Penrose Fescue

Penrose fescue is a common, somewhat invasive species of dioecious evergreen grass in the Manifold Sky setting. Despite its tendency to annoy farmers, gardeners, and lawn tenders, the species is crucial to arresting erosion in regions strongly affected by the circumvective cycle.

Basic Information

Genetics and Reproduction

When a given root network reaches full size (see Growth Rate & Stages), it grows a special reproductive tendril underground that stretches to where the center of a new colony should be.   The sex of a new colony is determined by whether or not the parent colony has been fertilized by airborne pollen from conspecifics. The distinction between sexes is not obvious from surface observation until the early spring pollen season, whereupon clumps of small, reddish flower buds open and male plants begin to shed pale pollen particles into the wind. A few months after pollen season, if growing conditions are poor, female plants release small, downy seeds into the air to propagate the species farther afield; otherwise, the plant multiplies underground as previously discussed.
by BCGR_Wurth
Fig. 1 - The relative proportions of female (maroon, left) and male (gold, right) Penrose fescue patches. Note that these colors are artificial; both sexes exhibit blue-green stalks/blades and reddish flower buds/seed hulls, and are indistinguishable except during the flowering season.

Growth Rate & Stages

Penrose fescue is notable in that, in its mature form, the plant almost universally forms patch-like colonies which spread across the landscape in aperiodic tiling patterns. It is believed that this unique propensity for aperiodic tiling is a strategy evolved to prevent conspecifics from competing with one another for groud water and minerals.   During favorable growing conditions, an initial seed grows into a root network underground, which, after a time, sprout blade-like suckers which emulate the appearance of other common evergreen grasses. This root network takes the shape of a rhombus in one of two aspect ratios, with the ratio being determined by the gender of the patch; further root networks extend down, not horizontally, making old colonies extremely difficult to dig up.  
by BCGR_Wurth
Fig. 2 - A typical patch pattern found in a Pentrose fescue field. Note that each patch can only grow such that the light lines matct with light lines and dark lines match with dark lines; these lines indicate the regions in which the 'levo' and 'dextro' tendrils cross patch boundaries to found new patches.
Chemical signals and nutrients are shared by adjacent patches, allowing each to 'know' how far it can grow before it would overlap into the growing region of an adjacent patch. These signals, combined with constrained paths for reproductive tendrils (see Genetics & Reproduction) are responsible for the Penrose fescue's unique aperiodic tiling across the landscape. This process of tiling can sometimes limit the ultimate boundaries of a given field of Penrose fescue, as a seed will never fully germinate if it's root network cannot occupy the space in which it has taken hold given the rules outlined above (i.e. in the region where two unrelated fields might overlap). A patch of Penrose fescue which cannot achieve its full size enters a stressed state, regardless of the presence of otherwise favorable growing conditions.
  Penrose fescue grows and propagates about as quickly as other common grasses, though its evergreen nature and ability to store nutrients deep below ground allow it to continue growing even during periods of drought or cold weather that would kill seasonal grasses. This growth perseverance exacerbates the problems Penrose fescue presents to farmers attempting to grow food crops in affected areas.

Additional Information

Uses, Products & Exploitation

Penrose fescue is both a blessing and a curse for surface agricultural endeavors. On the one hand, the grass is nutritious, evergreen, and easy to grow for animal grazing. On the other hand, particularly old fields can prevent any plants smaller than trees from growing in their territory, and particularly large fields are almost impossible to eradicate by non-mechanized means due to the plants' ability to share nutrients through root networks. The only place where Penrose fescue does not regularly force adjustments in agricultural practices is within the tightly-managed confines of an agri-mine.   One useful aspect of Penrose fescue that is not commonly discussed is its ability to prevent soil erosion. The deep, interconnected root systems of old fescue patches trap large hunks of soil and, because such a field is capable of diffusing nutrients and other soil chemicals, the species is somewhat more resistant to changes in soil salinity or acidity than other similar species. This makes the plant especially important to the continued prosperity of regions with high winds, close proximity to coasts, or at the edges of commissures - all conditions where soil and fresh water would otherwise quickly be lost to geological, hydrological, or meteorlogical processes. Rarely, Penrose fescue will be intentionally seeded in an area (such as in the courtyards and perimeter blocks of Godshead Rock) to prevent erosion or desertification.

