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Within my desert landscape--in which the climate is similar to the Sonora Desert--there are many canyons, one of which sports large, clustered growths of Elbaite Tourmaline crystals, averaging out at a height of around 8-10 feet, with smaller crystals often growing around the bases of larger ones

The crystals grow along the walls of the canyon and around the edges of a nearly dried up river. The sand surrounding the river area consists of small flakes that have been weathered away from the sandstone canyon walls and the edges of the crystals, making a layer of sand that extends for about 1-2 feet before hitting the clay soil beneath.

Now, I'm aware that clay makes for a difficult soil, so I'm more concerned with the effects the large crystals and sand composition would have on any native plant life.

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  • $\begingroup$ Anything that can grow in hydroponics. $\endgroup$ – MichaelK May 15 '17 at 12:28
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    $\begingroup$ This sounds like a biology question to me. Do you have specific parameters for your world we should be aware of? Maybe some kind of fantasy element? Technology? Something? Also please tell us why the crystals are there. This is rather unusual. Chemically, the plants shouldn't care, but the reason why your are growing crystals might destroy them $\endgroup$ – Raditz_35 May 15 '17 at 12:29
  • $\begingroup$ This is for a fantasy world, but I'm looking to see what would grow there naturally, since my world already allows for the people in it to grow plants in bizarre places as it is. $\endgroup$ – Pleiades May 15 '17 at 12:31
  • $\begingroup$ To me it sounds a bit like you are asking for something that specifically would grow under those conditions better than anything else so you can have an exotic plant there rather than asking if you can have normal plants there? Why do expect your crystals to influence plantlife? And why does your world have the same plants as earth? $\endgroup$ – Raditz_35 May 15 '17 at 12:35
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    $\begingroup$ Just a tip: of course it's your decision when to accept an answer, but in general it's a good idea to wait a day or two before accepting an answer. As of writing this your question was posted on hour ago and has only 34 views. WorldBuilder live in different timezones all over the world and you might be surprised what others could come up with. There might even be discussions with the posted answer (not that I see any upcoming, but in general it's possible). And some people might be discouraged from answering if they see you accepted something. Just a tip for the future. $\endgroup$ – Secespitus May 15 '17 at 13:35
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If the crystals have no effect on the moisture or nutrient levels in the soil, then it would be reasonable to treat them effectively as rocks. Meaning they affect only light and shade patterns and root penetration into your soil level. Sand is only another type of crystal after all.

However sand as a soil has a high drainage rate, clay on the other hand tends to act as a moisture barrier preventing water from draining away rapidly after rain which will also affect the deeper rooted and larger plants.

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    $\begingroup$ Because it drains very well, sand is generally nutrient-poor as it flushes nutrients away. $\endgroup$ – Nick T May 15 '17 at 20:54
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Any native plant life will be, by definition, well suited for this kind of environment. One partcularity of this environment I'd like to adress is the following :

Light condensing

Ok, your Elbaite Tourmaline seems rather opaque. But if you allow it to be clearer, your large crystals could act as mirrors and lenses, focusing light in semi-random patterns, always changing as the position of the sun vary with the time of the day and the seasons. Think of a bottle (glass or plastic) thrown away by some idiot, now resting on a dry piece of vegetation exposed to sunlight : that's how some forest fires start.

Here, your bottle is an ensemble of 10ft tall crystals, in a desert. If your vegetation wants to live, I would expect it to have some sort of localized hight heat resistance, so it doesn't catch fire on a bad conjugation of light rays through your shiny crystals.

In short : your plants should have a fireproof skin.

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  • $\begingroup$ Let's say fires are a real concern here, fireproof skin might even make the problem worse - giving the occasional wildfire more fuel to burn. Nature mostly chose different paths for plants and I think rightly so $\endgroup$ – Raditz_35 May 15 '17 at 15:10
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What to do is to look at what plants that live in nutrient poor soil do: they eat things.

Carnivorous plants (venus fly trap, various pitcher plants) sustain themselves in nutrient poor soil by eating insects. They need water (there is that stream), CO2 in the air and a minimum of nutrients in the soil to get started. And stuff to eat, of course.

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