Fox Glove (Vulpagere chlorothanatos)
A specialised takakiopsid moss, the Fox Glove infects canines and occasionally other carnivorans like skunks, racoons, cats and bears, though its life cycle is best suited for the cursorial hand anatomy of the former. It has a dual lifecycle:
- The first stage occurs in damp forest or wetland environments, where the spores usually end up. It produces a small stalk, usually isolated from others by at least 30 cm square, which is active for the first few weeks until it falls into a dormant state, covered in toxins and barbs as to prevent predation from invertebrates. It can lay within this state for several years, which is usually enough for a canine to step on it.
- Once this happens, stage two begins. The plants barbs release enzymes that pierce the host’s skin, allowing rhizoids to spread into the blood stream. Nourished by the blood sugars and nutrients, these ‘roots’ spread far and wide within the blood vessels, some finding anchor points as deep as the wrist and ankle joints. Once this happens, the plant begins to produce a series of stalks that spread under the skin and eventually erupt though the hair pores. In a period of two weeks, the stalks will have replaced the host’s fur on the hand and foot, looking like fluffy green gloves. The distressed victim may attempt to dislodge them, but a combination of photosynthesis and parasitisng the proteins, fats and collagen means that the new green mat is permanent.
The infection has immediate negative impact on the host. Stripped of specialised fur and oils, the limbs are no longer capable of insulation, and only particularly thick mats prevent frostbite and hypothermia. Further, like most mosses the Fox Glove produces noxious carcinogenic coumpounds, meaning that the risk of cancer is much higher for the host. Conversely, some of the toxins it produces do kill cancer cells en masse, but with a heavy toll on antibodies and red blood cells.
The ensuing host therefore lives a relatively short life, but all the while the plant produces and releases massive quantities of spores. Supported by the hosts nutrients and water and able to take advantage of its locomotion to cover larger areas, this reproductive stragey is extremely successful, and indeed it has existed for as long as canines themselves have.
Bowelburster Tree (Typhoena spp.)
A clade of podocarps, the Bowelburster Trees occur in South America, South Africa and Oceania, preffering seasonal climates. They produce seemingly typical red fruits, with lower toxicity than other podocarp fruits and occuring only during the dry season (tropical environments) or autumn/winter (colder environments). They thus offer tantalising treats to starving frugivores, particularly birds. With a smooth, oily skin hard to grasp, most animals are forced to consume the fruits whole, sealing their own doom.
As it reaches the intestines, the seed germinates, and quickly begins to grow as its roots attach to the surrounding tissues. Absorbing both nutrients and undigested food within the bowels and soon releasing enzymes that digest the host’s own tissues (partly sequestered from the host’s own stomach acids), the sapling quickly erupts from the guts, killing its host within a few hours or days, before sunlight finally touches its leaves. Plants skillfully avoid the host’s bones while growing through proccesses not entirely understood but likely as a form of phototropism.
As soon as the plant stalk erupts from the now dead host’s skin, its roots quickly begin to grow exponentially. Some anchor themselves into the host’s bones, slowly breaking apart the calcium deposits for the Bowelburster’s own use, while others emerge to attach themselves on the outside location. Be it other trees, rocks, normal soil or even large animals, the roots do fine, the host providing them enough nurtrients to quickly adapt to their environment. Should it be normal soil the tree grows as normal; should it be rock the tree’s roots break apart the rock and grow deeply within it; should it be another lifeform the tree’s enzymes allow the roots to exploit either another tree or another animal host.
The Bowelbursters can reach heights of up to 40 meters, but usually grow no taller than 20. It has palm-like fronds, amidst which its fruits grow abundantly like berries.
Chestburster Tree (Tartaroginkgo vanus)
The Chestburster is a boreal ginkgo that produces white fruits superficially similar to those of mistletoe. Sticky and aromatic, they are produced twice an year: during winter months or during late spring and summer. During the latter if smaller trees are present they fall after a period of five days, sticking to the smaller plant, often unto larger fruits. Either out of desperation in winter or by accident when eating other fruits in summer, birds and mammals soon finding their throats burning. The fruit’s viscous liquid and flesh is expelled, allowing the seed to both glue itself on the esophagus and to decrease in size as to not block the passage of food, even sliding down to the host’s stomach. Roots and stem alive perforate the esophagus wall, the former reaching the lungs and anchoring themselves to them while the latter moves in the direction of the victim’s chest or throat, avoiding the bones esophagus and trachea via phototropism. The victim dies relatively quickly as its lungs and heart are dissolved by the roots, though sometimes they remain alive after the sapling has breached the skin.
Like the Bowelburster, the Chestburster is highly adaptive, being able to grow on normal ground, acidic fenland, rocks or the bodies of other trees and animals. It reaches heights of 30 meters and has Y shaped leaves to cope with the colder climates of the north.