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In my world, I have a type of plant with a two-stage life cycle. The first stage grows into a structure that functions like a greenhouse that allows in most of the Sun's light but insulates against temperature. It does this to support the second stage, an extremely delicate type of flower which can only grow in the exact conditions fostered by the first stage's greenhouse.

The first stage constructs the greenhouse by growing a ring of stalks that eventually meet at a point above the center of the ring; after meeting in the center the stalks [build? excrete? weave?] the greenhouse from meeting-point down to the ground. Edit: L.Dutch's answer made me realize size may be important here. I would like for these structures to be about a foot in diameter in the wild.

Is there any biological structure or nonbiological material that a plant could use as described to build greenhouse walls that permit a significant amount of light but shield against temperature fluctuations? This is a world that has some effects percieved by humans as "magic", and these effects are the reason a plant with such a tenuous life-cycle came into existence, but I would prefer the plant to operate on nonmagical principles aside from its magical start hence the science-based tag.

Thanks in advance for your advice!

Edit: @Alex P.'s comment pointed out that the original title sounded like I was asking for a list of materials. The actual intent behind the question is "is there at least one way for a plant to make this work", so I have updated the title to match.

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    $\begingroup$ Greenhouses are very commonly made of polyethylene. There is no reason why a plant could not synthesize polyethylene. Or some kind of polycarbonate. Or cellophane, which has the property of being highly permeable by water vapor, which may be an advantage or a disadvantage, depending. The point is, there are lots or transparent organic materials which could in principle be made by a plant using ordinary metabolic pathways. (Organic as in organic chemistry.) Keeping the temperature constant inside the greenhouse is something else entirely. VTC as asking for an endless list of materials. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Dec 6, 2023 at 19:06
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    $\begingroup$ There was a small desert plant I remember from a David Attenbourough documentary that was hollow with a biological window in the top of it! Admittedly, it was a tiny, piddly thing (more grape than greenhouse), but still, it's a plant and it's also a hollow box with a clear lid so... yes, you can have a plant be its own greenhouse because Nature's kinda already done something like that (unfortunately I've not been able to find the name of the plant though - might have been high up in the Andes somewhere) $\endgroup$
    – Samwise
    Dec 6, 2023 at 22:01
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    $\begingroup$ P.S. Plain standard leaves of plants are not transparent because of the pigments with the plant actively grows with the express goal of capturing the light. If the plant does not make those pigments, the leaves are translucid, letting light through. Most often, this is a bad thing (called "etiolation"), but sometimes it is perfectly normal; think for example of the juicy leaves which make up an onion. Some plants, such as Haworthia cooperi have translucent leaves as part of their normal habit. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Dec 6, 2023 at 22:55
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    $\begingroup$ This doesn't really make any sense as described. Flowers themselves don't need sunlight. What they do need is access to pollinators or other means of dispersing and collecting pollen. Numerous plants do form protective structures around their flowers and fruit...Jack-in-the-pulpit and groundcherries, for instance...but these don't generally fully enclose the flower in order to allow pollination to occur. Figs would be an extreme case, leaving only a small opening for their wasp symbiotes. $\endgroup$ Dec 6, 2023 at 23:48
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    $\begingroup$ I think that given the "greenhouse" theme, you could also consider that the plant creates a protective outer layer that is the ideal living condition for some sort of other symbiotic animal, which in turn provides some sort of nutrient or conditions (such as pollination) that is necessary for the flower. $\endgroup$ Dec 7, 2023 at 7:00

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The plant can produce biogenic silica and have it act like the glass in a greenhouse.

Biogenic silica (bSi), also referred to as opal, biogenic opal, or amorphous opaline silica, forms one of the most widespread biogenic minerals. For example, microscopic particles of silica called phytoliths can be found in grasses and other plants.

However consider that in order to be a proper greenhouse, the size of the envelope should be on the larger side: something along the shape of a coconut, probably. Too small envelopes might have a too high surface to volume ratio, resulting in too high heat losses.

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  • $\begingroup$ I was thinking 10-to-14 inch diameter in the wild, but able to be cultivated into 5-6 ft diameter domes with trellisses and careful effort from humans, so definitely larger than a coconut! Would biogenic silica still be viable at those sizes? $\endgroup$ Dec 6, 2023 at 18:22
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Plants with their own little greenhouse

AlexP already mentioned Haworthia cooperi, but the pictures in Wikipedia do not present the more strange-looking varieties:

Transparent succulent plant

These are tiny, but larger ones could probably form in some circumstances, especially if they are cultivated and bred.

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