get out in the ecosystems of other worlds. As far as the Regalti are concerned, their two planets, Collena and Sephar, have always had cloud flowers, but the ecosystems of these two worlds are also adapted to deal with them. The other habitable planet in their system, Senon, doesn't have an atmosphere with the right composition to support cloud flowers.

The Vusinor and Maorians are scared to death of what might happen if seeds from these plants ever make their way to their worlds, as are the Regalti space colonies. Because of this, most goods and cargo are generally shot with a high dose of UV radiation before they leave Collena, which can kill the flower and sterilize the seeds. Live goods are carefully inspected to ensure there are no seeds or flowers on them.


Cover image: by Chrispy_0

Comments

Author's Notes

((I was working on two different plant articles at the same time, this one and this one: Veil Trees. Both articles need to be cleaned up a little, and I wasn't sure which one to submit to the writing challenge. I decided to go with Cloud Flowers just because they are weirder. Veil trees are just a slightly alien maple tree. Cloud Flowers are....sky algae I guess?...eh.))


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Eternal Sage AmélieIS
Amélie I. S. Debruyne
9 Apr, 2021 11:14

This is a very nice article. I love the idea of a cloud of flowers just growing in the sky and turning deadly once in a while XD And you've made really nice illustrations too! They really enhance the article and help illustrate what you are saying.   So when the fruit is always there even when the ovaries are not fecundated, contrary to normal fruits who are only created after fecundation? And once the ovaries are fecundated, the genetic material migrates to the extremities of the flower so that the seeds can be formed there?   " The fruit itself is so boldly colored to aid in the death of the plant protect the seeds from being eaten." This sentence doesn't make any sense to me. Do you mean that the bold colour is a warning that anyone eating it will die and so they protect the plants? Is the fruit toxic or not?   Also, you have blooming period. Does this just mean that the plants multiply a lot during that period? Because they can't lose their petals during other times or they wouldn't be able to float.   Love that quote from the researcher XD   In the use you have for them you keep saying they need to be harvested in large enough quantity. Can people do that at all time of the year or do they wait for the big blooming season? Can they ever get big enough quantity of the flowers, or are the products made for it only prestige items reserved for the elite?

9 Apr, 2021 18:25

Thanks for the feedback! I'm going to expand on the article a little more with a life-cycle section and clarify wording, especially since I now have slightly more than an afternoon of research and memories of high school science class (I have two afternoons of research!) To address your questions right now....   1. The part of the flower that I labeled as a seed should actually be an achene (dry fruit, like dandelion or strawberry fruit), and the part I labeled a fruit should be an accessory fruit (or maybe isn't even a fruit at all, just the body or nucleus of the plant?) And yes, the idea is that the genetic material migrates away to develop a seed at the extremities of the flower, and once the seed breaks away, it grows that colored fleshy covering that I mislabeled as a fruit.   2. I'm gonna word that better.... The 'fruit' is colored that way to attract small flying animals to it instead of the seeds at the ends of the petals. They have a very short lifespan anyways so once the seeds are developed enough the plant no longer cares for its own survival.   3. Another thing I need to word better and expand. Cloud flowers are annual plants that bloom, bear seeds, and die, all within a several month time span, and they only do it at certain times of the year. They normally bloom in small numbers. The super blooms only happen under special conditions and are years/decades/millennia apart from each other depending on species.   4. You need a large enough quantity because they are so small and dispersed in the air that most people don't even notice they exist at all. The other issue is that they spend their entire lives miles in the sky, except for when the super blooms happen every few decades, then just about everyone has access to them. Otherwise products made from them are expensive.

10 Apr, 2021 13:34

Oh very cool plant! It seems like you really thought out the entire process of this plant. I love all of the nice images that you provided, really gives it a scientific vibe :) Even though it is quite a strange plant you made it feel like it is something that could exist.   Since the super blooms are so rare does that mean that the wine is very rare as well since most of the materials for it are caught then? And are there certain centuries where the wine is even non existent? Also I wonder if there are flying creatures that eat the plant like some form of flying whale? :) Is the atmosphere of the planet thicker than normal to make it easier for the plants to float?   In all very nice article!

Feel free to check out My Ship entry if you want to see what I am up to!
10 Apr, 2021 17:36

Thanks for the comment!   On the wine, after a notable super bloom, there is a rush from dozens of wineries/breweries to make their own version of cloud wine, so it's readily available, but as the years go on, it becomes increasingly rare and expensive to almost nonexistent for that particular year. Also, yes, because of the semi-unpredictable way super blooms occur, it could be centuries between when some species are harvested, and some species have never had a super bloom while the Regalti had a civilization. (probably going to expand this in its own article at some point...)   On the flying creatures, I haven't thought the ecosystem through enough for that yet. The planet Collena has 84% earth's gravity and a thicker atmosphere, so flying animals can fly with smaller wings, and the flowers can float with less effort than on Earth (If attempted on earth, they'd likely just fall to the ground and die). Smaller cloud flowers are also adapted for floating by having a sealed chamber filled with helium or hydrogen. All species have little root filaments that catch the air very easily. Not sure if I can get away with putting a flying whale in the sky to eat them like ocean whales do with plankton, but I do need something that eats them...

10 Apr, 2021 18:09

Yeah the flying whale was something that came to my mind because I recently saw a documentary called alien worlds where there was high denser atmosphere. And there they said it could be possible to have some large creatures there than that would never need to come down. It's on netlfix but I think you can find the creatures on youtube as well in the trailer :)

Feel free to check out My Ship entry if you want to see what I am up to!
13 Apr, 2021 19:28

Time to build a Bloom shelter! And I wonder if a terrorist might decide to unleash it on a different planet. Anyway, neat sky algae!

Too low they build who build beneath the stars - Edward Young
14 Apr, 2021 20:42

Hi Chrispy!   Great article! I'm a big fan of the schematics you've made and the scientific detail you've put into your plant/article. My favourite part is definitely the Goblin Incident and its tie to the 'algae bloom' effect and the fear of desolation Cloud Flowers could impart on the ecosystem of other worlds. My only note for you is that the 'tooltip' font would benefit from a bold effect just to help it against the starry background. Keep up the excellent work!

xtremepsy | Ölütanrı
Checkout my other favourite entries to the 2021 Peculiar Plant HERE!
Feel free to read, favourite, and comment on my entry, Digivine.
14 Apr, 2021 22:36

Thanks for the Feedback and I'm glad you liked the article! I made the tooltip font bolder and also made the background a little darker to make it easier to read.

14 Apr, 2021 22:40

Much better, thanks!

xtremepsy | Ölütanrı
Checkout my other favourite entries to the 2021 Peculiar Plant HERE!
Feel free to read, favourite, and comment on my entry, Digivine.
Sage Dylonishere123
R. Dylon Elder
16 Apr, 2021 21:37

So I was immediately hooked by your css and layout, as well as your amazing descriptions. This is awesome work and it clearly shows attention to detail. I imagine you did some research of at least have knowledge on botany. Really cool stuff. I dont think I've seen many anti inflammatory uses thus far, usually standard medicine and having specifics can be nice. Making a wine is an awesome touch as well. Im shocked this one has so little in the way of likes. It deserves far more. Well done good sir. Also, love the images used here. Well done.

19 Apr, 2021 18:03

Thanks! I'm glad you liked it.