New answers tagged

1

A permanent tumbling plant may evolve a shape that as closely resembles spherical as possible, while using minimal mass. Natural objects also tends to respect symmetry as this reduces the necessary genome size. Like the icosahedral viruses which only have to code for a protein that forms a pentameter of trimers for its capsid. I imagine a world with ...


0

Dependence on a single large leaf for photosynthesis is where the plausibility of this takes a tumble. Trees have thousands of cheaply grown leaves that can be replaced when damaged from predation or disease or animal activity, while your tree has just the one. A bad landing when the wind slows, a sudden gust that snaps the tether, disease, or predation, and ...


0

The problem with this idea is that trees take all the nutrients they need from the soil. In order to do so, they have mostly evolved to have roots that bind them very strongly to the ground, thus making them sessile. You are suggesting a tree that can uproot itself and then plant itself again. It might be possible, but evolution probably didn't favor that ...


3

Alternatively to wind kites you could have plants that use electrostatic kites on calm days, similarly to how spiders use electrostatic propulsion to fly. Think of giant dandelion looking plants with string thin stalks that use electrostatic propulsion to lift the dandelion heads in calm weather. The bases could even generate an opposing electrostatic field ...


4

Make the light come from every direction. That changes the first form so that instead of horizontal branches perpendicular to the average sun location, you get a more spherical shape. Then make stability (the second form) important. Perhaps there are high winds. This helps keep the branches short. The high winds could occasionally rip the plant from ...


7

You are better off using lichens. A lichen (/ˈlaɪkən/, LEYE-ken or (USA) /ˈlɪtʃən/, LICH-en) is a composite organism that arises from algae or cyanobacteria living among filaments of multiple fungi species in a mutualistic relationship. The combined lichen has properties different from those of its component organisms. They are the first organism to ...


2

Not trees, trees are delicate sensitive things, though they may not seem it at first glance. You want weeds, dandelions, horsetail, bindweed, knotweed, grass. Plants that will grow out of a crack in concrete and call it a good home. Plants that your every effort to annihilate has knocked 6 weeks growth out of and look who's back. It'll take you a while to ...


5

Your plants will most likely die as they don't have the supporting ecosystem in the soil. If you look at the evolutionary timescales, land based (read as soil inhabiting) plants are first thought to have evolved on Earth around 700 million years ago, but life first formed on the planet a lot earlier; around 3.5 billion years old, probably around 1 billion ...


9

Maybe. It all depends. Trees rely on soil for a lot of things, and the alien soil would need to supply it and also refrain from being harmful. Not poison the tree: Some extraterrestrial soils are actively poisonous. (Mars' soil, for example, is highly oxidizing and would, untreated, almost certainly kill anything planted in it.) Retain water: Soil holds ...


3

The other answers are great, so I'll go a slightly different direction: imagine a carnivorous plant which folds and unfolds (you can see an animation of a folding dodecahedron here). If the center edge which stays fixed to the ground (with the roots) has some type of substance to stick or trap prey (or if they folding is fast and reflexive enough), then ...


8

Trees are remarkably bloody minded in their growth patterns, since their greatest influencing factor is the presence of other trees, the classic requirements indicated in your question override almost anything else. So we shall not have a tree, instead we shall have a shrub. Here we get a lot more flexibility as we can spread the driving influences around ...


3

The reasons trees grow upwards (for the most part) is because of their need to photosynthesize to create food for themselves. Different trees have different adaptations to acquire the maximum about of sunlight, while also protecting themselves from other threats. One reason to have a dodecahedron shaped plant is if there is something on the faces or edges ...


4

Since the structure defines an inside and an outside, it might be useful for situation where the nutrients are not absorbed via the roots but via the branches/leaves, while being carried by the medium. More or less what sponges do in water. Such a tree would therefore have the outer leaves being the photosynthetic ones, while the inner ones would be the ...


0

Like the Acacia cornigera, your trees might have symbiotic relations with agressive, eusocial, territorial animals, like the acacia ants. These animals feed on the sap or some other product the trees make readily avaiable to them. In return, these animals, which we might call gardeners, protect the trees from herbivores and lumberjacks, vines and mistletoes, ...


2

I remember a story in Analog years ago about a colony on a planet with huge trees of beautiful, very strong wood. The only practical way (in theory) to cut down the trees was with lasers (because they were so large -- saws were not practical), but the smoke produced when these tools were used was enough to block the laser beam almost immediately, so the ...


1

I'm afraid you're already dead. If the world is truly 'alien', it would have evolved a completely different ecosystem, in a completely different way. The odds of the billions upon billions of mutations and evolutionary changing events being identical to Earth's (to our time period too) is virtually non-existent. Even on Earth a small difference in ...


