Chitin Wheat

A wizard's best friend. Well... acquaintance. That you have a love/hate relationship with.

The Vitacori Kerati species, more commonly known as 'chitin wheat' or (less frequently) 'tulip wheat,' is a critical resource in the modern age, but previously was grown as a natural form of pesticide. The wheat's defining characteristic is the carnivorous 'head' resembling an ordinary, if sturdy, flower. When an insect enters to gather nutrients, the plant snaps shut, triggered by the disturbance. Over time, it secretes acid and seeds to dissolve the trapped target. As the resulting paste hardens, the newly formed cocoon drops to the ground, ready to be eaten by animals and deposited elsewhere. The name 'chitin wheat' derives from the cocoon's resemblance to beetle shells.  

Physiology

In almost all respects, chitin wheat appears like its non-carnivorous cousin. Both species have long, hollow, golden-hued stems comprised of a semi-flexible yet strong material. Each sprouts several leaves to gather energy from sunlight and grow to a typical maximum height of five to six feet and with roots that extend more than a yard underground (chitin wheat typically spreads 50% further into the ground than comparable wheat stalks).   The difference between the two species lies in the head (sometimes referred to as the 'ear'). Common ears resemble an interlocking set of bristly blades with numerous narrow 'awns' extensions (at least, in dryland varieties of wheat). In contrast, chitin wheat blossoms into a funnel-shaped, white and red flower bearing a droplet of nectar, similar to a tulip. However, the head is notably larger and sturdier than tulip species to better accommodate its prey.   As an insect crawls into the flower, it disturbs tiny hairs on the surface of the petals, which cause an abrupt close, sealing the animal inside. The wheat then secretes an acidic fluid into the chamber and disintegrates the subject, turning it into a thick pulp replete with unfertilized seeds. As the plant reopens, the mixture rapidly hardens into a shell-like substance on contact with the air and falls to the ground. This cocoon is the effective 'seed' of the wheat.  

Reproduction Cycle

Chitin wheat's reproduction cycle is unique across biology and is the key factor in its practical application. When chitin wheat consumes a bug, it injects the mush with small seeds and mana naturally drawn from its root systems and sunlight, similar to how other flowering species imbue mana into their fruit or kernels. However, unlike all other carnivorous flora and fauna, chitin wheat does not absorb the mana from its prey (in part or in whole). Critically, this preserves the mana within the cocoon, which mimics a barrier and blocks mana leakage or ingress.   The cocoon, when eaten by an animal and digested by the stomach, releases the seed-paste and combines with the creature's mana with two significant results. First, the seeds are fertilized by the subject's magical energies and made ready to grow into a new stalk when returned to the soil after digestion and release by the host. Second, it causes a exo-aetheric reaction, raising the animal's mana reserves significantly. The effect is directly proportional to the mana pool of the original fauna. Thus, the cocoon can be leveraged as a source of mana restoration.  

Practical Usage

While the cocoon in its natural form is useful as a restorative, it is not especially potent for humanoids. Centuries ago, magical theorists and alchemists worked jointly to successfully grind chitin wheat cocoons into flour compatible in baking without losing mana content, but it remained a curiosity at best (primarily due to its 'compromising' taste). The vast majority of practitioners in this period preferred the practice of gathering excess mana from the wizard's pool in potions for future use, even though it consisted of a complex, expensive, and draining process.   The critical innovation came hundreds of years later when wizards developed an operation in which a specific insect, the mana locust, is fed to a crop of chitin wheat. Mana locusts contain considerably denser mana pools than almost any other species (outside of humanoids and demonkind). Chitin wheat, by preserving the original insect's energy within its cocoon, complemented this trait perfectly.   The Aemark Kingdom, along with other major powers, swiftly converted grasslands into chitin wheat plantations and established 'hatcheries' to feed the wheat annually. After a decade of planning and increasing production, the four eastern Turan nations each manages a locust and crop rotation designed to output a consistent stream of chitin bread (colloquially called 'chit-bread'). The plant occupies an important position in warfare, in which campaign strategies often involve sabotaging chit-bread supply chains.
Scientific Name
Vitacori Kerati

Origin/Ancestry
Carnivorous Flora

Geographic Distribution
Turan

Discovered By
Ulysses Senelnlaesal Xavier
 

Aemark Chitin Spread

Need something to spruce up your chit-bread? Too bland to enjoy? Look no further than Aemark Chitin Spread, providing you with the best topping for a wizard on the go!   The strawberry isn't...bad, but nothing gets rid of that chalky aftertaste. Except maybe coffee.
Written by Sheyla Enelladalcol Aeleat

Edited by Shikya Enelladalcol Aeleat

Mindcepts by Ella Enelnasalcol Malric


Cover image: by Peter Kasprzyk (Unsplash)

Comments

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17 Mar, 2021 16:45

This is super cool! I love how you have tied the ecology of your world and interwoven it with mana cycles, making the plant a begrudging necessity. Also, lowkey, I was reading the tagline below the title, 3rd sentence: Did you mean "you [have] a"? Thanks for sharing the article!

