Chitin Wheat

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.  

Physiology

In 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 Cycle

Chitin 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 Usage

While 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.
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.


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

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.   I finally participated to The Costume Challenge: here's an entry if you like!
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).

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

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.

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

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 Ship entry 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

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

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.

Too low they build who build beneath the stars - Edward Young