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I've been digging into some very interesting, related questions from the past (the one I found the most useful was this one) and I don't think anything covers my question. So if I missed it, please do let me know.

To provide some background, I have devised a relatively simple "magic system", in which any living being (and that's the keyword) born with the ability to use "magic", can use these two effects:

1. Transferring their magical energy by touch which can cause some energy-related effects (i.e., removing fatigue, recharging a battery, healing from damage).

2. Creating a lasting bond with a touched target. This bond fades unless maintained with some "magic". The bonded are intuitively aware of the other side's emotional state (if any), status (i.e., sleeping/inactive, exerting/active, moving, stressed out) and location (direction, approximate distance and a sense of whether they are closing in or moving farther away).

Final clarifications:

  • Using either of these powers also shares with the target sensory impressions from the user. So bonded beings would be potentially capable of sharing impressions back and forth. If it matters, I defined "impressions" as non-verbal, dream-like sensory stimuli.
  • These abilities are costly to the user, in particular creating a bond.
  • Magic users slowly regain their "magic reserve", mostly from the sun or nutrition.
  • Bonding is a voluntary choice for sentient recipients.

WOULD PLANTS WITH THESE TWO ABILITIES DOMINATE?

What I mean is, would these two options be enough of an advantage to, for example, displace non-magical plants over time? Magical plants would effectively be better at "communicating" with other plants (or beings) and could even heal other plants or zap predators (although this would be a costly thing to do).

I would not like to rekindle the debate on whether a plant "thinks" in the way most would define it, or if it merely "reacts to stimuli". My question is more focused about the following: a plant with these two abilities would employ them just as they grow branches or leaves, or signal nearby plants through their roots and pheromones; it's just two additional options on their toolbox, so to speak.

As an added clarification, there is no "base plant" for this question: any plant could potentially be "magical". Or rather, a "magical" version of any mundane plant could potentially exist (i.e., magical cacti, magical vines, magical trees, magical flowers).

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    $\begingroup$ Can you define "dominate"? Does your plant "prey" on other plant species? Is there a specific type of plant of plant phenomena you had in mind when asking this question? I see a unique plant concept but I don't see any thing that would make them invasive or aggressive in a manner that would wipe out other plant species. $\endgroup$
    – user93359
    Jan 9, 2022 at 22:16
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    $\begingroup$ Oneiric as in 'within dreams' or as 'dream-like' (stimuli, that can occur during waking life)? $\endgroup$
    – Joachim
    Jan 9, 2022 at 22:23
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    $\begingroup$ Dreamlike, I'll correct it now - thanks for noticing! $\endgroup$
    – Stivsko
    Jan 9, 2022 at 22:27
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    $\begingroup$ There's not enough information to answer the question you're asking. Do you have a base model for the plant? Do they photosynthesize? Do they produce seeds? Are there shells in the seeds? do they float like dandelions? How big are these plants? How deep do the roots grow? Are they vines? Are they cacti? Do they bear fruit? Do they require a lot of water? Does by omission of these details do you mean feed on magic users? I suppose the last part is not true because they transfer magic away. Then what's to stop animals noticing this rejuvenating properties and keep using it until the plants die? $\endgroup$
    – user93359
    Jan 9, 2022 at 22:30
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    $\begingroup$ Plants already do this quite extensively with other plants and fungi (with more discovered each year of study) so it would be about plant-to-animal symbiosis and the energetic requirements for the new symbiosis requirement. Both would find niches they were better at (isolated plants depending on the enhanced symbiosis, integrated forests depending on their natural ability and lower cost of doing this naturally). $\endgroup$
    – DWKraus
    Jan 10, 2022 at 0:41

3 Answers 3

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Oh yes.

A timely musing. It turns out that forest trees might be doing exactly as you propose. But not with magic.

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/the-whispering-trees-180968084/

“Some are calling it the ‘wood-wide web,’” says Wohlleben.... “All the trees here, and in every forest that is not too damaged, are connected to each other through underground fungal networks. Trees share water and nutrients through the networks, and also use them to communicate. They send distress signals about drought and disease, for example, or insect attacks, and other trees alter their behavior when they receive these messages.”