17 Mar, 2021 18:51

Absolutely right! Thanks for catching that. <3

Snarky and Sarcastic to the End
24 Mar, 2021 09:53

Hello, thank you for this entry! I've got to say the first line of this article was just perfect.   As mentioned by Invictia, I liked that you considered mana as a resource in and as itself, and adapted the world's ecology to deal with magic.   I am not sure of something concerning the uses of the plant. You first mentioned that grinding the wheat into flour was not much used because of its bad taste, but then you said that most major powers produce chitin bread consistently. Do they not use flour for that?

With love,   Pouaseuille.   Here's my Bard entry, should anyone be interested in a mess of investigation reports!
25 Mar, 2021 02:36

Excellent question. They do use the flour to create the chitin bread, but the terrible taste remains. The reason that they choose to make it is because it's so effective at regenerating mana. The original recipe was developed before the combination of mana locusts and chitin flour was brought together (and therefore wasn't used very much at all).

Snarky and Sarcastic to the End
Eternal Sage AmélieIS
Amélie I. S. Debruyne
3 Apr, 2021 11:04

Great article and great plant! Your plant has an interesting reproduction mechanism and I love how you've interwoven the magic of your world with the biology/ecology of your plant.   "A wizard's best friend. Well... acquaintance. That you have a love/hate relationship with." Love that XD   " Over time, the ear secretes acid and seeds to dissolve the trapped target into a paste." I think you need to reformulate a bit here since the seeds don't dissolve the target, do they? They would just be trapped inside the paste, right? – yes I see that you explain that later.   Love the ad for the chitin spread. You may want to put that in a quote to highlight it from the rest of the article, since it's an in-world text.   You could add a stock picture of normal wheat, to accompany your description. And you could even try to stick a picture of a lily on top, if you want to get an illustration for your plant.   The mana section is also interesting. That sounds really useful for animals and people and would incite them to eat the seeds and spread them further away. – ah wait, not useful enough for people apparently. I love the idea of people attempting to develop a paste/flour from the chitin, but the taste just being too horrible for people XD   " when magical theorists eventually a system in which a particular insect species" you have a verb like "found" or "invented" missing here.   This new locust increases the amount of mana in the flour, but not the taste, right?   "colloquially referred to as 'chit-bread' by wizards" love that XD

To see what I am up to, my latest article is Geography of magic for the River Challenge
3 Apr, 2021 15:14

Thanks for catching that grammatical error and glad to hear that you liked it! You are also correct that the locust does not remotely improve the taste.

Snarky and Sarcastic to the End
4 Apr, 2021 13:17

What a great concept! I'm so glad I don't need to eat it! I did find the fourth paragraph repeated quite a bit that was already said in the first one. You might want to look at revising that.

4 Apr, 2021 18:03

Happy to hear that you like it! The style of the entries is such that the first paragraph is a synopsis (and what you get when you hover over the link to the page). You're not wrong at the repetition though. <3

Snarky and Sarcastic to the End
7 Apr, 2021 17:06

This was a great article and cool plant! I really liked how this plant interacts with the mana of your world and how it can then be used by wizards. The section to the right was also a funny addition xp I wonder though do the seeds not get digested at all because otherwise I don't fully understand how the plant would reproduce?

Feel free to check out my River challenge article and my Secrets in the swamp Adventure article if you want to see what I am up to!
8 Apr, 2021 01:11

Excellent question! Portions of the seed are undigested and pass through similar to fruit seeds. Taking a moment to clarify that in the article. <3

Snarky and Sarcastic to the End
8 Apr, 2021 15:50

Hi Shikya! Your concept for partial dissolution of an insect to inject seeds into a paste to create seeds that are fertilized by the internal energy of another creature before being expelled is a really complex and creative idea. The creation of locust hatcheries to feed a crop and the use of chit-bread sabotage in war are also awesome representations of how fantasy nations/individuals would try to leverage your creation for power.

xtremepsy | Ölütanrı
Checkout my other favourite entries to the 2021 Peculiar Plant HERE!
Feel free to read, favourite, and comment on my entry, Digivine.
9 Apr, 2021 14:10

Thank you! I rather enjoyed writing this one and fleshing out the background for a concept introduced in my writing. <3

Snarky and Sarcastic to the End
16 Apr, 2021 17:28

Interesting, a carnivorous plant that doesn't feed on its prey but uses it to transfer its seeds instead. And to then eventually develop mana bread out of it, neat.