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A while ago I was reading a short story / novella, possibly part of an anthology. The Premise was: Human space explorers land on an alien world, and discovers a primitive species that is Stone Age in everything except for horticulture. This species was in fact, weirdly advanced, and weirdly obsessed over caring for their crops. Over time, the human explorers become increasingly worried, although nothing has posed any visible threat. At least one of the humans then figures out that the “crops” themselves are not only not native to the world they are on, but are also intelligent, and telepathic; and that they somehow came to this world long ago, and enslaved the evolving sentient natives to care for them.

This revelation creates a panic among the humans, who begin to fight among themselves on how to solve it. Several decide they should send a signal to earth to stay away, and destroy their ship to prevent the plants from ever leaving that world. However, at least one human succumbs to the plants dominance, and flees with the ship home to “warn earth” never realizing that their own primitive “fight or flight” response had been hijacked by the plants, to trick them into carrying seeds home to earth for colonization.

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    Sounds like a cross between two Asimov stories, "Each an Explorer" and "Green Patches". – Joe L. Nov 8 '16 at 0:09
  • It also sounds like it could have been the inspiration (depending on timing) for the "pod plants" from Star Trek. memory-alpha.wikia.com/wiki/Pod_plant – Eric McCormick Nov 8 '16 at 4:56
  • James Schmitz wrote a short story with a similar theme called "The Pork Chop Tree" where multiple planets were covered by a dominant plant which causes human colonists (and explorers) to 'go native' and/or take the plant home with them. The multiple planets were the colonies of a (now extinct) alien species who transplanted samples of the plant. – Mark Ripley Nov 27 '16 at 11:11
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Joe L. has nailed this in a comment. The story is Isaac Asimov’s short story “Each an explorer”.

In that story, a small crew of spacefaring humans find a planet where the local humanoid population seems generally peaceful and primitive, but aggressively defend a certain cereal plant that they grow in large quantities. The spacefarers speculate that the humanoids have a primitive religion where they treat those plants in a sacred way.

Eventually though, they realise that the plant is telepathically enslaving the humanoids to care for the plants. As they leave the planet, they find out in the spaceship that the plants have mind controlled even them. They seem to have gotten a lucky escape from the planet, and try to warn Earth. But as the final twist, it is revealed that they’re carrying the spores of the plant with them to Earth.

Smith laughed. “You know, you’re completely off base. If those plants really had us under control, why would they let us get away to warn the others?”

Chouns paused. “I don’t know.”

Smith’s good humor was restored. He said, “For a minute you had me going, I don’t mind telling you.”

Chouns rubbed his skull violently. Why were they let go? And for that matter, why did he feel this horrible urgency to warn Earth about a matter with which Earthmen would not come into contact for millennia perhaps?

He thought desperately and something came glimmering. He fumbled for it, but it drifted away. For a moment he thought desperately that it was as though the thought had been pushed away: but then that feeling, too, left.

He knew only that the ship had to remain at full thrust, that they had to hurry.

  • In "Green Patches", which I know under its original title "Misbegotten Missionary", the first ship to land is contaminated by the planet, with all infected offspring having patches of green fur for eyes. The captain send a message back to earth, then blows up the ship. A second mission takes precautions and seems uninfected, but unbeknownst to them, a stowaway is on board, impersonating a piece of wire. Unfortunately, it was a piece of wire in the circuit that opens the door after landing earth. Also see Wikipedia: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Green_Patches – SQB Nov 13 '16 at 18:29
  • They try to warn earth by radio, but not by trying to fly back. So they're not being used as a vector, as described in the question. – SQB Nov 13 '16 at 18:35

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