8

There is clear motivation to harvest the trees as the wood is highly valuable. I assume then, that some of these trees have been and can be harvested, so. The trees are sticky. These massive trees contain an equally massive amount of exceptionally viscous, extremely sticky sap, which oozes out after you break through the hard bark. The sap is tougher and ...


0

Or the trees fight back. Whomping willows come to mind...


0

You could make sweet purple plants using bacteriorhodopsin instead of chlorophyll. Bacteriorhodopsin: The Enzyme Plants Wish They Had This is Owens lake and it is purple from a bloom of photosynthetic halobacteria. The bacteriorhodopsin they use absorbs green light, reflecting blue and red to make this purplish color. http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu....


-1

No extraterrestrial life form will be edible. To be edible the food should contain nucleic acids or proteins, also fatty acids and vitamins that are specific to erthy life and won't appear in extraterrestrial organisms.


2

Plants aren't green because green is efficient, they're green because green is not an efficient wavelength for photosynthesis. Sunlight is white, and plants absorb all of the other colors but green, allowing it to scatter out of their cells. If you want your plants to be blue instead, you need their chlorophyll molecules to be efficient at all colors except ...


8

Don't bother. There is no reasonable chance that any non-earth life will be "edible". The human digestive system can only derive nutrition from a tiny fraction of the lifeforms on Earth. That's true of both biomass and number of species. And for the lifeforms we can eat, we can only eat a fraction of them. We can't eat wood, chitin, bone, hair etc. We will ...


0

Superstition is superstition. Culture is culture. Because there are many people that are superstitious of the number 13, or believe ghosts are haunting their pantry doesn't mean those beliefs are cultural values of a society. Culture is learned. Superstition is born of ignorance. Who says the disease has to be non-existent? There could be a very real ...


3

Assuming a realistic alien world, the simple option is assume everything is non-nutritious or poisonous. You'll probably be able to get some micro-nutrients such as calcium or iron from native plant life, and if you're very lucky, you'll find something that produces ethanol. Most likely, though, is that everything has the same nutritional value as a rock.


4

The best method is a tiered combination of methods. Under the assumption the colonists are trying to find a suitable food source before their own stores run out a tiered approach is best. Common sense, don't eat scavengers or parasites (both mobile and not), be wary of anything immobile, don't eat anything that is dramatically colored compared to other ...


6

Bring a monkey and eat what it eats.” I have no supporting evidence at this time but an old saying in my area is “bring a monkey and eat what it eats” It may come from the fact that monkey is so close to human such that if something is safe for monkey, it is safe for human. Birds, on the other hand, can eat stuff that is not suitable for human.


4

Why would space travelers "go native" and start eating food that grows on an alien planet? If their spaceship can keep them alive on the journey to an alien planet presumably it can keep them alive while exploring the alien planet and on the journey back to where they came from. Presumably the spaceship would have food synthesizers to convert stored ...


24

Apply the Universal Edibility Test (it is universal!). Summary: Separate the plant into its various parts—roots, stems, leaves, buds, and flowers. Focus on only one piece of the plant at a time. Smell it. A strong, unpleasant odor is a bad sign. Test for contact poisoning by placing a piece of the plant on your inner elbow or wrist for a few ...


41

A multi-pronged strategy. First, simple chemical tests would be performed for heavy metals and strong acids/alkalis and to give a general profile of the plant or animal's chemical composition. Gas chromatography should throw-up a number of interesting results and help identify known poisons. This, whilst being careful to identify any specific part of the ...


4

They can't be cut down because they're bottle rockets writ large. Their core is a form of solid rocket fuel. As long as an unripened tree is safely encased in their stony bark they're 99.99999% proof against being touched off unintentionally - even a direct lightning strike is unlikely to affect them - and if it does it'll most likely cause them to "blow up ...


0

Those aren't ordinary trees As an alternate version of Chris Happy's answer, the trees are intelligent and powerfully telepathic. They don't mind when a human carts off a fallen tree or cuts down a standing dead one, but people who attempt to cut down a live tree are never heard from again.


5

The trees are alive and conscious. Think Narnia trees that are awake. Humans walking around are just like ants on their toes. They ignore them. But as soon as humans start a nick in the skin of the tree, they become quite vicious, (like humans once they detect a mosquito). They could use their roots or branches. Every time humans tried to cut a tree, no ...


4

It just isn't economical The trees have a very expansive branch network, and the branches of nearby trees are interwoven. Since those interwoven branches are also very strong, they are able to support the weight of the tree even if the base is removed. If someone wants to cut down such a tree, they have to, after cutting it down at its base, go along the ...


