User Tools

Site Tools


groWorld: Borrowed Scenery

Towards pataphores of plant guilds… beginnings of a taxonomy of plant characters for the Jiejing /Borrowed Scenery Alternate Reality Narrative.


Illustrations by Theun Karelse and Lina Kusaite on flickr


Layers are the different vertical strata of the environment, that are a home for different plant species. All plants can live in different layers, but each layer is dominated by a specific type of plants, best suited for the environmental conditions in that particular layer. Each layer has particular morphological structures (the shapes in which plants grow above and underground), ways of time-binding and unbinding and particular reproductive mechanisms (through touch, through air, using pollinators, etc.).

Layer: Canopy

Plants in this layer are the stanchions of the world. They loop over the other life-forms, diffusing otherwise sharp light and tinting it viridian - making sure that the colour of the greening force (Viriditas) seeps through every particle of air, liquids and solids. These quiet and slow giants shade and colour the world, as well as provide support through the thick bones of their trunks. The bones (thin and elongated, massive and sturdy) support the plant's vast overhanging bodies, that spread, lace-like for kilometres across the roof of the world. They also provide support to the plants in other layers, whose own skeletons are too fragile, or non-existent. They are allowed to crawl upwards, towards the light and a better view of the world. These plants are so huge and so ancient that, close to the ground, they seem fossilised and almost mineral. Their behaviour, as seen from the ground, seems extremely slow and inactive. However, deep underground and high above ground, they dominate the landscape with their muted, murmuring whispering conversations.


Their reproduction cycle is equally slow and majestic. When they are ready to produce offspring, the highest branches of canopy trees touch and fuse with each other, forming elegant arches. Over a long time, they weave themselves together, moving inwards, from the branches into the inner cells of the plants. There are a few ways in which these trees produce seeds. In some species, female trees have swirly orifices in the bark of their long trunks, from which the elongated seed-pods emerge. Other species produce seed-pods underneath their canopy leaves, on branches where the two parent trees have entangled their branches.


The seeds of canopy trees are packed in a long, thin seed-pod. Within the pod, there are several seeds that look and feel like miniature carved rocks, or fossilised shells, coloured in the many shades of blue-grey and green-grey. The pods are elongated, bone white and light grey, with fleshy green-gray tentacles (a bit velcro-like) that they can use to cling to surfaces. They are quite heavy and able to detach themselves from the tree once ripe. When they are on the ground, they have hedgehog like abilities - if they want to move away from their parent trees (to start a guild of their own), or towards a more fertile soil, they can roll into a ball and be rolled by wind and animals. Once underground, the fossilised outer shell softens and its insides come to life. First a skeleton is formed, then softer tissues and liquids start pumping and pulsing with juice. The skeleton is the first to protrude downwards, securing the plant into the ground.


The canopy trees reach deep into the soil and have a long tap root, able to reach underground rivers. Until they find a large water source, the plants' root doesn't waste time growing horizontally - the plant thickens the one root and grows downwards as fast as it can (using a cork-screw motion, to dig into the ground). In case of draught, it will send a few exploratory rootlets in horizontal direction, but even these rootlets will grow horizontally for a short time before resuming the vertical, downwards growth. Once a large enough amount of water is found, the plant will extend the roots, that resemble the branches of its canopy - it will attempt to envelop the water source as far and wide as possible, growing both thick roots and thin rootlets in all directions. The colour of the roots is similar to the seeds - blue-grey and bone white.


