A wizard's best friend. Well... acquaintance. That you have a love/hate relationship with.
As seen in Demons Drink Coffee
The Vitacori Kerati species, more commonly known as 'chitin wheat' or (less commonly) 'tulip wheat,' is a critical resource in the modern age, but has previously been grown as a natural form of pesticide. The wheat's defining characteristic is the carnivorous flower (the 'head' of the wheat) that resembles an ordinary, if sturdy, flower. When an insect enters the flower to gather nutrients, it snaps shut, triggered by the disturbance. Over time, the wheat head secretes acid and seeds to dissolve the trapped target into a paste. As the paste hardens, the newly formed cocoon drops to the ground, ready to be snapped up by larger fauna, eaten, deposited elsewhere. The name 'chitin wheat' derives from the cocoon's resemblance to insect chitin.
PhysiologyIn almost all respects, chitin wheat resembles its non-carnivorous cousin despite the two wheats being otherwise remotely related, having co-developed along separate evolutionary lines. Both species have long, hollow, golden-hued stems comprised of a semi-flexible sturdy material. Each species grows several long leaves to gather energy from sunlight and grow further, to a typical maximum height of five to six feet, and with roots that extend more than a yard underground (chitin wheat roots typically extends 50% further than comparable common wheat stalks). The difference between the two species lies in the head (sometimes referred to as the 'ear'). Common wheat heads resemble an interlocking set of bristly leaves with numerous narrow 'awns' extending from the head (at least, in dryland varieties of common wheat). By contrast, chitin wheat blossoms into a funnel-shaped, white and red flower bearing a droplet of nectar at its base, bearing resemblance to a tulip (hence its alternate name). However, the flower is notably larger and sturdier than that of most tulip species, in order to better accommodate its prey, which can be greater in size than common insects and bees. When an insect enters the flower, it disturbs tiny hairs on the surface of the petals, which trigger the petals to abruptly close, sealing the insect inside. The wheat then secretes an acidic fluid into the newly formed chamber and dissolves the insect, turning it into a thick paste replete with unfertilized seeds. As the petal reopens, the paste rapidly hardens into a chitin-like substance on contact with the air and drops from the flower onto the ground. This cocoon is the effective 'seed' of the wheat.
Reproduction CycleChitin wheat's reproduction cycle is unique across known biology and is the critical factor in its practical use in modern life. When chitin wheat dissolves an insect, it injects the paste with tiny seeds and mana naturally drawn from its root systems and sunlight, similar to other flowering species will inject mana into their fruit or kernels. However, unlike all other known carnivorous flora and fauna, chitin wheat will not absorb the mana from its prey (in part or in whole). Critically, this preserves the mana of the original insect within the cocoon, which mimics a barrier and blocks mana leakage or ingress. The cocoon, when eaten by an animal and the chitin digested by the stomach, releases the seed-paste and combines with the natural mana of the creature with two significant effect. First, the unfertilized seeds within the paste are fertilized by the the subject's magical energies and ready to grow into a new stalk when returned to the soil after digestion and release by the host. Second, the paste triggers a exo-aetheric reaction, raising the creature's mana reserves significantly. The effect is directly proportional to the mana pool of the insect consumed by the wheat. Thusly, the cocoon can be used as a source of mana restoration.
Practical UsageWhile the cocoon in its natural form is useful as a restorative, at the scale of a humanoid, it is not especially potent. Magical theorists and alchemists worked jointly to successfully grind chitin wheat cocoons into a flour for use in baking without losing the mana content, but it remained a curiosity at best (primarily due to its 'compromising' taste). The vast majority of wizards in this period preferred the practice of gathering excess from the wizard's pool in potions for later use, even though it remained a complex, expensive, and draining process. The critical innovation came centuries later when magical theorists eventually developed a process in which a particular insect species, the mana locust, could be used to feed a crop of chitin wheat. Mana locusts are characterized by considerably larger mana pools than almost any other species pound-for-pound (outside of humanoids and demonkind). Chitin wheat, by preserving the original insect's energy within its cocoon and able to be ground into flour, complemented this trait perfectly. The Aemark Kingdom, along with other major powers, rapidly converted grasslands into chitin wheat plantations and established locust 'hatcheries' to feed to the wheat annually. After a decade of planning and ramp-up, major powers each had a locust and crop rotation designed to churn out a consistent stream of chitin bread (colloquially referred to as 'chit-bread' by wizards) to feed their armies. The plant has become such a critical component in warfare that campaign strategies have revolved around sabotaging chit-bread production.
Ulysses Senelnlaesal Xavier
Ulysses Senelnlaesal Xavier