#4809 + #4810

Nendo + Dango

Two tepary beans in a pod. Two tarballs bobbing on the water. Nobody's really sure where Nendo and Dango came from, but their arrival is announced by the unmistakable sound of "Wheek! Wheek! Wheeeeek!"

Their trackers are meant to be read jointly. View the original here!

This version is only for gameplay purposes.



Dango. He's a small, guinea pig-like esk with the most sour expression on his face. His coat is dusty grey, and he has a white bib and mask. Creosote leaves and flowers sprout here and there around his neck area, while a basket claw seedpod is caught in the nape of his neck. Its formidable 'claws' poke out like tusks in front of Dango's chest and face.
Origin: Trespasser
Nature: Prickly
Boundary: Sonoran Desert uplands
Size: Unmanageable
Nature Features: Creosote
(Larrea tridentata),
Basket claw
(Proboscidea parviflora)

The Arid Biome badge.

◆ Growth Points ◆

0 GP

GP Log


◆ Personality ◆

Dango is the “grumpy” one. He’s ornery and mistrustful by nature, but it’s not his fault that everyone around him is too big, too loud, and too nosy.

He prefers to keep to himself and go about his own business: napping in the shade, stashing away seeds, burrowing in the cholla, chasing wrens from his turf... Dango leads a solitary life, and that’s just how he likes it.

What he doesn’t like is other esk intruding in his day. Though Dango sometimes makes a big fuss, rumbling and posturing at those who bother him, most ghosts just get the silent treatment. It helps that he’s stubborn as a rock, too– easy to bother, but difficult to provoke. He is tolerant only of those who respect his space and know how to keep their mouths shut. Even then, he will choose alone time over quiet companionship, most of the time… Most of the time.

◆ Boundary ◆

Lush Sonoran Desert scrub with prickly pear, yucca, jojoba, and many tall grasses and shrubs in the foreground. Saguaro and ocotillo can be seen in the middle distance. In the background are two flat-topped mesas, Sugarloaf Mountain and Skull Mesa.Sugarloaf Mountain and Skull Mesa © Al_HikesAZ

The sheer escarpments of the Superstition Wilderness. LaBarge Creek cuts a dramatic canyon into the landscape, with typical Sonoran Desert scrub rolling around it. The mesquites, palo verdes, and saguaros are green with rain. Visible in the distance is Weaver's Needle, a sharp, protruding rockform that looks a lot like its namesake.Superstition Wilderness © Al_HikesAZ

A vista from Black Canyon Trail, overlooked by a blooming saguaro. True to its name, a black basaltic cliff shadows the river below. The willows and cottonwoods form a verdant green belt through the surrounding desert.Black Canyon Trail © Kevin

Dango lives in a region of the Sonoran Desert called the Arizona Uplands. True to its name, it’s part of the northernmost stretch of the Sonoran Desert, which reaches into the U.S.-Mexico border and south-central Arizona.

The Sonoran Desert is characterized by its lush, subtropical desert ecology, which is diverse in species, landscapes, and peoples. The Arizona Uplands are a relatively cool and moist subdivision of the desert, a high-altitude fringe that borders neighboring grasslands, pinyon-juniper woodlands, and other montane communities.

Some say this region actually resembles thornscrub–the grey area between desert and tropical deciduous forest–more than it does a true desert. The tropical heritage of the Sonoran Desert is written plainly in its assembly of plants and animals, many of which trace their ancestry to the seasonally moist forests that would have lived here in the Eocene and early Miocene. Aptly described by biologist Thomas R. Van Devender:

Thornscrub could [...] be called the “mother” of the Sonoran Desert, and tropical deciduous forest its “grandmother” or “great aunt!”

