Guide to Xenobotany

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The Xenobotanist is a Scientist who grows and modifies exotic species of plantlife in Xenoflora.

Tools

  • Nutrients - Feeds your plants.
  • Bucket - Used to pour water (or other chemicals) into trays.
  • Pest spray - Removes pests from hydroponics trays.
  • Mini-hoe - Removes weeds from hydroponics trays.
  • Hatchet - Used to chop wood.
  • Plant Analyzer - Shows a readout of useful information concerning the plant.
  • Wire cutters or Scalpel - Used to take plant samples.
  • Flora data disk - Stores a single gene from a specific plant variety.

Genetics

Plants have twelve genes, labelled and ordered at random each round. Each gene represents a set of traits from the plant. These include:

  • Biochemistry: Which reagents the fruit contains; which gases the plant generates.
  • Hardiness: Endurance. Tolerance to toxins, pests, and weeds.
  • Environment: Plant's preferred temperature and light levels, and how much tolerance it has for changes in light level.
  • Metabolism: Whether the plant requires water or fertilizer. Whether it alters the ambient temperature.
  • Appearance: The "shape" of the plant. Also affects whether it can be harvested only once or multiple times.
  • Diet: Whether the plant consumes gases in its environment; whether the plant is carnivorous (eats pests) or eats tray weeds; how much water and fertilizer it consumes.
  • Pigment: The color of the plant and its fruit; the color of any bioluminescence.
  • Output: Whether the plant produces electrical power or bioluminescent light.
  • Atmosphere: The plant's tolerance for changes in temperature and pressure away from its preferred levels.
  • Vigour: How long the plant takes to mature and produce fruit. How much fruit it produces. Whether it can spread out of its tray.
  • Fruit: Whether the fruit is juicy and will splatter when thrown; whether the plant has stinging spines and will inject its reagents into anyone coming in contact with it.
  • Special: The ability to teleport the thrower or target when thrown.

A gene label from any given plant represents the same trait across all plants; in other words, if gene F6 represents "fruit" for tomatoes, it will also represent "fruit" for ambrosia.

Lysis-isolation Centrifuge

This piece of machinery accepts a seed packet or cutting as well as a data disk. When used to scan a seed, it destroys the seed in order to reclaim its genetic information, which can be loaded onto a data disk a certain number of times before the stored genome degrades completely.

Bioballistic Delivery System

When loaded with a data disk and a seed, this machine is used to apply the gene stored on the data disk to the loaded packet. It will overwrite the corresponding gene on the target packet. Seeds can only be overwritten a certain number of times before they degrade completely and can no longer be modified.

