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Umpu Deraksi

A carnivorous tree which grows among the ruins of the Southwestern Missile Base.

Basic Information

Anatomy

The tree's "trunk" is an irregular structure of branching and interlocking vines. Between these vines, numerous holes lead inside where a web of fibers is soaked in a sugary sap. Said sap is produced in lumpy, bulging sections near the top, located amidst large, gnarled leaves.   The color of the fibrous vines ranges from a yellowish brown to a deep, dark purple. The latter is concentrated near the ground, where it aids in attracting ground-dwelling insects. The leaves are of a medium green which pales towards the edges, and covered in specks of a reddish purple.

Genetics and Reproduction

Umpu Deraksi release their pollen during the Heat Season, letting the torrents of rain wash them down to the ground. There, the pollinated water fertilizes special germination nodes along the roots. New vine clusters form at these nodes, between 2 and 12 meters away from the parent tree. They sprout up from the soil around the middle of Zadrunoma.

Growth Rate & Stages

Young vine clusters grow about 5 meters tall within the first year. The growth rate slows down to about 2 meters per year as the plant matures.   New vines will keep branching off from the existing ones throughout the tree's lifetime, weaving themselves around and through the others. The trunk grows thicker and more stable as a result, which in turn allows it to reach greater heights.   The oldest Umpu Deraksi in the wild can be dated back to the destruction of the missile base in 2 NZR, making them over 820 years old. The tallest plant measures about 140 meters, with a diameter of nearly 11 meters at the base.

Ecology and Habitats

This type of plant is native to the jungle surrounding the ruins of the Southwestern Missile Base. The current scientific consensus is that it evolved in the aftermath of the site's destruction, from trees which mutated due to the high radiation levels.   Genetic analysis revealed that its ancestors lost the ability to form coherent trunks due to DNA damage. Furthermore, the region must have severely lacked in nutrients after most of its lifeforms were either incinerated in the explosion or died due to radiation poisoning. Evolutionary selection consequently favored those trees whose fibrous trunks were able to trap insects.

Dietary Needs and Habits

Umpu Deraksi literally means "cage-like trunk", hinting at both the plant's appearance and its manner of feeding. The sugary sap inside the trunk lures various small insects into the mesh of vines. On the way in, they get entangled in the fibers which trap them there until they starve. The same fibers then serve to absorb the insects' bodies as they are decomposed by microorganisms.

Additional Information

Domestication

Miniature versions of these trees are popular house plants for busy people. Not only do they require little maintenance, they also have the added benefit of trapping and disposing of vermin. Certain subspecies have even been bred to attract insects which are more common in urban areas, such as the blood-sucking rontul.   The house plants' build tends to be much stockier than that of wild specimens, and the leaves appear larger in comparison to the trunk. Their growth is significantly slowed down via genetic engineering, keeping them at a size that fits into the average household.  

Symbolic Meaning

Many of these miniature versions are souvenirs handed out to school classes who visit the ruins as part of their history lessons. As the oldest life forms in the surrounding jungle, the Umpu Deraksi not only represent the nature reserve as a whole but also the idea of life emerging from the remains of what once was. These souvenir plants come in pots with the inscription "pifu keb iba, fid nutru keg", which translates as "even from the ashes, life finds a way".   Occasionally, cynical voices point out that this new life comes at the expense of other beings. Most Rilsu, however, agree that it shows how all of nature is interconnected, as the Umpu Deraksi are the foundation of a diverse, flourishing ecosystem which allows even their prey to thrive.

Geographic Origin and Distribution

The jungle marked by these trees stretches along the northwestern coast of the Zugnur Sea. It covers an area of about 40 by 120 kilometers, with the ruins of the missile base located roughly in the center.