The stem of a canopy tree is very thin to start with. It is extremely resilient and elastic, so it can bend and twist easily (making it resistant to storms and other violent attacks). Its inner skeleton keeps the plant growing upright - the skeleton resembles a double cork-screw (like a DNA helix), spiralling its way through the air and pushing the leaf-bud higher. The cork-screw is made out of microscopic ball-bearings, clinging to each other using a strong, but elastic force. This structure allows the plant to grow fast, without wasting time on thickening the trunk until it reaches canopy height. The strength of the stem is it its ability to always spring back to a vertical position, no matter how much it's bent and twisted. As the tree matures (reaching canopy height), the stem starts thickening and solidifying into a woody trunk. Inside the trunk, the double corkscrew swells up and softens, dissolving the ball-bearings into semi-permeable osmotic chambers. These structures will now function as osmotic pumps, allowing the exchange of nutrients and water between the canopy height and the deep underground roots. The woody skin of the trunk takes a long time to mature and harden. The process of hardening spirals around the trunk. A 'teenage' stem will have quite ornamental spirals of hard bark swirling around the bright green skin of the young sapling. The bark is also quite irregular, reflecting the storms and turbulence that happened during its hardening. In parts where the tree was threatening to break, the bark will grow a thick swirl, as a scab on a wound. These swirls will form orifices on some trees, from which seed-pods can be expelled. Once hardened, the bark solidifies into a sturdy, rock-like outer skin, that erodes very slowly over hundreds of years.


Canopy trees can have a variety of leaves, all of which share a few common characteristics. They all have a structure of several long, hollow bones, that originate in the bud on top of the trunk and spread radially across the whole surface of the leaf. The bones are a part of the osmotic pump that begins at the edges of the leaf and continues through the trunk into the roots. In between the bones stretch a myriad of thin, elastic capillaries, that form a see-through lace-like structure. The openings between the capillaries are filled with green film (not unlike green soap-bubbles). These membranes are very thin and nearly translucent (allowing enough light to pass through them to illuminate the layers below).


Above ground, the seedling of a canopy layer shoots straight upward, without branching out at first. The seedling will have one thin stem, with a fluffy, leafy bud on top. The growth is solely vertical until the stem thickens. The thickness of the trunk is completed when the canopy height is reached. On this height, the leafy bud on the top of the trunk starts branching outwards in all directions. The leaves grow slowly (it takes them years to reach their full scale), from the bud on top of the stem. The bud splits into several leaf-knots, that unfurl their bones horizontally (like a fist opening into a hand with outstretched and wide-spread long fingers), using the same cork-screw motion as the stem while it's growing upright. While the skeleton is unfolding, in between the larger bones (that will later function as veins) an openwork of capillaries create a thin, lace-like structure. The capillaries excrete a gluey substance, able to capture sunlight and dew and transform them into a thin film, that stretches between the capillaries. In that way the fully grown leaf looks like a massive green membrane, that filters the spectrum of sunlight, to make it gentler on the layers below.


The decay of a canopy tree is as slow and gracious as its growth. As the tree dies, its life-supporting juices evaporate. It looses elasticity in all its parts, starting with the leaves. As the bones and capillaries in the leaves stiffen, the green membranes pop as soap bubbles, leaking fertile greenness on the layers below. At the same time, the roots release their nutrients back to the soil, opening up their skin until the roots have the same lace-like structure as the leaves. The colour fades from all parts of the tree, until it becomes a greyish white, resembling a lace made out of lime rock. Over time, the tree becomes more and more brittle and eroded by the elements. As the roots dissolve, the tree above ground can topple and fall, leaving broken up, ice-like landscapes on the floor of the garden (think of ice formations C.D. Friedrich's paintings). Over time, the erosion will turn even these hard landscapes into fertile dust.

