Does anyone happen to recall the title or author of a science fiction novel with the following major plot elements?

My recollection, not a quote:

On an alien planet, whose plants are not green (lacking chlorophyll), and thus are less efficient and being outcompeted by introduced Earth plants. Later, however, a scientist genetically engineers the native life to also produce chlorophyll, resulting in a more efficient photosynthesizer, which then outcompetes the Earth plants, causing the nascent colony to starve as they cannot eat the alien plants.

I believe this book is also loosely linked to other books by the same author, via the main character.

  • 3
    This is somewhat similar to Bear's Legacy but enough different that it's probably not what you're looking for
    – Andrew
    Commented Dec 2, 2023 at 15:02
  • 1
    wow, that was quick! after reading summaries of Greg Bear's "Legacy", i'm convinced you're right. although i may specifically be thinking about an epilogue to the book or a short story based on the same.
    – Panderssen
    Commented Dec 2, 2023 at 15:31
  • 2
    UPDATE: i downloaded the book and searched for "chlorophyll" and read the last few pages, and this is definitely the book; thanks for your input!
    – Panderssen
    Commented Dec 2, 2023 at 15:36
  • I'll enter a full answer later today
    – Andrew
    Commented Dec 2, 2023 at 16:32

1 Answer 1


This is Greg Bear's Legacy which takes place primarily on a planet called Lamarckia because it appears that evolution happens by the Lamarckian process there (with entities' experiences affecting their descendants). On this planet, chlorophyll has not evolved, and there are actually only a very few creatures - but each creature is hundreds or thousands of miles in extent, with parts that appear to be individual planets or animals but are actually only fully-integrated portions of the larger creature. A human colony lives on the planet, and one scientist "teaches" one of the huge entities how to make chlorophyll, causing a transformation to an ecology much more like Earth's, but now inhospitable to humans.

A quote from the book:

The Wald's green oppresses me, as it did on Lamarckia, where we ran from continent to continent, and finally from island to island... Fleeing the power of the “name” of chlorophyll.

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