Symbiotic and Parasitic organisms

Most of the recovering ecosystem formed around the Umpu Deraksi. There are several epiphytic species which grow in the mesh-like trunks, fungi which decompose their fallen leaves or climbing plants which use them as scaffolding to reach the light.   Many of the larger insects use the fibres as building material for their nests, while some reptile species dig into the cavities to scavenge half-digested prey or drink the sap itself. The trees are fairly tolerant to the associated damage. Botanists believe that, due to the highly mutagenic environment, breaking and otherwise ill-formed vines were common around the time of the Final War. As a consequence, the Umpu Deraksi evolved to regenerate quickly.

Uses and Products

Taking plants from the nature reserve is only allowed with the explicit consent of its caretaker organization, and generally reserved for scientific purposes. However, several subspecies have been bred from authorized samples.

Food

A few breeds produce sap that is tailored to Rilsu tastes, and several companies in Western Tundu-Iv are famous for turning it into candy. It is rather expensive due to the effort required to separate it from the non-edible fibers. Prey insects are filtered out as well so that they can be fed back to the plants. However, some brands add higher-quality insects to the candy for both visual and culinary appeal.

Medical Applications

The regenerative abilities of the Umpu Deraksi have been carefully studied for medical use, and relevant gene sequences have been successfully adapted to the Rul genome and that of various animals. Ointments that stimulate cell regeneration are a staple in modern first aid kits, whereas larger wounds or broken bones are usually mended by implanting lab-grown micro-vines as scaffolding. The latter are slowly absorbed by the body while the surrounding tissue heals.
Table of Contents
Lifespan
~ 600 - 800 years and beyond
Conservation Status
nature reserve / memorial site
Average Height
60 - 100 m


Cover image: by Kathrin Janowski

Comments

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Eternal Sage AmélieIS
Amélie I. S. Debruyne
1 Apr, 2021 08:11

This is a great article! It is very clean and easy to read and you have amazing images to illustrate it. And your table of content is amazing, that's a great css!   I love your plant, it sounds very realistic.   This is a great origin story that you have for your plant.   I love the idea of having it as a potted plant inside houses!   " fungi which decompose their fallen leaves or climbing plants which use them as scaffolding to reach the light." I think you mean "using them" instead of "which use"   The larger insects do not get trap by the fibres? Do you have examples of those insects or are they all different species from the one we have? Or it could be some insect species that learn to deal with the sticky fibres, like some insect know to put dirt on top of sticky substance to protect themselves.   Aww. I like the details about the food, but that sounds absolutely horrible XD (and very nice creepy picture to go with it XD)   When you say "Ointments that stimulate cell regeneration are a staple in modern first aid kits, whereas larger wounds or broken bones are usually mended by implanting lab-grown micro-vines as scaffolding." You don't say it directly, but I'm guessing the ointment is made from the plant? Or do they just purify a chemical from it/ used the plant as an inspiration for he chemical and now synthetise it in the lab?   I love the idea of using micro-vines as scaffolding. Is it like the real vines but smaller, or something artificial inspired by it? Also, does that mean that the vine stays inside the body, right? Do they die off after a while and the body just get rid of them? Or do they just stay there permanently? That's a really fascinating idea, for people to go around with bits of vine inside their body… Though if it's real vine, how can they stop it from growing everywhere inside the body?

1 Apr, 2021 09:26

Thank you so much for this in-depth feedback! <3 I'm happy that you enjoyed this article.     Insects on Ranul can get huge. I imagine the "larger insects" mentioned here to be around the size of a crow, strong enough to tear the fibres out. I haven't got examples yet, but I might add some later.     Sorry about the creepy imagery. ;D Rilsu eat a lot of insects because that moon does not have birds or mammals. Also, because alien lizard people may have different ideas of what is edible than we do...     Regarding the medical applications: I haven't figured out the details yet, but I'd love to make additional articles for that. I suppose the components are produced in a lab, using genetically-modified plant material. The micro-vines implanted in the body are designed to dissolve slowly so that the body can get rid of them when their support is no longer needed.

creator of the Kaleidoscope System, an alien star system shaped by a colorful radiation source   My entry for the Shipwright Challenge: Ycalla
1 Apr, 2021 10:19

Oh very nice plant! As my first comment I just have to say that I really like the art you created here. The structure of the plant is interesting sinceit uses its special strucuture to trap its prey. I also like the different colors which are nicely shown in the art. The use as a gift on school trips and as a houseplant was a nice addition as well.   I wonder though do people also attempt to make bonsai from the original unmodified plant?

