Crooked Cushio

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The Crooked Cushio is descended from riparian populations of the Cushion Bush. It is named for its mildly crooked, somewhat finger-like branches and often asymmetrical trunks.

Crooked Cushios have the thickest bark (proportionate to trunk diameter) of its relatives, though not by much. Unlike its relative, the Trident Cushio, it rarely has tiny, scar-like cuts on its stem: the scaly thickenings on its trunk protect its interior tissue. Like the Trident Cushio, its roots are pretty woody, something like an over-mature carrot.

It grows about 0.20 m a year, taking about 7.1 years to reach full size. Though Crooked Cushios and Trident Cushios are closely related and have overlapping habitats, specimens of the same age can have discrepancies in sizes due to different developmental speeds, growth periods, and responses to environmental stress. The two co-exist due to differing tolerances of soil types, sunlight needs, ability to capture water, and different responses to predators.

Environmental Interactions

The Crooked Cushio has legume-like root nodules which host nitrogen cycle microbes, chiefly Globanitrates. The root nodules are all around the length of its multiple taproots. Further down, the root nodules have less access to oxygen.

The Crooked Cushio is more tolerant of clay soil than the Trident Cushio, although it will perish early on in pure-clay soil. Unlike the Trident Cushio, it can germinate and grow in somewhat rocky soils: its roots simply grow around small rocks.

Although it spread to Darwin Temperate Woodland afterward, the many trees already there successfully compete against it, making its distribution patchier and limited to low-nitrogen areas, higher-clay areas, and lowlands. Of its contemporary relatives, it is the least tolerant of shade, although it nonetheless can endure light shade.

Ecological Interactions

As it lacks true wood, the entire plant is digestible to any herbivore equipped to deal with somewhat difficult-to-digest foods. The sprouts especially are pretty tasty and digestible, like sunflower sprouts. At about a year old, the Crooked Cushio seedlings develop somewhat bark-like, scaly thickenings on their stems, which are hard like carrots. At this point, the scales make the stems harder and more unpleasant to eat, at least for herbivores used to tender foodstuffs. Where it co-occurs with Trident Cushios, at this age would-be herbivores are more likely to eat its same-aged Trident Cushio relatives. The Crooked Cushio’s low defenses and relatively slow growth rate would be more of a problem if it had more predators.

In the scale of secondary succession of a habitat, these dominate the riparian landscape in stages 5–6, but become less common as huge crystalflora trees mature. They thrive when roaming bands of herbivorous tauroks (Forest Centaurok, Gigantaurok) strip branches of crystalflora trees’ crystal-leaves, giving them more sunlight.


Crooked Cushios reproduce like their ancestors: through long, structures, called "ketkins" for their resemblance to Terran catkins. These are longer and thicker than the Cushion Bush, and comparatively more catkin-like. As a hermaphrodite, it produces both and male and female ketkins. Early in its reproductive season, it produces only thin, string-like male ketkins, and shifts later on to exclusively female ketkins. The exact timing of the shift varies among individuals.

Male ketkins are spread by the wind, get caught on the branches of other Crooked Cushios, and fertilize the female ketkins. Female ketkins then develop tiny, lightweight “seeds” (actually short ribbons of tissue), and dry up, and the entire structure is carried by the wind somewhere else.


On rare occasions, Crooked Cushios and Trident Cushios may hybridize, but their different sub-habitats, slightly different reproductive seasons, and availability of male or female flowers impedes this. Hybrids are even rarer in Darwin Temperate Woodland, as the distributions of each species is patchier there to begin with. Furthermore, as their reproduction is dependent on the wind, in environments dense with much taller flora (especially Darwin Temperate Woodland) their catkins can’t go as far and so are less likely to end up in sub-habitats with different soil types.

Cushio genetics are surprisingly complicated. Hybrids don’t always inherit the “best” traits of each parent or useful intermediates, and may end up with useless selections of traits. (e.g., inheriting Trident Cushios’ low clay tolerance but ending up in half-clay soil near a Crooked Cushio parent)