Standing at the gateway of South and Central America to North America, the desert is home to great human diversity as well. In fact, its long history of human stewardship is closely linked with some of the desert's most stunning examples of biodiversity. A’al Waipia (Quitobaquito springs) and Ki:towak are two oases on the U.S.-Mexico border that have been managed by the O’odham and their predecessors since time out of mind. As ethnobotanist Gary Paul Nabhan puts it:

Quitobaquito is naturally diverse, but its diversity has also been enhanced rather than permanently harmed by centuries of human occupation. Prehistoric Hohokam and Patayan, historic Tohono O'odham, Hia c-ed O'odham, Apache, Cucupa, and Pai Pai visited Quitobaquito for food and drink long before European missionaries first arrived there in 1698. Since that time, a stream of residents from O'odham, Mexican, Jewish, and Mormon families have excavated ponds and irrigation ditches, transplanting shade and fruit trees alongside them. They intentionally introduced useful plants, and accidentally brought along weedy camp-followers, adding some fifty plant species to Quitobaquito over the centuries. Native birds and mammals have also been affected by human presence there, and some increased in number during the days of O'odham farming downstream from the springs. All in all, Quitobaquito's history demonstrates that the desert's cultural diversity has not necessarily been antithetical to its biological diversity; the two are historically intertwined.

From the canals of the Hohokam, to the dryland farms of the O’odham, to the wild stands of domesticated agave left behind by the Sobaipuri, a very human story is written in the environmental story of the Sonoran Desert.

A monsoon storm blows through the Sonoran Desert, under the Santa Catalina Mountains. The curtain of rain glows auburn in the sunset.Santa Catalina Mountains © Kevin

A typical Sonoran Desert assembly: Saguaro, creosote, jojoba, and brittlebush in the foreground, with prickly pear, palo verde, ocotillo, and perhaps mesquite in the background.Sonoran Desert Habitat © brewbrooks

One of the Salt River Valley's many mountains. An especially wet year has carpeted its slopes in green, while a cloud scrapes its belly low over the peak.Dreamy Draw by yours truly

◆ Nature Features ◆

Creosote. It's a scrawny, winding bush with lots of negative space between its boughs, looking maybe more like a bonsai than a bush. The bark is grey and knotted in even intervals, like a ruler, and the leaves have been turned golden-green after a rainless winter. The skeleton of a cholla lies beneath the creosote bush, while the grassland rolls on around it.Larrea tridentata © fishaspey

Countless creosote rings in a low, gravelly valley, near the Doña Ana Mountains.South-southeast of the Doña Ana Mountains © Patrick Alexander

Creosote nestled among what looks like saltbush and horseweed or arrowweed.Larrea tridentata © radinis

Şegai (O’odham) tsaatsakw’hunvi (Hopi) ’iivse (Piipaash) creosota, gobernadora, hediondilla (Spanish) creosote, greasewood (English) Larrea tridentata sprouts from Dango’s fur. Creosote holds up the world around it as the foundation of lowland desert communities in the Sonoran, Mojave, and Chihuahuan deserts. They’re absurdly common and easily overlooked, but those with a discerning eye can appreciate their wide array of ethnobotanical uses and generally tough-as-nails outlook on life. (They're also responsible for the wonderful scent of the desert after rain, so there’s that!)

A detail shot of the leaves and bark of the creosote bush. The bark is steely-grey and knotted at even intervals, like a ruler. The leaves are a warm green and always come in twos, a bit like mermaid tails.Larrea tridentata © direwolfplayz

Detail of creosote flowers. They're bright yellow, with 5 petals and prominent, hibiscus-like anthers.Larrea tridentata © stevedudrow

Detail of a creosote with seedpods. The pods are small, circular, and extraordinarily fuzzy, coloring them grey-white.Larrea tridentata © tyazzie21

As a creosote bush grows old, the eldest parts of the plant will die. When this happens, the crown of the plant splits into two identical clones. Successive splittings will eventually form a ring of genetically identical plants. Given enough time and the right environment, these rings can achieve something very close to immortality–clonal colonies of creosote are some of the longest-lived organisms on Earth. One individual, King Clone, is estimated to be ~11,700 years old.

