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Spirit of the Wind
Chromoflora, also known as rainbow death plants (in English) or kaxalth (in most dominant Rixarn languages), is a genus of Terraphyta that has taken the light detection properties of most Terraphytes to its extreme: Color vision. The kaxalth uses a variety of photosynthetic pigments that respond to specific wavelengths of light; examined closely the plant is a mosaic of tiny cells of color. While their color vision would look thoroughly bizarre to us, for the kaxalth it works wonders, and the genus is capable of using its vision to spot prey and predators.
All species of kaxalth, save one (a species that primarily eats fruit and nuts) are carnivorous, as well as photosynthetic. They are sit-and-wait predators, relying on their bright colors (many of which are echoed by Terraphytes that are trying to attract pollinators that are more motile than they) and periods of production of a sweet nectar-like substance to lure in prey close enough to be entangled with their barbed tendrils, and pulled in to the central pad, where digestive enzymes are excreted to break down the prey and the remains are scraped off using a specialized pair of tendrils. Kaxalth have a structure analogous to a primitive nervous system, much like that of a Venus fly trap native to Earth. This is essential for removing undigested materials from the central pad; the fact that the genus grows in moist rainforest also helps keep the plants clean. Chromoflora tendrils are extremely strong; they went from being used to drag the gensus’ ancestors along the ground to being used to climb up cliffs, before Chromoflora went back to being ground-dwelling (for the most part—Chromoflora hyle is arboreal). Once an organism is grabbed by a tendril, other tendrils will quickly wrap around the organism, and the organism will then be repeatedly slammed up against a nearby object, such as the ground, until it is dead. While this uses a lot of energy for large organisms, Chromoflora has a success rate of approximately 95% for such large organisms, once it begins the work of grabbing the creature with a tendril and attempting to kill it.
At random times during the year, a large percentage of kaxalth will cease capturing prey. The time of year is determined by a pheromone cascade; a kaxalth species capable of going without meat for several months will eventually begin to release the pheromones. These pheromones promote the release of pheromones in other kaxalth of the same species, and eventually all kaxalth of a single species that are capable of not eating animal protein for several months without starving will go into into a hibernation-like state, where they will excrete larger than normal amounts of nectar, which carries the seeds of kaxalth. The nectar is so nutrient-rich that many creatures will risk the plant not hibernating to try and feed on it—and this, coupled with the random timing of the hibernation, results in kaxalth having a dependable population of creatures willing to waltz right up to it to try and feed on the nectar.
Like all Terraphytes that see, kaxalth use their chloroplasts to detect light levels by monitoring sugar production by chloroplasts, not completely dissimilar from how other light sensitive pigments are used by Earthly life to see. The main question in kaxalth evolution is exactly how pigments that are usually found distributed evenly in Terraphytes, and are useless for most complex visual tasks, became so highly developed in Chromoflora.
While the florid kaxalth (C. chromoflora) is by far the most vivid of the kaxalth species,1 even displaying bioluminescence under certain circumstances to attract visually oriented night pollinators, all kaxalth species are brightly colored, a necessary by-product of having three different photosynthetic pigments (chlorophyll a, phycocyanin, and xanthophyll) organized in individual cells. The resulting pattern is actually slightly nauseating to many humans, though the Trax find it quite beautiful, if very deadly.
C. hyle species group
C. rewsus species group
1. The florid kaxalth has not three, but four, photosynthetic pigments, with the extra being eumelanin. This is believed to be due to several prey animals consumed by the florid kaxalth having toxins that originally evolved to fend off Xenoserpentes (a far more common predator). The prey animals displayed warning patterns in ultraviolet light, which Xenoserpentes could see.
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