Gas Spore Plant
The gas spore plant is a variety of Distal megaflora best known for its creation of enormous, spherical pods which are buoyant in atmosphere. Analagous to terrestrial redwoods and sequoia in terms of both age and tremendous size, gas spores are useful industrial crops for the Petalcap Vale aerospace industry, especially in the creation of sporeships for exploration in the local Distal Tesseract.
The trunk of a gas spore plant is live and more flexible than similar trees throughout its life cycle; a thin outer layer of papery, white bark provides a modicum of protection, while the underlying layers of living plant tissue go nearly to the core. Whereas most terrestrial plants rely heavily on cellulose in compression to support their weight, gas spore plants are buoyed in part by buoyant pods. Like a succulent or cactus might have thick limbs to hold onto precious water, the gas spore plant grows large, buoyant, spherical pods in lieu of leaves to hold onto gasses the plant needs for its unique metabolic cycle. For example, the walls of these pods contain nitrogen-fixing bacteria to allow the plant to capture copious quantities of the vital element for use later. Gas spore pods can grow up to ten feet in diameter if properly tended (see Uses, Byproducts, and Exploitation) and grow on vascular branches arranged around the whole length of the trunk in a spiralling pattern with sixfold radial symmetry. Fresh gas spore pods are more buoyant, expand quickly, and have the extremely dark green or purple coloration of many Distal plants (i.e. the scintillating pepper plant). These dehydrate and harden during the winter, finally drooping down or even removing themselves from the tree in early spring - just in time for new growths. These fallen seed pods often stack up at the base of the plant and become habitats for small Distal creatures, such as Distal polyp colonies, urticators, or hibernating razorbacks. A particularly wet season can instead cause old gas pods to detatch at the first frost so that the plant can spread its seeds far and wide (see Genetics & Reproduction).
Genetics and Reproduction
When the conditions are right, gas spore pods reaching the ends of their useful life on the plant (see Morphology) may detatch from the main plant. In the week or so leading up to such an event, the pod becomes studded with pink (female) and purple (male) flowers to allow for self- or cross-fertilization as the spore travels away from the parent plant. After a few days to weeks of free-floating across the landscape, the pod begins to harden and, as fractures form on its surface, lose its lifting gas. When the pod comes to rest on a suitable patch of soil, the xylem that once held it to its parent plant infiltrate the soil to become the roots for the new clone or hybrid plant germinating within it.
Growth Rate & Stages
The first two or three layers of pods on the plant - along with the length of trunk required to support them - grow relatively quickly, with some individuals reaching this initial height within six months. Subsequent growth is much slower, but, as the plant is not known to die of old age, it can continue to grow for centuries before external threats (disease, predation, harvesting, etc) finally kill it. Individual pods can last from one to three years on the plant depending on when they experience the first hard freeze that triggers senescence or detatchment (see Genetics & Reproduction).
Uses, Products & Exploitation
The Classical Verdial people, through long experimentation on the gas spore plants found in their native Petalcap Vale in Caudal D, developed techniques to keep gas spores fresh for an extended period of time once pared from the parent plant. Though this was initially regarded as a novelty, it proved useful in the construction of early sporeships and, with the development of dieseltech, modern airships. In modern times, while sporeship liftcoach variants remain useful vehicles for exploring and working in the Distal tesseract, gas spore pods are more often harvested for their lifting gasses and gas-tight membranes. The inner membranes of the pods can be chemically treated and layered to create envelope skins without the need of bovine gut tissue or metal foils - both less common in the Vale than the gas spore plants.
The population of gas spores within the areas controlled by the Vale are watched over by the Petalcap Vale Customs Authority both for threats to their continued existence - such as over-aggressive harvesting - as well as illegal exports.