The wheel-tree, also spoken of as the seed-tree or seed-pod tree, was a species of plant native to the mulefa world.

Biology[edit | edit source]

Tree[edit | edit source]

The wheel-trees had deeply-ridged bark of a red-gold colour and were about half-again as tall as the redwood trees in California.[1] They had dark green, dense foliage, with leaves about a foot long and branches as thick as the trunks of the largest trees in Will's world.[2]

Reproduction[edit | edit source]

The wheel-trees produced relatively small, off-white flowers, which were fertilised by Dust. Coin-sized pods in the flowers eventually developed into their mature size.[3]

Seeds[edit | edit source]

The seed-pods were perfectly circular and about as thick as the width of a human palm. The pods were extremely hard but not heavy. They were covered in fibrous hairs so that one could run their hand along the surface easily in one direction, but not the other. The pods were attached to the tree at a deep, central depression and the lightly fragrant oil was accessible from this point.[1] Inside the seed-pods were many flat, oval-shaped, pale seeds about the size of a human's little fingernail.[4]

Use[edit | edit source]

Symbiosis[edit | edit source]

The wheel-tree plants had a symbiotic relationship with the mulefa. The mulefa used the seed-pods of these trees as wheels, which allowed them to move around with greater ease. By using them in this manner, the mulefa wore down the seed-pods until they broke open, releasing the seeds and carefully planting them.[4]

A further effect of this symbiotic relationship was that the oil released by the seed-pod during its use as a wheel gave the mulefa Dust and consciousness. The mulefa told Mary that the trees had been in decline for the three-hundred years before her arrival.[5] From the canopy, Mary was able to observe the movement of Dust away from the land and trees, threatening pollination, seed-pod production and the existence of the mulefa.[3]

The mulefa had a legend about how a young zalif was the first to have her mind opened to Dust when a serpent persuaded her to put her spur into a pod.[5]

Amber spyglass[edit | edit source]

Mary Malone used the wheel-tree oil on the amber lenses she had created to allow her to view Dust. The mulefa turned this into the amber spyglass by adding a bamboo tube to keep the lenses the correct distance apart.[3]

Cultivation[edit | edit source]

When Mary Malone left the mulefa world to return to her own, Atal gave her a bag of wheel-tree seeds.[6] She gave three of the seeds to a scientist at the Botanic Garden in Oxford where they grew well.[7]

Appearances[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 The Amber Spyglass, Chapter 7
  2. The Amber Spyglass, Chapter 35
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 The Amber Spyglass, Chapter 20
  4. 4.0 4.1 The Amber Spyglass, Chapter 10
  5. 5.0 5.1 The Amber Spyglass, Chapter 17
  6. The Amber Spyglass, Chapter 33
  7. The Amber Spyglass, Lantern Slide 5
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