The very first successful sophont plant provolves, the Alseid (named after the members of a group of nymphs in Greek mythology who presided over groves) are a form of sophont tree. They were provolved by a Pan-Sophontist group in the early fifth millennium A.T., on the world of Karmiti in the Pan-Sophontist League, but since then have spread quite far across Terragens space and diversified into a number of different sub-clades.
Externally Alseid appear to be trees much like any other. Although recognisably of no natural tree species, their appearance also varies depending on their home environment. Internally they are very different to unmodified trees. The rudimentary nervous system of a normal plant has been expanded and modified to provide a level of mental processing power equivalent to that of a baseline human, spread over a large number of ganglia throughout the tree. In addition to this, the normal senses of touch and the chemical senses of the unmodified plant have been retained and indeed enhanced in the Alseid; their sense of smell is their primary sense. Certain of the sensory hairs that cover the leaves of the Alseid have been modified to detect sound. Also, vegetable forms of a single element of an insect's compound eye has been engineered into the Alseid, and dot the veins of its leaves, providing all-round vision, although with rather low resolution. The roots of each Alseid reach out underground to neighbouring Alseid and often link and intertwine with those of neighbouring trees.
The Alseid have also been engineered with the ability to move their many limbs and branches much faster than a normal plant, giving them some ability to physically manipulate the environment around them. They often use this to 'garden' the ground around them, channeling water, weeding and so on. The clattering of their limbs together is a means by which the Alseid can communicate basic concepts to other Alseid.
They also have a highly developed system of chemical signalling and chemical defence, adapted from all of the chemical defences and signals used in unmodified plants. Chemical signals allows them to communicate with neighboring Alseid via their inter-linked roots, while chemical defenses and poisons allow them to prevent unwanted plants and animals from intruding on their space, and kill any existing plants in areas they wish to grow into, while also nourishing plants and animals they wish to encourage. This provides a second means by which the Alseid can manipulate the environment in their vicinity.
Alseid are hermaphroditic, and can be pollinated by birds, insects or the wind (precisely which depends on the sub-clade) in a spring flowering and breeding season. Each pollination results in one or two large seeds, which grow into new Alseid, effectively buds, while still attached to their parent. As they grow they learn from their parents and neighbors until they are ready to begin their own, independent lives. In some su-clades the buds are simply moved to their adult location by the Alseid themselves, carrying them in their branches. In others the buds float, and are distributed by water. In yet others they grow hydrogen-filled balloons over which they have control, and fly until they find a suitable location to root. In some cases also young Alseid will be moved so that they root where they give an advantage both to them and to others.
Alseid live in groups (forests), which they manage to their own advantage, forming social woods. They have plenty of time to think as they do this. Different Alseid sub-clades live in different environments, and vary in exact appearance and physiology depending on this. The economy of Prim and Ludd Alseid usually consists of trade in things found around one Alseid, transported by others to another who actually wants them, along with ideas, formulae for new chemicals, scent-based stories, song and poems, and so on.
Alseid with high technology often use technological communicators, as well as remote drones and utility fogs. Medium-technology Alseid are quite rare, as, with their acute sense of smell Alseid hate all forms of chemical pollution. For this reason they tend to be either low-tech or to use non-polluting high technology or, often, odd-seeming combinations of both.
Text by Tony Jones
Initially published on 14 September 2003.