  • metaphor: shelter, roof, pillar, column
  • archetype: spiritual leader

Layer: Dwarf Trees

The multi-jointed balusters of these plants endlessly reach towards their kin, forming curved (sometimes gnarly, sometimes smooth) portals into and out of the world. On top of these portals, they sprout a meshwork of thin appendages that can also be joined with other plants, forming more or less dense tunnels, caves and niches - habitat for the darkness-loving flora. Through the various relationships with their brethren, these plants guide the shape of the landscape. By creating spaces of darkness, twilight and light, they attract and repel different species of lower growth. They are able to flower and bear fruit and so communicate with the non-vegetal species, as well as channel information from the outside into the vegetal realm. With the slow dance of their balusters and appendages, they can sometimes enact scenes from other worlds, impersonating humans, animals and machines…


Underground their roots mirror their branches and hold the topsoil in place. They are quite extensive and sparse - the plants prefer thick roots over a mesh of rootlets. What they loose in density, they make up in length (first they spread horizontally to anchor the tree and secure it against wind gusts, then as stability is ensured, the roots start growing downwards, slowly and diagonally). The colour is that of rust - brown, red, blue, grey.


The dwarf trees reproduce sexually, ejaculating clouds of pollen across to each other. As the direction of the pollen isn't always well directed, they try to grow their branches as close to the plants they want to mate with. However, mistakes do happen and new hybrids are not uncommon. The male and female pollen have different, but compatible shapes. The female pollen resembles a balloon with a hairy tongue sticking far out of it. The male pollen is smaller, a gooey blob resembling a ball of ice-cream. When they reach each other in the air, the blob falls onto the tongue and begins melting. The tongue retracts and starts dissolving as well. As the balloon begins filling up with liquid, it starts blistering and swelling, temporarily becoming lighter and travelling further on the wind. However, as the seed and the fruit around it start growing, the balloon becomes heavier and begins drifting towards the ground.


The seed of a dwarf tree is surrounded by a translucent fruit-flesh (grown within the pollen-balloon) that decomposes in the ground and provides the growing seed with initial nutrients. The seed itself has a dark, smooth and hard outer shell and a complex mechanism of a chemical factory inside - botanical pumps, vials and transport conduits, allowing the seed to begin producing roots & shoots quickly (but also making sure that the factory remains sustainable for a long time).


The trunks of these trees are quite stumpy, but their branches can be long and thin. The trunks look like balls on strings. The strings are the filaments that make up the thin appendages that eventually grow into branches. To begin with they are so delicate that they defy gravity and dangle playfully in the wind. They will grow and swing until they reach the appendages of another dwarf tree, which they will grip and entangle. Both trees will then begin to fill out the appendage until it becomes a branch and shoot new stringy appendages from their sides. Together, the branches of different trees will form tunnels, arches and canopies, shading the ground from direct sun.


Most dwarf trees grow plentiful tiny green leaves, resembling long, downy fur. Close-up, the leaves are pinnate, spear-shaped, their edges undulate and the veins longitudinal. When the branches form tunnels, the leaves pack themselves together tightly, absorbing maximum sunlight. In that formation, they look and feel like a thick felt carpet. Some dwarf tree species sprout large, tough tent-like leaves from the tips of their branches, that can protect the delicate branches during storms.


Compared with the overall size of a dwarf tree, its female flowers are huge, sometimes as large as the plant itself. As the trees pollinate each other, they don't bother using colour or smell to attract insects and other pollinators. They are bright green, except when light falls on them exactly from above, turning them into a different colour (which reflects the mood of the plant). They are shaped as balloon pumps, sheltered from the weather by a few large petals. Each petal is a small tensile structure, forming a tent, or a canopy around the pollen pump. The flowers release to pollen by inflating the balloon, an action that releases the petals. Each flower can produce a maximum of 2-3 balloons. The male flowers are smaller, but more prolific - when they blossom, they will cover the whole tree, as a fluffy flower-coat over the trunk and the branches. Their shape is quite skeletal. As they bloom, they look like a fist opening up. While releasing pollen, the 'finger-petals' will close back into a fist to produce the pollen-ball, then rapidly open to release it. each male flower can produce hundreds of pollen balls in its lifetime.


