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My fantasy world includes non-traditional dryads who are pretty much just humans that have a stronger connection to nature, as well as the ability to grow plants out of their skin. Is there any way to realistically store plants inside a human body, and how would the plants exit the skin? My current explanation is "magic" because the dryads can do magic, but I'm looking for a possible realistic explanation for growing plants out of their body.

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    $\begingroup$ Welcome to worldbuilding! Please take a moment to visit the help center and familiarize yourself with site policy. We're heavily structured by the standards of most Q&A sites. One of those restrictions is a prohibition on questions looking for help brainstorming or generating ideas. You seem to have an explanation which within the context of your world, a world with magic, is realistic. Do you have some specific problem with saying "plants just grow from their skin" that you'd like help resolving? If you edit your question to focus on that instead I think it will be a much better fit. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Sep 8, 2022 at 20:34
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    $\begingroup$ You've not told us much about dryads in your world (there exists no definitive source for a description, no certain form or type in mythology as - many cultural influences). All we know is that they have "skin". We're not sure what you mean by skin in this context, it could be something like bark or orange-peel. Please review the How to Ask part of the help center and then edit to fill in more details that we would need to answer. $\endgroup$ Sep 8, 2022 at 20:55
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    $\begingroup$ Are the plants separate from their body, or are the plants part of their body? Like there are some conditions where skin can be hard and bark-like, or where people's bones can grow outside of their skin, but that wouldn't be a "plant" by the normal definition. $\endgroup$
    – Toddleson
    Sep 8, 2022 at 21:50
  • $\begingroup$ There is a real life animal that stores plants inside their bodies. The eastern emerald elysia sucks chloroplast from plants and holds onto them. They then continue to photosynthesize food inside the animal. So, dryad with translucent skin with chroloplast in cells could work. The plants exiting doesn't make much sense in this context, since the whole plant isn't inside the animal, just the useful bits. Having anything like bark grow on top of the skin would negate any effect the chloroplast has. $\endgroup$
    – Angs
    Sep 11, 2022 at 6:14

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I would say there are two routes you could take.

The first of which would be a combination of Euglenoids, endosymbiotic theory, and an advanced (or just different) endocrine system. I wouldn't necessarily say they "store" the plants within their skin, but rather ambient plant growth within the skin is a natural part of their metabolism. This method would mean that on a cellular level the dryads are both plant and animal, and that the plant growths are more or less a benign teratoma of sorts focusing on plant growth rather than animal growth. This concept is similar to mitochondrial structures apparent in eukaryotic organisms. Euglenoids exhibit both plant and animal characteristics, and if we combine that with endosymbiotic theory, we can extrapolate that some macro organisms could have developed with Euglenoidal DNA. Exercising control over the growth becomes the hard part, but we can further extrapolate that the endocrine system of said Euglenoidal organisms would likely have developed some way to communicate with the plant structures on a hormonal level. Just like adrenaline is used to stimulate ATP synthesis within mitochondria, a hormone "like" adrenaline could have developed to stimulate the plant side of the Euglenoidal organelles. The draw back to this explanation would be there would likely be many different species other than humans also capable of this symbiotic phenomenon. You could use that as an explanation for dryad-like creatures as well. Such as an ent, or a powerful woad spirit like a stag with druid levels. You could even have evil dryads have malformed or malignant plant growths.

My second explanation is that the dryad capabilities are caused by an entirely different creature. Such as a parasite or mutualistic micro organism. To this effect the only reasons humans have these capabilities is because their bodies are host to another organism that grows the plants. You could explain that the misconception that dryads are their own species is caused by infants being born with symptoms of the infection. Infection being a loose definition of what was actually at play. If the dryad creature was actually mutualistic or commensalistic you could use something akin to chimera syndrome as an explanation. Our bodies have natural ways to fight off infections like this. So if you really wanted to get down into the "meat and potatoes" (pun intended) of it, the dryad creature would need to be immune to our biological defenses.

In either case I would say the plant growth is relatively slow, and only expedited with magic.

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Under the assumption that dryads look and function like Earth humans do aside from being able to use magic (which is a thing that does stuff? idk I'm just an Earth human)...

The readily apparent answer would be that they function the same way any existing human parasites do and would have the same options for entering/exiting fairly easily through existing orifices or less easily through creating their own opening.

I suppose you could also have some very fine plants that replaced the hair on the body and 'exited' that way.

As intestinal parasites the plants would be able to obtain nutrients by taking them from food ingested by the host - it could also be possible that the plants produced enzymes that assisted the dryads in processing materials not normally considered food like a modified pitcher plant rooting in the stomach and taking over the function of that organ.

If the plants extended outside the body (perhaps a nice bushy mustache descending from the nose, or by mimicking hair and extending from pores) they may be able to use photosynthesis as many plants currently do. They could also be hooked into the bloodstream and obtain nutrients from there.

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Horny Protrusions.

enter image description here

The Dryad has horny protrusions all along the body. There are small holes in the horns. The plants grow out of these holes with their roots anchored to the lattice structure on the inside.

The Plants are like orchids. They do not need soil. They get everything they need from the air.

enter image description here

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Who's to say that on your fantasy world life has taken a different path leading to blurring of lines between what is a plant and animal?

You mention your fantasy dryads basically just humans with a strong connection to nature. All life here on earth is made of the same basic DNA just coded differently. A possible explanation could be the "gene library" if you will has expanded to include the production of plant cells. Similar to how trees can regrow branches your fantasy Dryads could include growth nodes that generate plant matter?

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Maybe they don't grow the plants "out of their skin", but merely "on their skin"? Like lichen that grows on trees or ivy that grows on walls. Maybe their skin secretes some nourishing sweat-like substance that allows the plants to grow on the dryads body. If they can voluntarily control that process they can manage the plant growth in the way they like. If the spores that produce the plants are just everywhere in the air, especially close to where other dryads already have them, and if they grow really fast, then it might look like magic, when a dryad just wakes up in the morning, "full of plants", after deciding on that when going to bed the evening before.

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