Here is an attempt of mine to create a whole new ecosystem for Thalassa: a huge tree where whole races and cultures may live and die without the need to touch the ground again.
The towering trees are huge, kilometers-tall, plants able to send their seeds on other planets. They need an high level of solar irradiation in order to maintain their huge metabolism, so most of those plants are found in the inner jungle planet of Thalassa's solar system, where dozens of trees cover large regions over most of the landmasses and the biggest specimens are able to reach 30 miles (50 km) in height and live for hundreds of millennia.
The planet of Thalassa is located at the cold end of the towering trees' habitat, so very few of their seeds manage to root on this world, usually not far from the equatorial belt, and always during interglacial periods. Even then, the fully grown trees are smaller and live far shorter than their brothers on the jungle planet, reaching a maximum height between 12 and 18 miles (20 to 30km) and living about 25000 years.
On Thalassa, a 18 miles tall tree is visible from about 420 miles or 680km away.
In the last 200000 years just four towering trees managed to root on Thalassa: three of them are now dead; a miles-high stump of the most recent dead tree still exists in the western part of the southern continent. Nowadays the only living towering tree on Thalassa is located in the southern part of the chinese-like continent.
The towering tree trunk is an impressive weaving of smaller branches and huge vine-like tendrils whose roots dig as far as the base of Thalassa's outer crust. The largest branches are as wide as 3m in diameter, mostly hollow inside; water and lymph flow inside the walls, making this wood very hard to be damaged by fire. The average base diameter of a towering tree is about 270 yards (250m), the trunk diameter is around 220 yards (200m) at its narrowest point.
The most impressive feature of a towering tree is its enormous network of branches spreading for dozen of miles around the top of the trunk. As the trunk itself, the largest branches are made of hollow interwoven smaller fibers; the whole network forms a huge vault extending in the sky as far as 20 miles (30km) all around the trunk itself. The land below the vault is somewhat shaded and so it is slightly cooler than the surrounding landscape but, due to the great altitude where most of the branches are located, the landscape is not much darker than its surroundings.
Whole ecosystems are hosted in the many levels formed by the trunk and the vault of branches. Water and minerals are pumped from the roots to the vault by hundreds of hollow trunk fibers; further water is collected from condensation upon leaves at different levels throughout the whole plants. Symbiotic and parasitic plants and fungi find their niches all over the towering tree, while hosting themselves a great deal of animals and lowlife.
The hollow ramifications are used as natural roads: most non flying creatures find them very useful to climb the trunk and reach the farthest branches, while the huge leaves of the vault are used as nests or staging platforms for winged and terrestrial creatures.
Sometimes the hollow ramifications along the trunk or a major branch enlarge forming hollow chambers as large as 30 yards (30m): many of them are settled and inhabited by intelligent and non-intelligent species. On all the four known towering trees many intelligent races built whole villages and towns.
Due to the extremely long lifespan of the hosting plant whole kingdoms and cultures may rise and fall on the tree, leaving their ruins scattered here and there among the branches, ready to be discovered and explored centuries or millennia later by newer civilizations.
The death of a towering tree (an event lasting decades due to the enormous size of the plant) is a true tragedy for most of its inhabitants, who die with the main plant or are forced to migrate in the surrounding territories to find a new home. A dying towering tree would slowly lose all its branches, starting from the smaller and most external ones, up to the top of the trunk; the fall of the largest and most internal branches may cause major disruptions in the lands below. Then the trunk slowly crumbles away leaving just a dried stump a few miles high which is utterly destroyed in a few centuries. The few detached branches who someway manage to survive the natural biodegradation process (usually the largest ones) turn into a stone-like material in about a decade, becoming permanent landmarks scattered around the former towering tree site .
The first towering tree to grow on Thalassa in the last two hundreds of millennia rooted in the equatorial belt of southwestern Kais around 162000 years ago, at the peak of the conflict between the neanderthals and the lizardfolks (who were aided by a race of sentient dinosaurs at the time). Lizardmen and similar creatures massively colonized the tree, using it as a stronghold and a center of power against the aggressive neanderthals of the neighboring mountains. Even after the nearby neanderthal menace was gone, some lizardfolk cultures continued to inhabit the towering tree until its death when it was about 25000 years old.
The second towering tree grew around 112000 years ago in the Arabian-like lands, in the final millennia of the First Age of Neanderthal. It was the farthest from the equator among the latest four towering trees and it died some 30000 years later.
The third towering tree rooted much later, around 20000 years ago, in the western tropical belt of the southern continent. By this time both Neanderthal Ages were over, and humans and other races were already settled in Thalassa. By year 0 of the Birhamian calendar (the crowning of the first emperor) the tree was about 18000m high and it was visible until 520km away. It was a short-lived tree and it died just 17000 years later, shortly after the abandonment of the sinking Taltinis' archipelago.
After the towering tree death large numbers of creatures fled the main plant and attempted to reach the fourth towering tree (conflicts with the local denizens arose), which rooted in the meantime in the southern part of the chinese-like continent (it happened about 10000 years ago), nearly half a world away from the dieing tree. The younger tree reached its maturity phase and stopped growing some 1000 years ago. It is believed it will die some 14000 years in the future.
The map below summarizes the location and lifespan of the four trees:
A full resolution image can be downloaded here
We left our old worlds, each of us. This is it. We can't go any farther. This is The Edge.
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