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