I'm looking for a short story about a very old, giant tree that contains an extremely valuable substance at its heart. Don't recall if in a magazine or an anthology; perhaps 10 pages? In English. I guess 40-50 years ago.

The tree's planet is visited by a spaceship with three people: two not-nice male scavengers who intend to harvest the substance and a weaker man bullied by the other two. They find the tree, fallen over (I think maybe a giant storm toppled it?), and the two rip out its heart for the substance. Somehow the weaker person is left unconscious at the dying tree. The tree sends tendrils into him, observes that his makeup is inferior, and does various things to his body to strengthen him greatly. He then goes back to the ship and the two thug-types try to bully him further, but he's no longer the weak person he was, and demonstrates this--I think maybe (really weak recollection) by pressing his thumb into a metal bulkhead and deforming it.

I don't recall much else. It’s stuck with me for decades. Would love to find it again.

Thank you!


1 Answer 1


Posting over user14111's answer so that we have an answer outside of the comments.

"Hybrid", a short story by Keith Laumer, was the answer to another question. It was first published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, November 1961, which you can read at the Internet Archive. You might have read it in one of these compilations.

"The Yanda have a very strange reproductive cycle. In an emergency, the spores released by the male tree can be implanted in almost any warm-blooded creature and carried in the body for an indefinite length of time. When the host animal mates, the dormant spores come into play. The offspring appears perfectly normal; in fact, the spore steps in and corrects any defects in the individual, repairs injuries, fights disease, and so on; and the life-span is extended; but eventually, the creature goes through the metamorphosis, roots, and becomes a regular male Yanda tree — instead of dying of old age."

[. . . .]

"We made a deal. The Yanda gave me this — " Pantelle pressed a thumb against the steel bulkhead. The metal yielded.

" — and a few other tricks. In return, I'm host to the Yanda spores."

[. . . .]

Gault considered Pantelle's remarks.

"What about these 'proper conditions' for the spores?" he asked suddenly. "You wake up and find yourself sprouting some morning?"

"Well," Pantelle coughed. "That's where my part of the deal comes in. A host creature transmits the spores through the normal mating process. The offspring gets good health and a long life before the metamorphosis. That's not so bad — to live a hundred years, and then pick a nice spot to root and grow and watch the seasons turn . . ."

Gault considered. "A man does get tired," he said. "I know a spot, where you can look for miles out across the Pacific . . ."

"So I've promised to be very active," Pantelle said. "It will take a lot of my time, but I intend to discharge my obligation to the fullest."

Did you hear that, Yanda? Pantelle asked silently.

I did, came the reply from the unused corner he had assigned to the Yanda ego-pattern. Our next thousand years should be very interesting.

  • Ah, I've seen it go either way.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Sep 29, 2020 at 2:37
  • 1
    Instead of just copying the old answer, how about adapting it to the new question? You've got the part about the hero pressing his thumb into the steel bulkhead, but you haven't shown how the story matches the question regarding the bullying, the big storm, the valuable stuff in the tree.
    – user14111
    Sep 30, 2020 at 9:03
  • Yes! @user14111--you got it exactly! "Hybrid" by Keith Laumer is indeed the story I was thinking of. And thank you for the link to "The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, November 1961" in the Internet Archive. I just reread it and it's as wonderful as I remember it. <br/> You were also the person who identified another story for me, "Metamorphosite" by Eric Frank Russell. You have quite the memory.
    – R. Hoffman
    Oct 2, 2020 at 5:23
  • And thanks to @FuzzyBoots too! Best to you all.
    – R. Hoffman
    Oct 2, 2020 at 5:31

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