Geographic Origin and Distribution

Penrose fescue is noted for being present on almost every cube layer, though local conditions (such as the harsh light of the Distal Tesseract) may slow its spread.  
National-level organizations - such as the Petalcap Vale Customs Authority and Manifold Conservation Society Bureau of Agriculture - work to prevent the further spread of Penrose fescue within their territories. However, these efforts generally achieve only partial success, as the grass can always become stressed and begin spreading via airborne seeds to evade containment. The War of Reunification leaves many regions of the Medial Tesseract without a consistent government presence; the grass grows unrestricted in these places, lending Penrose fescue an unwholesome symbolic connection with death by violence.
by Artbreeder
A field on the Medial D front overgrown with Penrose fescue. Note that flat, open terrain with ample sunlight provides ideal growing conditions for this grass species in particular.
  While Penrose fescue does represent a risk to agriculture and forestry due to its ability to out-compete local plant life, the issue lacks the sense of visceral immediacy that something like brushfires would engender in a body politic. As a result, there is no multi-national agreement equivalent to the Medial B Accords with regards to the containment of Penrose fescue patches or the prohibition on the intentional spread of its seeds as a form of 'agricultural warfare.' Even so, the intentional spread of Penrose fescue patches is rare in the extreme - an invading army detatchment (especially one comprised of farm-jumpers) would vastly prefer to occupy an intentionally-laid field of more nutritious and easily-pickable crops, while agribusiness rivals understand that all it takes is a shift in wind to bring their own sabotage back upon themselves.

The maximum age of a clump of Penrose fescue is unknown, but known to be extremely long in the presence of good growing conditions.
Average Height
Penrose fescue blades can grow up to a foot high above ground and up to almost four feet deep below ground.
Geographic Distribution

Culinary Uses

Ovinex, being the sapient descendants of ruminants, are capable of eating Penrose fescue without further preparation. Most Ovinex enjoy the taste of both fresh and dried Penrose fescue, the former often being used for salads and the latter for dry rations. Pastries made from the flour of stressed fescue seeds are something of a Native Ovinex delicacy and are the best-selling products of bakers in the Ovinex Island Tribes territories. These pastries are spoken of as 'cakes' by their Ovinex makers and eaters, but their savoriness and limited sweetness mean that most other species speak of them as 'bread.' This difference in taste comes about because the Ovinex, being of island extraction but having little in the way of a native sugar industry, are much more familiar with sea salt or ocean water as cooking ingredients than with sugar, honey, or molasses; a Voxelian honey-blueberry cake produced by Chateau Blueberry, for example, would be sickeningly sweet on the Ovinex palette. Certain varieties of apples, however, may be added as a compote to Penrose fescue cakes to satisfy a broader variety of tastes.     As particularly pernicious fields of Penrose fescue have sometimes infested wheat and barley fields - notably in the Free Faces League and Craterhold - attempts have increasingly been made to find a culinary use for the invasive species. Because the plant is often stressed in the dry Medial C summers, airborne seeds are somewhat common during this time. Penrose Amber is a hazy red-orange beer made in in the municipality of Craterhold environs with accumulated Penrose fescue seeds blended with wheat and hops, producing a bold, belly-filling brew that can sometimes serve as a substitute for a snack.   Penrose fescue greens, while edible, are not very palatable by human or verdial standards and are not generally eaten by these groups except in poverty conditions.

Cover image: by Shawna Zelinski


Author's Notes

This plant takes heavy inspiration from Penrose tiling, which is a concept I personally find very interesting. Specifically, Penrose fescue follows the rhombic tiling (P3) with five-fold symmetry.

