Speculative Biology Sunday: Arse weed

4 Jul

You have you’re very own flora, made up of thousands of species of organisms and thousands of individuals, most microscopic others less so. Kingdom Plantae, for the most part, seem to be missing out on this particular niche space. It only ever seems to be alga that grow on more slow moving animals such as sloths (if anyone knows any other examples, let me know.)
So here is a plant that live in and around an animal. From some undetermined point in the undetermined future.

Arse weed

The above plant is representative of the genus of plants colloquially known as “arse weeds”. Little is known about their evolutionary history, though their modern ancestors are definitely from somewhere in the Liliaceae family.
They are a bulb based plant and have long fairly broad leaves with parallel venation dominant but not exclusive.
There are usually three or four dominant “anchor roots” growing from the bulb as well as numerous other more short lived roots. These anchor roots are thick and spongey which allows oxygent to travel down to the tips of the roots. These roots also spiral around the wall of the large intestine of the animal it inhabits, and are quite springy. This is the mechanism by which the plant prevents itself from being excreted with the rest of the animals waste product.

After the plant is excreted it is anchored by the anchor roots, and after the animal has finished its business the roots recoil, pulling the plant back into place.
Arse weed is found solely in large ruminant herbivores. Seedlings have been found or observed in other herbivores and occasionally in canids, but for whichever reason these plants never thrive. The small berries produced by these plants are a remarkable white colour and highly aromatic to attract the attention of the colour blind herbivores which the plant inhabits. These berries contain a large, thick coated seed which is scarified during digestion and then germinates in the large intestine. Setting down its anchor roots is the plants first priority and only once these are set will it put any of its resources into poking photosynthetic leaves into the outside world.
Once the plant is established and thriving, a third player arrives to take part in this quirky like symbiosis, though this new arrival is somewhat more malicious. A fly seeks out arse weeds which aren’t yet flowering and takes advantage of the fact that the anus is obstructed by the plant to crawl inside and lay its eggs. These eggs hatch into parasitic larvae which feed on the flesh of the herbivore, much to its irritation. Trying to alleviate this irritation, the herbivore with try and scratch the itch against whatever it can find, usually trees, being knocked about and damaged triggers the plant to begin flowering. By the time the flowers are fully developed and ready for pollination, the fly larvae are fully developed and emerging as fully grown mature flies which then go and receive their first meal from the flowers of the arse weed.
Arse weeds are usually and annual plant as they are often dislodged after long enough.


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