The Arcpoint (Mojave) Forest is unique in the world. Its creators wanted a drought tolerant tree that could also handle salt laden marshes. It had to produce an abundant amount of large fruit on easy to harvest low branches. The Acacia tree was a perfect place to start. With a little genetic tweaking it would work fine.
There are a lot of great things about Acacia trees. They are fast growing—in the right climate—so are useful for producing lumber. Its wood is beautiful, durable, and water resistant, making it an excellent choice for woodworking. It’s as hard as oak or maple, so is used as bowls, plates, and other kitchen utensils such as spoons and ladles.
There are certain chemicals in the wood that ArcPoint found useful. It contained catechu, used as a food additive, and tannin, used for tanning hides and dying fabric. Gum Arabic had a lot of uses, from food to paint to adhesives. It also had chemical properties with various medicinal uses. Another chemical (salt) made them fire resistant.
There were some drawbacks of Acacia trees the developers had to deal with. Many species were thorny, and that was a risk to harvesters. They wanted trees, not shrubs, but many tree species grew upright. They needed branches the harvesters—manual laborers in most countries—could reach. They also wanted to produce larger fruit than what was currently available.
Selective breeding was too slow to bring about these and other changes, so they turned to gene splicing. No one knows how many experiments were performed, or what changes were made. When the RED-C shut down the Acacia Root Construct department, all of the research notes were either stolen or destroyed.
In the orchards of the Mojave, Dr. Norm Ashford and his men were testing blind. They were provided with root starts with only coded identification. The geneticists didn’t want the horticulturists giving any of the experimental trees preferential treatment. Years later, when the trees developed their unique characteristics, no one could discern what genetic changes had produced those changes. It was like Lewis and Clark returning to Washington D.C. with no maps of where they’d been.
Norm kept his own records, based on the ARC names provided. He knew ARC 3.7 grew better in planting three than planting five. ARC 4.14 took to grafting much better than ARC 4.4. Some starts didn’t survive, others were destroyed for having undesirable traits. But he left most of them to grow, just to see how time affected them. Something was wrong with that course of action. Cross-pollination between the various types of trees produced a unique variety. Rhizomes sprang out of the ground at the base of the trees as if it were a blackberry vine. That shouldn’t be possible, and Norm knew it.
He let it grow, curious to see what developed. It had thorns like a blackberry, but they were longer—like an Acacia normally would have. But these Acacias were specifically created to not have thorns. Like finding crabgrass in a lawn—this plant needed to be destroyed for the sake of the orchard. Norm’s scientific curiosity trumped his common sense. He studied the rhizomes for years as they flowered and fruited, rooted and spread.
It took two years for the rhizome to take root in a new location. Two more and it was producing fruit—berries which were similar to a Himalayan blackberry. Norm assumed it was showing traits of its genetic origins, but the rhizomes were much different than berry vines. They were round rather than ribbed, and solid like a tree branch rather than soft cored or hollow like bamboo. Consensus among the ArcPoint Community was, let the berries grow—they’re a blessing.
Then the unexpected happened. Six years after the first rhizome rooted in the desert soil, a tree grew out of the center of a bunch. It showed characteristics of some of the engineered varieties in the orchards, so Norm let it grow. The RED-C never intended for the rootstock to grow into trees, but that company was gone, and so were its rules. Norm knew the blackberries could be invasive, but in the desert that was unlikely. Plus, the tree didn’t have thorns like the rhizomes. So, he let this newcomer grow—and grow it did. It outpaced all of the grafted trees they had produced.
Years later there was a celebration in ArcPoint. Norm’s new tree had produced a crop of fruit—large seed pods. From the seeds they produced oil that was easy to refine, and when dried and crushed they got flour for baking. God had provided for their needs in the midst of the Mojave wilderness. They officially named it the Arcacia tree.
More of these trees had already sprung up, and the Community worked to encourage their growth. They did the same with the blackberries, relocating them to their homes and watering them. Nature helped too, with squirrels and birds scattering seed far and wide.
Many years later, Norm regretted what he allowed to happen. When rains came to the Mojave, the Arcacia trees exploded with growth. Competing for sunlight, some of the branches grew to over forty feet horizontally. Blackberry vines and rhizomes became a tangled mess. The ArcPoint community did not have enough tools to combat the growth.