This poem came out of the March 2, 2010 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from siege and jenny_evergreen. It was sponsored by xjenavivex. The setting is a planet called Botannia, the same as two previous unsold poems, "All Hail Botannia" (12/9/08 fishbowl) and "Post Script."
These are the elemental symbiotes of Botannia:
The Hydriaphilus sanguineus, or blood orchid,
cups its leaves to contain not water, but colloidal organisms.
We call them undines.
They sing beautifully.
Try not to listen.
It's how they kill their prey.
The Lucidiflorus igneus, or hellflower,
does not use nectar to attract its beautiful partner.
Each morning, just before dawn, the lucifers gather
around the nozzles of the flowers,
igniting and consuming the jets of methane emitted.
We know this burns away parasites.
We believe it also involves pollination,
but we have yet to pin down how.
The Lagenicaulis virosus, or bottle tree,
is more versatile. It can belch forth any gas.
Nothing can get near it but its pollinator, the shenlong,
which sleeps in the bottle tree's hollow trunk at night
and flies to a new tree each day.
As far as we know, the shenlong can breathe anything.
The Geonoma actinia, or compass root,
grows primarily underground with just a short trunk above.
It spreads out in a wheel, each main root flawlessly aligned
to one of the eight compass points.
Its seeds are distributed by the needle-wing, which never gets lost,
which is amazing given what a compass root does
to the navigation system of any vehicle that flies near one.
They can grow in total darkness. We haven't figured out
whether they're growing on magnetic or gravitic energy
or something else altogether.
Water and Fire, Air and Earth --
the classic elements can kill you on Botannia,
but they are still beautiful.