The fruit of dwarf trees are solidified pollen-balloons. When they are fertilised and the seeds start growing, the balloons begin inflating. Clear coloured gooey strings begin stretching between the seed in the centre of the balloon and the outer shell. These strings will thicken as the fruit grows and form the fibres of the fruit flesh. In between the strings, the air becomes damp, sticky and heavy, thick with sweet mist. When the fruit reaches its optimal size (different per species), the flexible skin of the balloons solidifies until it resembles an ice crust. It then slowly floats towards the ground, where the crust will often burst upon impact, pushing the seed underground and releasing the nutrients from the flesh into the soil.


The solid balls of the trunks grow in spurts and are thick and strong for stability. Inside the balls there are elastic strings, that are grown continuously and keep the balls joined together. The strings also provide flexibility to the trunk, which makes it easier for the trees to lean towards and away from each other. The strings can split and grow into elongated appendages, which later grow into branches. The trunk and appendages grow in 'shifts' - a growth burst in the trunk, from whose sides a few delicate strings lengthen to become branches. T string in the centre of the ball continues upwards as the trunk. The branches are symmetrical and well proportioned if the tree is alone. If other dwarf trees are in the neighbourhood, the branches will elongate and reach towards the other trees, so the trunk needs to keep continuous balance between growing of the branches and thickening the trunk not to topple. In presence of other trees, dwarf trees will adjust their growth to match the other, so become able to form tunnels and caves woven from their branches. If the trees are too far apart from each other to support the branch-structures, one of the trees will grow a new trunk, starting from the branches down to the ground.


The first sign of a decay in a dwarf tree is that the network of its branches will loose strength, and begin caving in and bending towards the ground. This will usually destroy other plants underneath them, but also provide a structure for new plants to grow from. The thin strings in the trunks are the first to be eaten by scavengers, which loosens the thick trunk-balls. The balls topple over and roll on the ground in all directions. Eventually both the branches and the balls become overgrown, changing the undulation of the landscape.

  • metaphor: doors, windows, passages
  • archetype: architect, policy-maker

Layer: Shrubs

These plants change their density and hardness depending on the presence and absence of external threats. In calm periods, they form leafy green screens, framed by their narrow, angular branches. In more turbulent times, or in parts of the world that need intimate and secluded spaces, the plants swell into fortified walls of woven thorns. The branches turn into spiky lengths of barbed wire, making the passage in/out of the world a very painful affair…


Underground, the roots of shrubs don't spread wide, but grow in bursts and clumps (they resemble hairy beards suspended on angular wires). Instead of forming gentle curves, the roots seem to be drawn with a ruler. When they change direction, they will do so abruptly, forming angular, wiry structures. A beard-like clump will form as soon as any nutrient is found. Then a thin line of an angular root will spawn dozens of thin rootlets, that will encase the nutrient, as if forming a cocoon. The roots are dense and have the same shape-shifting property as the branches above ground. The colour of the roots is ranges from ivory to metallic blue-grey.


Some of these plants flower and fruit. In peaceful periods, they will allow non-plant species to pollinate them. Their pollen is a superglue-like substance that will coat anything that touches the flower. The only way to get rid of the glue is to find the flower of the same species on a different shrub and rub against it. The chemicals in the flower will dissolve the glue, freeing the carrier and at the same time absorbing the reproductive jucies. The flower rapidly dries up and produces a spiky outer shell. Within the shell, a small berry is being formed. When its fully grown, the spikes will fall off and the berry will be ready to be eaten. The organisms that eat it will digest the fruit-flesh, and excrete the seeds. In turbulent periods, the plants' spiky branches reach each other and the pollination can occur through physical proximity. The spiky fruit shells can be expelled as cannon balls and the fruit forced down an intruder's throat. While hurting (and possibly killing the intruder), the plant insures that the seeds will be spread as well. The fruit can in some cases include pain-killers, almost as an apology for the aggressive behaviour.


The seeds are small, but in each berry there are many of them. They are also quite porous, like small fossilised sponges, able to absorb nutrients as they pass through the temporary hosts' digestive tract. Their shape is spherical, crystalline, composed of a mesh of hexagons and heptagons with semi-permeable membranes stretched between them. The mesh is usually bone-white, and the membranes a glowing emerald colour. However, they both absorb the colour of the digestive system of their temporary hosts, so at the end, their outsides are dark brown with black bile.


