They say truth is stranger than fiction, but although there are some very oddly-named plants out there – Egyptian walking onion, dead horse arum, Madagascan suicide palm, to name a few – they don’t even come close to the floral fantasia we find in our most beloved books and movies.
Harry Potter series (J.K. Rowling, 1997-2007)
J. K. Rowling wasn’t shy when it came to plants in her Harry Potter books. With screaming mandrakes, Neville Longbottom’s Mimbulus mimbleonia
, treacherous Devil’s snare
and a murderous venomous tentacula
, there’s plenty for the young plant lover to read about.
Yet probably the stand-out role goes to the whomping willow. Sitting in the school grounds the tree is notoriously cantankerous and, aside from being a belligerent bit of scenery, features heavily in some storylines, including The Prisoner of Azkaban.
Image: Harry Potter Wiki
Day of the Triffids (John Wyndham, 1951)
Wyndham is a genius science fiction author and the triffids he writes about are genuinely sinister. With the ability to move, communicate via menacing clattering sticks and venomous stinging blooms, the triffids are arguably the most infamous of all fiction flora. Unfortunately, they have never come across onscreen with the same believability, but the book in a must-read.
Poster for the film The Day of the Triffids (1962)
Tiger-lily and the rose
Alice’s Adventures Through the Looking Glass (Lewis Carroll, 1871)
With chattering daisies, roses and larkspur, to compete with, the tiger-lily is the most talkative flower Alice encounters once she steps through the looking glass. In the 1951 Disney version, it is, in fact, the rose who commands the conversation, and leads the chorus of A Golden Afternoon before becoming somewhat short with poor Alice, who she declares to be a nothing but a Mobile communis – a weed!
From 'Through the looking glass and what Alice found there' (1897)
Little Shop of Horrors (Frank Oz, 1986)
Another maneater, Audrey II is a Venus flytrap with a serious appetite. Camp and gruesome, Audrey II has a penchant for bursting into song, and it’s refreshing to see a plant take centre stage for once instead of supporting as they often are in real life. You’ll never quite look at a Venus flytrap in the same way again.
Little Shop of Horrors Audrey II Puppets" by Ian Austin. licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0
The Lord of the Rings trilogy (J. R. R. Tolkien, 1937-1949)
Not just trees, but tree shepherds, the Ents are a fascinating race of beings who play a crucial part in the Tolkien stories. Slow, to the point of excruciating, the Ents are ancient and the most prominent of their kind, Treebeard, claims to be the oldest creature in Middle Earth.
["Treebeard" by Eiko Ojala. CC BY-NC 4.0
The Last March of the Ents is one of the most satisfying moments in literature, where the tree shepherds tear down the corrupt Saruman’s humanmade structures and reclaim their land.
, 2009) – A luminescent tree which connects the Na’ vi race to their ancestors.
, 1995) – A straight-talking crone-tree that guides Pocahontas.
(A Song of Ice and Fire
book series/Game of Thrones
TV series) – Eerie red-leaved trees considered sacred to the Old Gods.
, 1995) - Many Millennials first run-in with a carnivorous plant, "They grow much faster than bamboo, take care, or they'll come after you."
(Marvel Comics, 1960 onwards) - a Flora colossus
from Planet X who has the mobility of a human, with superior strength and whose language consists of repeating "I am Groot" in different tones.
Groot appears in the Guardians of the Galaxy films
(Norse cosmology) – An immense mythical tree connecting the Nine Worlds of Norse mythology.