Trees are connected to each other by these fungal elements. I once thought the fungi were pathogens, then realized they are symbionts. Then realized it must be more. How does radiolabeled traceable sugar from one tree wind up in another tree? I get that the tree would trade sugar with the fungus, but why would a fungus ever give up sugar to a tree? Something more is going on.

Once, he came across a gigantic beech stump in this forest, four or five feet across. The tree was felled 400 or 500 years ago, but scraping away the surface with his penknife, Wohlleben found something astonishing: the stump was still green with chlorophyll. There was only one explanation. The surrounding beeches were keeping it alive, by pumping sugar to it through the network. “When beeches do this, they remind me of elephants,” he says. “They are reluctant to abandon their dead, especially when it’s a big, old, revered matriarch.”

Whoa.

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    $\begingroup$ Truly mazing contribution. I had seen a documentary that had nothing to do with this topic (it actually was the "Babies" documentary from Netflix) but one episode did talk extensively about these "green networks" and the sharing of information and nutrients mentioned here. It made me realise I should expand my magic system to include plants as well, to give it a more unique feel that is based on reality. $\endgroup$
    – Stivsko
    Jan 10, 2022 at 1:13
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, plants are already magic. $\endgroup$ Jan 10, 2022 at 19:25
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Yes, they have a significant advantage: Symbiosis with animals

Bonding with...

  • a large carnivore drives away herbivores.
  • a herbivore that eats plants competing with the magic plant.
  • an ant queen to have an army of ants to bring soil-enriching stuff to the plant. Or maybe the plant is carnivorous and is directly fed. Might also help keeping herbivores and other plants at bay.
  • a bee queen means bees to carry the plant's pollen far and wide, ensuring this magic plant will have better odds at procreation.

Some of these are somewhat close to what happens in the real world, for example Cercropia plants and Azteca ants (just the first example I found). A plant with the power to heal injuries and fatigue could easily attract such behavior in animals/insects as well.

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    $\begingroup$ I had not fully assessed the idea of how the bonding could boost already-existing symbiotic relationships. I guess a "magical" plant would take more of the bees, ants or other animals for themselves, depriving their mundane counterparts. Thanks! $\endgroup$
    – Stivsko
    Jan 10, 2022 at 0:25
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    $\begingroup$ you also have much simpler but perhaps more effective ones. imagine a fruit tree with an herbavore that prefers ot relieve itself on its roots. you could even have fully specialized animals that help such plants in return for fruit. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Jan 10, 2022 at 1:28
  • $\begingroup$ And that's the kind of advantage/edge I'm looking for for this question: over the long run, the plant capable of forming that kind of relationship could displace the one that cannot. Or rather, the "magic user" plant will be better at doing this, despite mundane plants also being capable of doing it. $\endgroup$
    – Stivsko
    Jan 10, 2022 at 9:16
  • $\begingroup$ @Stivsko If they can be any kind of plant, it's more likely that the already existing species would be generally enhanced by these magic effects, rather than be brand new magical species entirely competing with nonmagical species. This might result in different species of course, but it seems unlikely that many wouldn't develop a way to take advantage of magic. $\endgroup$ Jan 10, 2022 at 19:27
  • $\begingroup$ Exactly. New species would definitely have developed, with a whole spectrum of being able to exploit these abilities. $\endgroup$
    – Stivsko
    Jan 10, 2022 at 22:31
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Yes because of human cultivation. Any humans who found a magic plant would want to cultivate it and if possible reproduce it. Just like coffee beans are other planets with positive health effects.

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  • $\begingroup$ Same with bananas - apparently if not for human plantations, they would have even gone extinct: wired.com/2017/03/humans-made-banana-perfect-soon-itll-gone $\endgroup$
    – Stivsko
    Jan 10, 2022 at 9:20
  • $\begingroup$ Absolutely. The location-sense for example, enables navigating over arbitrary distances (by having one human bond with two plants, each in one location). Likewise the ability to transmit impressions could be co-opted for long-range communication: a single plant bound to two humans where the plant's status is influenced by one human, and the other human reads that changed status as part of a message. Like Morse code, but with statuses like "plant feels like it is raining" and "plant feels like it is spring" or whatever they are capable of feeling. $\endgroup$
    – user91641
    Jan 10, 2022 at 11:23

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