A plant originating on the asari homeworld. It is commonly called light-on-the-water, Thessian lanterns, harborlight, or viseka’s gift.
The plant is typically divided into three varieties: freshwater, saltwater, and terrestrial.
Common names: Starbursts, Marshlights.
While these plants can easily cover acres of relatively still fresh or brackish water - such as ponds, lakes, or salt marshes - the growth usually radiates from a few concentrated submerged root systems. Meaning a mile of plant life could easily originate from only a few dozen plants.
Leaves are thin, flat circular lobes that grow radiating from the central root system. Foliage color varies from pale blue to dark purple, depending on the temperature and amount of sunlight available. The fruit is made up of a ‘balloon’ or 'lantern' – a rounded pod divided into four air-filled chambers, each containing a few fleshy nodes that contain small dark seeds. They are only tethered to the mother plant by a single, thin stem, which allows them to float freely on the surface of the water. Upon ripening the pod bursts, scattering glowing capsules in all directions.
The residual glow attracts the attention of all manner of Thessian animal life, which proceed to eat the fruit. Stomach acids dissolve the fleshy outer shell and allow seeds to germinate once expelled from the body.
Common Names: Light-on-the-Waters, Viseka's Gift, Harborlight.
The saltwater plant grows mostly in saltwater marshes or sheltered harbours, and has historically guided many a seagoing vessel to safe waters that would have been missed due to dark or stormy conditions. Unlike its freshwater brethren’s method of exploding to spread seeds, ripe pods detach from the stems and are pulled away by the outgoing tide. At night this leads to the stunning view of hundreds – sometimes even thousands – of glowing blue ‘lanterns’ drifting through the surf.
The seeds are also slightly different. In each chamber of the fruit there is a single, hard black nut about the size of a marble. The sun and surf cause the hard outer shell to crack, allowing it to germinate.
Common Names: Thessian Lanterns, Glow-vines.
The climbing vine most familiar to interstellar inhabitants, Thessian Lanterns are a wonderful addition to any garden with a caretaker willing to shell out the credits for eezo-enhanced fertilizer. Hardy and adaptable to the point of being aggressive, it is only their reproductive need for eezo that prevents them from being banned on garden planets.
While obviously related, the climbing vines vary quite visibly from the aquatic growths. The pods naturally vary more in colour - instead of just bright blue, there are pink, maroon, and dark purple cultivars - with even more available to genetic manipulation.
There are also types that display star-shaped, spiky leaves that look almost like lace when viewed from afar. For this reason they are prized as garden plants, since they are visually interesting even when the fruit and flowers are not in season.
The climbing cultivar is by far the most popular of the three, and is often trained to grow over porches or around the edges of rooftops by asari socialites, since the little ‘lanterns’ offer festive flair..
Aficionados of the freshwater cultivar must resign themselves to Thessian-themed ponds, since most fish and plants would be killed by the eezo levels required to keep the fruit alight. Few ornamental ponds would be complete without the cool glow, though most gardeners find it necessary to purchase herbivorous Thessian fish to keep the aggressive growth under control.
While the freshwater and climbing varieties are easily domesticated and quite popular off-world, the saltwater cultivar has proved impossible to grow anywhere except Thessia.
In the arts, history, and tradition
As harborlight as a history extending almost to the earliest days of the asari, it has become entrenched in the legends and symbolism of their culture.
While the names for the plant vary almost as much as its area of cultivation, one term follows across every border: Viseka’s Gift. Legend has it that Viseka the Ever Maiden, embodiment of the sea, created the glowing ‘lanterns’ to guide her lover to safe harbour even on the darkest nights.
The dried seeds are often found washed up on beaches and fashioned into jewellery such as bracelets and necklaces. These are exchanged between young asari as tokens of friendship, and upon adulthood are popular gifts to lovers during the festival of Janiris. Young asari also play with the dried ‘lanterns’, using a trickle of biotic power to re-light the seeds within. For this reason the fruits are a symbol of childhood and innocence to most asari, even those who did not grow up on Thessia.
This symbolism shows up in many artistic works; most notably in the critically acclaimed holos Like Lights on the Water, and When the Lights Go Out, as well as the Night Wind series.
Jina Mas is usually depicted holding the glowing fruit, due to her connections with childlike mischief.