Veriformans are a taxon of vascular plant visually similar to the elephant ear (although it is unknown if the two plants are evolutionarily related) which lived during the Cretaceous period. Very little is known about its paleobotanical history due to the fact that it is a fictional plant.
The name “veriforman” translates to “true form” from Latin. Dr. Ellie Sattler‘s use of the term suggests that the species belongs to a clade called Veriforma.
It is one of the first plant species to have been brought back from extinction, being cloned by International Genetic Technologies for the Jurassic Park theme park on Isla Nublar, Costa Rica sometime before June 1993. It is unknown whether it is still extant following the June 2018 eruption of Mount Sibo.
While only the leaf of the veriforman is seen, it is portrayed growing on plants several feet tall and with long, sturdy green stalks. The leaves themselves are broad, with a slightly serrated margin, and are roughly spade-shaped. They have reddish veins branching off of the center.
The growth rates of veriformans are not known. Each one most likely begins its life as a seed, but like its growth rate, the stages through which it grows are unknown at this time.
Some plants exhibit sexual dimorphism, but it is not known if veriformans do. It may be dioecious or monoecious, depending on whether male and female reproductive organs are present on the same plant.
It is unknown where in the world the veriforman lived prior to its extinction in the Cretaceous period, but it most likely coexisted with insects that drank its fluids in order for InGen to recreate it. Likewise, it would have needed to grow in forested areas where the insects (or possibly parts of the plant itself, such as its pollen) could have become entrapped in tree resin and fossilized as amber. As it flourishes near the Jungle River on tropical Isla Nublar, it can be concluded that its original habitat was in a wet, warm climate.
After its recreation at Jurassic Park, the veriforman grew in the southern region of Isla Nublar near the Jungle River‘s southwestern reach. It is unknown if it grew anywhere else, but it may have been present in some herbivore paddocks as both decoration and a source of food.
It is unknown if any survived until 2015, as none were identified at that time. If any did survive, or were created again, they would likely have been present in Jurassic World‘s Botanical Gardens. It is most likely that they became extinct during the June 23, 2018 volcanic eruption of Mount Sibo.
It is unknown if any veriformans were cloned on Isla Sorna, though it is likely that they were; however, there is no evidence that they were ever introduced to the wild there, or that they survived after the island was abandoned.
Behavior and Ecology
Most plants perform photosynthesis during the day, and rest at night. Some plants may utilize crassulacean acid metabolism (a process by which carbon dioxide is obtained during the night to avoid loss of water). It is not known if CAM is used by veriformans.
Diet and Feeding Behavior
Like the majority of plants, veriformans most likely gain much of the nutrition they need from photosynthesis. Carbon dioxide and water are obtained by the plant, typically through microscopic pores in the leaves called stomata. Light energy is used to produce carbohydrates; oxygen is also produced as a waste product.
The specific nutritional requirements of veriformans are unknown.
While many plants interact with one another using chemical signalling, it is not known if the veriforman utilizes any such method.
In the Cretaceous period, flowering plants had first begun to evolve along with numerous animals that assist in pollination. However, it is not known if veriformans are flowering plants, or if they used more primitive methods to disperse their seeds.
Most plant species use hormones and other chemical signals to communicate. It is not known what kind of signals veriformans may use to communicate with one another, or with other species.
It is likely that some insects such as mosquitoes fed on the fluids of this plant species during the Cretaceous period, as this is probably how InGen obtained its DNA. However, it is not known if any modern insects favor this plant. It may have provided food to herbivores in the form of its large leaves, but none are depicted feeding on it.
Jurassic World’s greenhouses were supplied with fertilizer made from herbivorous dinosaur dung, such as that of Brachiosaurus. If the plant still existed by 2004, it would have been grown in soil fertilized with the dung of these animals.
The veriforman was the first de-extinct species encountered by the 1993 endorsement tour at Jurassic Park, and so acted as a kind of demonstration that de-extinction of Mesozoic life was possible. While paleobotanist Dr. Ellie Sattler marveled at the existence of this Cretaceous plant, most of the guests in Jurassic Park found the de-extinct animals to be more fascinating. Even Dr. Sattler did not mention the plant again after encountering the Park’s dinosaurs.
This was one of the de-extinct species bred for Jurassic Park in the 1980s and 1990s, and the first confirmed species of de-extinct plant. It was cultivated with a good degree of success in the wild on Isla Nublar and was seen growing with relatively little protection from the elements, suggesting that this tropical offshore island closely mimics the plant’s long-extinct habitat. Unfortunately, little is known about how to grow this species in captivity.
Plants do not often fossilize as well as animals because of their lack of hard anatomy, making paleobotany a more difficult science than vertebrate paleontology. Bringing this plant back from extinction would have enabled scientists to better study it, revealing information about the evolutionary history of plants that would have otherwise remained unknown. It would also be of interest to geneticists, being one of the first plants to become de-extinct. Like the animals cloned by InGen, its DNA would have decayed over the millions of years, necessitating the insertion of replacement genes to fill in areas of the genome that were unrecoverable.
While de-extinction remains controversial, the veriforman specifically has not garnered much attention in the debate. It is not particularly harmful and its growing range appears to be restricted to tropical regions, making it of little concern.
This plant was grown as a decorative species to provide authenticity to Jurassic Park in the 1990s, though the park never successfully opened. The de-extinct animals were considered much more of a draw, however, since they were active and charismatic as opposed to the plant’s humble sedentary existence.
Humans would have had to care for the plant after bringing it back from extinction; like many of the animals, InGen would not immediately have known how to properly provide for it. As a result, it is highly likely that the plant often suffered under inadequate care. If it was still alive when Jurassic World was constructed, it would have been housed in the Botanical Gardens. With more experience and information available to them, Jurassic World’s staff would have been better equipped to care for the veriformans until the park was shut down in late 2015.
Like de-extinct animals, most plants are probably sources of unique biopharmaceutical compounds that could be beneficial to medical science. What properties the veriformans possess are not yet explored.
At the moment it is unknown whether the veriforman poses any hazard to humans. The parts of some plants are poisonous if consumed, though the veriforman’s leaf and stem can be handled without any ill effect, so it is not toxic on contact. It could be a potential allergen, especially if it has wind-borne pollen, but so far no humans have experienced an allergic reaction to this species.
Behind the Scenes
In the original Jurassic Park script, this plant was referred to as a “vermiform,” a word which means “worm-like” and also does not match any real plant species. The name was changed to “veriforman” in the final film, possibly in reference to Serenna veriformans being used in the novel. The species S. veriformans is a real species of fossil fern, though it is from the Triassic rather than the Cretaceous like the fictional veriforman; in addition, the veriforman is not a fern.
The Jurassic World official website’s page on the botanical gardens mentions a Jurassic vermiform as one of its floral inhabitants, likely a reference to the older Jurassic Park script.