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23 Mar, 2021 01:35

Firstly, yay for the use of 'pernicious'.   Really interesting plant - I really like where you got the inspiration for it. The side bar about culinary uses is also really interesting. I like that the drink made with it can be used in place of a snack. :D

Eternal Sage AmélieIS
Amélie I. S. Debruyne
27 Mar, 2021 01:01

This is a very cool idea! The geometrical focus of your world seems very cool and I love the penrose growth of the plant and the fact that it communicates and shares nutrient through their root networks. And the fact that it prevents erosion.   Some comments:   How quickly do the fescue spread out and colonise new environment? How much time do farmers have to react when their field is invaded? Would some people go around and throw seeds into the field of people they don't like?   I think you could maybe add the explanation that the Ovinex are sapient creatures since I was briefly confused by the fact they are descended from sheep. In that section you also have a typo: " limited sweeness of the pastries" sweetness is missing the t.   I think you could add a picture of the penrose pattern in the middle of the article where it is mentioned, as it would both make it clearer without having to get down to the bottom and see your author note, and also break up the text a bit.

To see what I am up to, my latest article is Geography of magic for the River Challenge
27 Mar, 2021 04:03

Thanks! I'm currently undertaking some edits to fix any typos or awkward turns of phrase, so hopefully there will be less instances of 'sweeness' and the like soon. As for a diagram, I could definitely see it - I'll probably whip one up soon and stick it next to paragraph 2 in Growth Rate & Stages.   As for the question of whether or not a person would intentionally spread Penrose fescue, I could see it being interesting from a storytelling perspective, but the economics of the setting probably don't make it all that common. The reason for this is that space in the habitable parts of the Manifold is at a premium: each cube is only 50 or so miles on a side. This limited space (especially arable land) is the primary driver of conflict and exploration in the setting, so this sort of 'agricultural warfare' would be counterproductive since the aggressor presumably wants to take the land un-infested. Indeed, there's a whole military specialization ('farm-jumping') built around taking farms intact. I might expand on this in the next edit wave :D

Come check out The Manifold Sky: Five-Dimensional Dieselpunk Action   My Current challenge article - Summer Camp 2022 - is now live!
27 Mar, 2021 14:31

It was already an interesting article but with the addition of the new images you made it even better ^^ Really like the look of the plant.

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!
29 Mar, 2021 08:36

Damn, your world will never cease to amaze me. This is a fascinating concept for a plant! Great read :)

Author of Arda Almayed, resident myth nerd!
Sage Dylonishere123
R. Dylon Elder
2 Apr, 2021 16:22

Not gonna lie, the use of penrose got me exited the moment i saw it. I was not disapointed. This is brilliant. While i was initially thinking penrose steps, the use of tiling and how youve woven it into the article is just spot on. Hope you dont mind if i shout out this particular article.

2 Apr, 2021 20:59

Thanks! I don't mind, please do :)   I'd totally forgotten that the infinite stairs illusion was also known as the Penrose steps until you reminded me. Maybe I'll have to incorporate some of those into the deeper parts of the Glass Block Fortress as a bit of that place's characteristic anomalous architecture.

Come check out The Manifold Sky: Five-Dimensional Dieselpunk Action   My Current challenge article - Summer Camp 2022 - is now live!
Sage Dylonishere123
R. Dylon Elder
2 Apr, 2021 21:36

Yesssss doooo ittttttt!

8 Apr, 2021 14:49

Hi BCGR_Wurth!   I love the geometric design in your background, and the way female plants will attempt to propogate out of a poor performing areas is an interesting idea. However, my favourite pieces of content are the variability of how sapient species use Penrose Fescue in cuisine and, even moreso, agricultural warfare. *tents fingers evilly* Wonderful 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.
16 Apr, 2021 17:41

Hm, sounds like a plant you want to use in rockslide-sensitive areas, but with a way of making barriers they can't easily cross... Now I want to plant it and experiment with it.