Eloran Pseudotrees

Though not universally recognized by the scientific community, the term "pseudotree" is used for remarkable symbiotic lifeforms found on Elora in the Traverse which bear a striking visual likeness to Earth-bound trees despite being radically different in terms of physiology and life cycle.

Nb: the word pseudotree is often used for any plant that vaguely resembles an Earth tree, with the main criteria being the presence of leaf-like photosynthesis-capable parts and a hard trunk. Only on Elora does pseudotree clearly refer to these symbionts. 

Pseudotrees have no real Earth analogue. Much like the vast majority of Eloran fauna and flora, they are the result of billions of years of co-evolution between several symbiotes which has led to the creation of multi-species, fully integrated lifeforms. Pseudotrees, in particular, are composite organisms born out of the tripartite symbiosis of three distinct lifeforms: photosynthetic algae, hardened lichens and string-like microfungi. They are, in effect, second-level symbiotes, as one of their components is already a symbiotic lifeform (though pseudotree lichen has lost the ability to perform photosynthesis, it is an ancestral symbiote of Eloran algae and fungi). The three symbiotic species have specialized to the point they are seldom if ever, found alone in the wild. The supporting structure of a pseudotree is made of hardened lichen, almost as resilient as regular wood, that bends and twists to form trunks and branches. This lichen is sustained by photosynthesis carried out via thin transparent sacks containing the algae, as well as complex mycelium networks running in the ground like roots on Earth, extracting nutrients and water from their environment. The entire symbiote is eerily reminiscent of an Earth tree, to the point newcomers can often be fooled into thinking they haven't left the relative safety of arcology gardens while they are, in fact, deep inside the Eloran forest. During Eloran winters the algae sacks retract and dry up to conserve energy,

Algae sacks rustling in the wind. It takes a very close inspection to differentiate leaves from pseudotree sacks. The only telltale sign is the presence of a thin, skin-like enveloppe around the sack.

One of the most notable differences between trees and pseudotrees is that there is no notion of an individual pseudotree. These organisms reproduce and expand through their underground fungal element, which extends tendrils through the soil then emerges to form a small receptacle which is then seeded by algae and lichen spores carried by the wind or by local animals. The link with the parent pseudotree is never broken and as such, there is no meaningful distinction between two adjacent pseudotrees. A lone organism is always an anomaly (usually the last survivor of a lost colony) and a pseudotree forest, for all intents and purposes, is a single, coherent lifeform that exchanges water, nutrients and information across several hundred kilometres by way of sap-like fluids running through lichen trunks. Though pseudotrees do not have neurons to speak of, they possess specialized fungal nodes that synthesize organic compounds and algae receptors capable of "reading" these compounds and adjust the pseudotree's activity, growth and metabolism in reaction to external threats or opportunities. One of the most striking examples of this capability to exchange information is the way pseudotree forests have a self-regulation mechanism resulting in most pseudotree trunks having almost the same mass in a given environment, despite variations in shape and volume. The largest forests are capable of nigh-sapience and react to human presence through colour changes and pheromones which have yet to be deciphered. Limits between colonies are often well-defined and apparently "respected", though sometimes old colonies can end up deeply intertwined, especially on small islands where land is a rare commodity.

Sometimes, old pseudotrees tend to absorb or eliminate ground vegetation, leaving their fungal networks apparent.

Pseudotrees occupy the same ecological niche as Earth trees, providing shelter, food and resources to a vast number of animal and vegetal species. They are remarkably resilient in the face of infections and physical trauma: contrary to Earth trees, they have a basic immune system and can regrow lost branches or trunks within a few weeks. Their ability to transfer nutrients and water, as well as regulate their growth, makes them quasi-ubiquitous on the planet's scattered continents. Pseudotrees do not seem to have endemic predators or parasites, though they are sometimes targeted by a rather strange lifeform, the Eloran Apple (Pseudomalus Eloriensis), a floating fruit that hijacks the fungal flow not to feed on the pseudrotree but to learn from its synapses and locate the best location for its spores, essentially using the local forest as a vast cartographical device.

Eloran Apples are mostly edible if you can catch them before they float away.

Pseudotrees are seldom used for human consumption on Elora. As they do not pose any health hazard, their removal is only necessary when a colony encroaches on human gardens or greenhouses, but only has to be carried out once: pseudotrees are clever enough to understand where they can and can't grow, albeit uncontrolled human expansion would very likely trigger more aggressive responses. Pseudotree trunks are awful substitutes for wood: the lichens tend to disintegrate fast without sap flowing through them, and harvested colonies will harden to the point of requiring heavy duty lasers to cut through them.

As far as we know, pseudotrees aren't an invasive organism and can't be implanted on other worlds.

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