How to Modify Seeds

  • Identify your genes.
    • Pick two plants whose genes are very different from each other. Since all the plants from the seed vendors have the same Resistance, Environment, and Consumption genes, it helps if one of the plants is an exotic seed that you've planted and harvested more seed packets from, either through taking cuttings or by extracting seeds from fruit. If you don't have exotic seeds, you can mutate an existing species to have genes that are different.
    • Have four or five identical seed packets from each species.
    • Using the lysis-isolation centrifuge, add a seed packet from Species 1. Analyze the genome (this will destroy the seed packet!). Then add a flora data disk to the centrifuge and copy one of the genes onto the disk. Repeat this until you have a disk for each of the twelve genes. During this step, the genetic information in the lysis-isolation centrifuge will eventually be exhausted; you'll need to add and analyze another Species 1 seed packet to continue.
    • Using your plant analyzer, analyze Species 2 and make a note of its characteristics.
    • Put a seed packet from Species 2 into the bioballistic delivery system. Add one of your flora data disks with genes from Species 1, and apply the modification.
    • Eject the seed packet and analyze it again with the plant analyzer. Note which gene has changed. For example, if the plant from Species 2 now has a trait from Species 1, you know that's the trait you have transferred, and that that's the gene on the disk.
    • Label your disk with the gene, or make a note of which gene is which.
    • Repeat this with the other five disks, each time making a note of which gene is which. If the modified plant doesn't change at all, it's likely that you've transferred a gene that is identical in Species 1 and Species 2, or a gene that is not active in Species 1. Eventually, modifying any given seed packet will no longer be viable; the machine will tell you when that happens. You'll have to switch to a new seed packet.
  • Now that you have your genes identified, think about which genes you want to transfer from which plant to which. Typically, with exotic seeds, you'll want to make them viable for growing on the station.
    • Vigor is a good gene to transfer to plants that grow or produce fruit slowly. Choose a plant which produces fruit quickly or in large quantities and transfer the Vigor gene to the exotic plant. Vigor genes from a plant that doesn't grow kudzu-style can be transferred to one that does, to make these plants more manageable. (Or you could transfer the kudzu vigor gene to a non-spreading plant; we're not judging here.)
    • Environment genes from station-adapted plants will help the target plant to grow on the station.
    • Diet genes from plants that are particularly frugal, or which can eat weeds or pests, can be transferred to plants that don't.
    • Hardiness genes from resistant plants can be transferred to plants that are vulnerable to pests, toxins, or weeds.
    • Bioluminescence can be transferred from one plant to another via the Output gene.
    • The Biochemistry gene is special: Instead of replacing the gene on the target plant, it's added in. Your target plant will now produce fruit that contains chemicals from both fruit types. However, transferring a Biochemistry gene will result in a generally less vigorous plant with less potent fruit.

Dangerous Plants

Taming Kudzu

Kudzu, and other spreading vines, will spread from their tray into the lab. Given time and open doors, a vine plant could spread throughout the station. It will also entangle people who step into an area with thick growth, and may inject any chemicals from its fruit into the people it has entangled. Garden-variety kudzu isn't so dangerous; the dylovene it contains is not toxic. But beware the vine which contains cyanide.

To control a spreading vine:

  • Before you plant, modify a vine-type plant by splicing in a Vigor gene from a plant that doesn't spread.
  • Plant a vine-type plant in the isolation area of the Xenoflora lab.
  • A hatchet can cut down vines more quickly than most tools.
  • Plant-b-gone and other chemicals that kill plants can also kill vines.
  • A goat will eat vine plants quickly and effectively (but is also ornery enough to bite you). Order one from Cargo.
  • If the plant injects something poisonous, don't be where the vines are. Borgs are safe from poisonous substances.
  • If the plant has the trait that makes it very carnivorous, it will drain blood from people it captures in its vines. Once again, don't be where the vines are.

Atmospheric Hazards

Some exotic plants emit gases ranging from nitrogen to phoron. Some of these gases are dangerous only when the plant has created so much of them that the pressure in the room is dangerously high; others are dangerous even in small quantities.

To grow a plant that produces gas:

  • Always plant unknown exotic plants in an isolation tray connected to a port.
  • Your PDA includes an atmospheric scanner. Pull it up and monitor the air to detect gas-producing plants before you're unconscious or poisoned.
  • If a plant produces gas, toggle the tray lid on the tray. This will isolate the tray, but it may not be the kind of environment the plant likes. Plants grown in isolation trays with the lids up will need careful tending and a lot of diethylamine.
  • Call for Atmospherics if the problem has gotten bad enough to contaminate the room (an atmos alarm panel flashing orange or red).
  • If you were exposed to Phoron gas, leave the room immediately, decontaminate and get to Medical.

Tips and tricks

  • Your general purpose as a Xenobotanist is to find out which gene mask corresponds to which trait and use this info to make bizarre mutant plants.
  • You can click a disk in hand to clear the contents and reuse it. You have a limited number so keep an eye on them. More can be ordered from cargo.
  • Plants have varied traits. Using a given plant to isolate a specific trait may be worthwhile (i.e. kudzu for spread, poppies for lower nutrient and water consumption).
  • Other traits should be fairly easy to find (pigment trait will cause the target to change color, etc.).