4

The wood is only valuable if the tree dies of natural causes. At the end of the life of the tree, some chemical process makes the wood extra strong. If you cut it down earlier, you get only normal wood. So there is no incentive to cut the trees early because you risk that the wood becomes worthless and you also don't want to cut them down for space because ...


7

Toxins, a different approach: When cut the trees release a slow toxin. This manifests as homicidal madness after a while. Given the lag between exposure and insanity it isn't realize it's a toxin and thus they don't even try to block it. (Which doesn't work very well, anyway, as it's gaseous and works through skin contact. You need chemical warfare gear ...


15

Dangerous animals live in the tree canopy. They won't bother humans if the tree is left alone, but if they sense their home is being threatened, they will attack. If their home is destroyed, the homeless ones will go berserk and go on a killing rampage until they are put down. These animals could be anything. Tree-dwelling grizzly bears. Giant killer owls. ...


2

BAD things happen to anyone who threatens these trees! Upon examination, it's clear from scars and regrowth that there have been attempts to cut down a few of these trees, over the years. Less clear is who made those attempts and whether any of the gruesome stories or songs have any factual basis. If you're foolish enough to bring an axe near these trees, ...


36

People get the wood. The trees are cut. They are just not cut down. There is no need to cut them down. Your forest is a pollard forest. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pollarding Pollarding, a pruning system involving the removal of the upper branches of a tree, promotes a dense head of foliage and branches. In ancient Rome, Propertius mentioned ...


7

The trees have guardians. The forest is inhabited by 9ft. tall (~3 meters) primates, much stronger and tougher than humans. There are large numbers of them. Those beings are herbivores, and will leave humans to their own devices most of the time. It just happens that the tree sap smells exactly like the pheromone the females release when they are in heat. ...


0

Cones Make your giant trees produce giant cones. Anyone standing below the tree is prone to be hit by big, heavy and hard piece of its reproductive organ. In addition, make in a way a heavy bang from an ax or the vibration from a saw makes dozens of those things fall at once making the lumberjack working area a very hazardous one. Imagine the scene: A ...


15

Similar to @Chronocidal's answer, but instead of volatile liquid enclosed in cork-like outer layer, make the tree's interior high pressure near the base because of the weight of the tree pressing down upon it. Now make the outer layer brittle and prone to shatter into sharp aerodynamic splinters. First touch of a sawtooth to that brittle bark and the whole ...


100

Underneath the outer cork-like layer of bark, the trees have a second foam-like layer. The cells of this layer are filled with a volatile liquid (in the chemistry sense - meaning it evaporates easily) which the tree uses to help boost water and nutrients up to the crown. Unfortunately for your would-be loggers, this liquid, once it evaporates into a gas, ...


0

You pose an interesting question with a few intricacies as far as I can tell they are: Big Trees, that can't/shouldn't be cut down Dark scary forest where less reputable people has come to inhabit The people living there THE TREES In my world there is a forest of huge trees which people can't or won't chop down. The trees are similar to redwood trees ...


36

Diseases or toxins Maybe the forest is a hazardous place due to various diseases thriving in local flora or fauna for example Malaria mosquitos. Bandits would not be immune, but well maybe they have little other choice than to soldier on. Or the trees are dangerous. Perhaps there's no problem if you leave the trees alone, but if you start chopping them ...


66

The most likely reason would be that they simply don't have anything that can cut them in your scenario. You say that the trees are highly valuable, so there's a high motivation to cut them down. This suggests that no matter how difficult it is, the reward is worth it. So, the only other possible reason to not be able to cut them down is going to be ...


2

Gain to effort ratio is very low. You would need to cut those trees. We know from historic videos like This recording of cutting down trees in 1940 it was a large logistic setup before. And from old photos we know it took dozens of men to cut those gigantic ones tree with "analog" equipment. Using same equipment a "triad" of workers could cut in one day a ...


16

Lack of industrialisation The trees are too big to be handled without a large team of people and draft animals. There's no river nearby to float them down. The tools required to efficiently cut one down are too expensive for your average woodcutter. The wood is too hard to be valuable for day to day use and it doesn't burn well. They're not blocking the ...


20

Cutting a tree down is just the first step, then you need to remove the wood from the cutting place and move it to somewhere else, be it the place where it will be used or a place where it can be disposed of. Already cutting down such a large tree is challenging for the tech period you have specified, then, once it is on the ground, you need to cut it in ...


6

Recently planted trees are likely to have troubles getting enough water. That is because their root system has very likely been cut off quite considerably when they were taken out of their previous habitat. The root systems of trees are incredibly complex structures, that often live in symbiosis with funghi mycelia and in interaction with the soil around ...


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