Image from Steve Bowers

These giant plants from the planet Trees, known as skywracks, are up to a kilometre in height. Most species have several canopy layers, and the uppermost are supported by gas-bladders. Each canopy layer supports a distinct ecology of animals and epiphytes. Strong flexible vines anchor the tops of the trees against the relatively light winds on this low gee world.

An individual skywrack may have twenty or thirty closely spaced trunks and many more anchor vines; those species which grow in the shallow seas have sturdy underwater root systems. Water for the uppermost parts of the tree — basically anything above 180 metres — is collected from rainfall in large aerial ponds or reservoirs; the rainfall is guided into the reservoirs along spiral watercourses running down the trunks. This means that the giant Trees are highly dependent on rainfall, and only regions where rainfall is abundant can support the larger skywrack species.

At ground level it is difficult to see far, as there are so many trunks and branches and leaves and vines in the foreground; the understory supports almost no photosynthesis (the various canopies block out most of the light). Instead the understory has a decomposer-detritivore based ecology, supported by dead leaves, animal droppings etc from above, and with many organisms being able to burrow, or living underground, as protection against the forest fires. The seed-pods of the Trees are often massive, hence the need for fire to trigger growth.

Seed-pods are used in crafts and decoration by the locals, as gourds, or carved into various forms. The largest are hollowed out into one room dwellings, called plakts.

Skywracks are home to a number of arthropod-like species, including the semi-sophont Pspyders, and the Honeywhips.

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Development Notes
Text by Steve Bowers
Initially published on 21 October 2009.