A dessicated basket claw plant. All that remains is the two-pronged stalk of the plant, where its dried seedpods hang. The seedpods are sort of Y-shaped, with two massive 'claws' protruding from the main pod. They are shaped sort of like elephant tusks, curving circularly back on themselves.Proboscidea parviflora © aspidoscelis

A comparison of the immature seed pods with a mature seed pod. The immature ones are fleshy and green, with only one 'claw.' The mature seed pod has split open from its casing, and is hard, woody, and dark brown, with two 'claws.'Proboscidea parviflora © T.K. Naliaka

Ripe basket claw fruit. They are shaped sort of like a pepper, but with a strong, curling tip, and peach fuzz all over.Proboscidea parviflora © finzelflowers

I:hug (O’odham) kwaxthon (Piipaash) halaaka (Havasupai) cuernitas (Spanish) basket claw, devil’s claw, doubleclaw (English) Proboscidea parviflora hangs on the nape of Dango’s neck. An early candidate for domestication, the claw-shaped seed pods are used to create the black designs in basketry. The root, seeds, and immature pods are edible, as well

A basket claw plant. It has big, billowy leaves like a gourd, but grows a strong Y-shaped stalk.Proboscidea parviflora © beelzebug

A basket claw flower. It's cup-shaped, sort of like a morning glory, with a yellow interior and white exterior. Two dark, purple spots are printed on the topmost petals.Proboscidea parviflora © mgbranstetter

Basket claw flowers resting on a billowing canopy of leaves. These ones are violet, with dark purple spots.Proboscidea parviflora © hydaticus

Basket claw is also thigmatropic–that is, it can move in response to physical contact. The stigma of the flower snaps shut when disturbed, in order to trap pollen from pollinators.

◆ 粘土団子 ◆


Nendo and Dango were named by Dr. Harlowe, after 粘土団子 ("nendo dango.") Taken alone, nendo means clay, and dango is a sort of dumpling formed into a ball. Together, nendo dango are hand-shaped balls of soil and seeds that are popular in environmental restoration projects. They’re also known as seedballs, earth balls, and seed bombs.

While Nendo and Dango are full of cavy mischief when they’re alone, their true potential is only realized in each other’s company. Meetings between the two spirits are filled with pure joy: they openly romp, wrestle, and play together, sending fruits and seeds flying in every direction. Over time, these meetings build seed banks of manzanita, basket claw, creosote, and other plants. The seeds can even germinate into new plants, with proper planning and care.

Others have realized that Nendo and Dango’s boundless affection for one another can be an effective restoration tool–reintroducing native species to disturbed areas, and propagating existing plants in restored areas. It’s not uncommon to see environmentally-minded esk leading the two spirits to impaired parts of the desert, so that they can work their magic.

◆ Notes ◆

  • Nendo and Dango don’t speak, and rarely vocalize. But when they do, they have a colorful vocabulary of rumbles, burbles, chuffs, snorts, chirps, and wheeks.
  • They are about the size of a cuy guinea pig, which is a bit larger than the domestic guinea pig common in the North American pet trade.
  • Nendo and Dango are inseparable, often traveling together to visit one anothers’ haunts. They usually stick to the Pacific coast and the inland deserts of North America, but you can find them at almost any corner of the world. They sometimes visit the Conservatory on important (and inscrutable) seedball business.
  • They are gendered arbitrarily, in the same way a field scientist might use gendered language to personify their subject of study.

◆ Use ◆

Feel free to reach out if you’d like to depict Nendo and Dango in your works. In general, they’re whimsical little guys who interact with the world in much the way you would expect a pint-sized nature spirit with the emotional faculties of a guinea pig to. While Nendo welcomes the company of other ghosts, it takes time and patience to get past Dango’s prickly exterior. Mostly, they just go about their business according to their own inexplicable whims.

Nendo and Dango can be used as creator esk. They’d likely make esk that are tonally similar to them– whimsical little sprites who make simple mischief. (Though the thought of them making an intense, stormy trespasser or heavy-hearted traveler is pretty fun, too!)

Sunset over Santa Catalina Island. Photo by Luke Jones