Feel free to check out My Ship entry if you want to see what I am up to!
1 Apr, 2021 10:52

Thank you very much! ^^   I suppose there have been attempts at making bonsai from unmodified plants - either in the early days, or by the rare person who manages to sneak a sample out of the nature reserve. But they probably weren't too successful. Pruning the plants would not help much with keeping them small, and they are adapted to scarce amounts of nutrition. Perhaps limiting the amount of water they get would slow down their growth... but maybe that has other side effects. Not sure about that.   (Heh. And now I wonder if the So Family keeps illegally extracted plants for decoration, complete with forged permits that no-one can actually prove to be fake...)

creator of the Kaleidoscope System, an alien star system shaped by a colorful radiation source   My entry for the Shipwright Challenge: Ycalla
2 Apr, 2021 09:20

Oh wow, that tree looks so cool!! I'm curious to know if the plants themselves emit radiation, mostly because I find the idea of giving school kids mini radioactive plants very funny. Other than that, great article! I really love the details you have for it, its really great :D

Author of Interarcanum.
2 Apr, 2021 09:44

Thank you so much! ^^   No, the plants do not emit radiation - it's been about 1600 Earth years since the area became irradiated, so radiation levels are down to normal by now. ("Normal" being a relative term with the Kaleidoscope's energy suffusing the system.) But I agree, it's a funny idea!

creator of the Kaleidoscope System, an alien star system shaped by a colorful radiation source   My entry for the Shipwright Challenge: Ycalla
2 Apr, 2021 16:34

Darn... we’ll have to find another way to radiate these kids!

Author of Interarcanum.
4 Apr, 2021 08:12

A well-crafted, in-depth article about an interesting plent - you had me at 'carnivorous tree' :D Really cool stuff!  

The tree's "trunk" is an irregular structure of branching and interlocking vines. Between these vines, numerous holes lead inside where a web of fibers is soaked in a sugary sap
  That is such an interesting visual and I can picture it in my head - the art you made for it is amazing. It feels wonderfully alien.

4 Apr, 2021 10:19

Thank you so much! :D I'm really happy that you enjoyed the article. It was fun coming up with the tree's appearance and creating art to match, so it's great to hear that you like the result!

creator of the Kaleidoscope System, an alien star system shaped by a colorful radiation source   My entry for the Shipwright Challenge: Ycalla
5 Apr, 2021 13:28

I love the art you've made for this! The plant is really fascinating, and I love that people have mini versions in their houses because they don't require much maintenance. :D   '... larger wounds or broken bones are usually mended by implanting lab-grown micro-vines as scaffolding.' THIS IS SO COOL.

5 Apr, 2021 14:57

Thank you very much! ^^ I'm glad that you like the house plant idea and the medical application - neither was planned, they just happened while I was writing. I guess I really should make a dedicated article about these micro-vines.

creator of the Kaleidoscope System, an alien star system shaped by a colorful radiation source   My entry for the Shipwright Challenge: Ycalla
17 Apr, 2021 14:37

Life... Finds a way. And interesting details on how it helps with healing, as well as used as expensive candy. (Hello rich people!)

Too low they build who build beneath the stars - Edward Young
17 Apr, 2021 15:22

Thank you, I'm glad you found it interesting!

creator of the Kaleidoscope System, an alien star system shaped by a colorful radiation source   My entry for the Shipwright Challenge: Ycalla