Shrubs have multiple stems, that in some plants grow into hard branches over time. The stems are tough, but flexible, able to assume different angles - they can combine horizontal, diagonal and vertical several times in one stem. Without leaves and flowers, they resemble tangles of hard wire meshes. Some shrubs have permanent thorns, while others sprout thorns and spikes only when in danger. Their thorns vary in size and thickness. The shrubs that are able to grow branches can nearly reach the height of a dwarf tree, while stem-shrubs stay closer to the ground.


Shrub leaves are whorled, growing in rings around the stem, each leaf comprised of at least five leaflets. Their edges are sharp - serrated, or resembling spiky teeth. The veins mostly branch out from the stem towards the edges of the leaf. In danger the veins swell and harden, making the soft whorl of the leaf into a weapon. Some of the shrubs are able to pump poison through the veins before they harden, making contact with the leaves more or less deadly.


Each stem can have one flower, growing from its tip. They are usually tiny and humble looking (like minuscule sunflowers), but strongly scented.


Fruiting shrubs produce berries, on the tips of the stems. As with the flowers, they are small and humble, but pungent and flavoursome, as well as producing plentiful seeds.


Shrubs grow multiple stems (that become hard branches over time) as soon as their shoot reaches sunlight above ground. Their goal is to spread as wide as possible and be as dense as possible. To grow wider, the branches grow horizontally first, then begin their growth upwards, but turning sharp corners. In calm periods, the branches will grow soft whorled leaves around the stems. These leaves turn hard and spiky when the plant is in danger.


A shrub decays by softening up. Its spikes and thorns become floppy and syrupy, eventually dripping down to the ground. The process of decay looks like slow melting.

  • metaphor: barrier, wall, fence
  • archetype: activist, warrior

Layer: Herbaceous

A wide variety of plants in this layer makes them difficult to classify. They come in all colours, shapes and sizes, but all of them have two things in common: their bodies are soft, as they possess no bones and they are short lived, ephemeral. This ephemeral nature makes them prolific and promiscuous, fast living and extroverted. They are seductive and buoyant, brimming with energy from the moment they are born, to the moment they die. Most of the plants like to socialise and are always seen in groups of various sizes. The groups are open to foreigners, so often change shape and function. Their soft bodies make them fast movers - they respond to light, scent, colour and wind, changing their shapes as contortionists.


Underground, their roots can be deep, but not broad - only lightly holding them in place. They first grow one thick tap-root, and send out thin, long hair-like rootlets curling through the ground. When the tap-root finds water or nutrients, it will swell up and grow deeper. When one of the hair-roots finds water/nutrients, it will elongate, curl around the substance and squeeze it into itself. The colour of these roots is light yellow, potato-like, or creamy / off-white.


They flower, mate and fruit, with anyone interested. In this layer, hybrids are most common (producing extraordinary shapes and varieties) and evolution is fast (through a rapid sequence of generations). In order to reproduce, herbaceous plants need pollinators - non-plant species - to carry their pollen to other plants. Once pollinated, they will produce a multitude of seeds.


The seeds of these plants have intricate flying mechanisms. They are tiny and light and able to be swept off the parent by the wind. In order to find the most appropriate ground, they are able to navigate the windflows using minute wings and propellers of fantastic shapes. Some of them look like wind balloons, others like art-nouveau helicopters and bizarre flying machines.

  • metaphor: furnishings, mirrors, ornaments
  • archetype: artist, entrepreneur

Layer: Rhizosphere

Plants in this layer don't care much for the world above-ground, although they need some light to grow. They do sprout minuscule, horizontally-oriented, broad leafy formations, optimised to collect light and information. The collected materials pass thorough ergonomically designed shafts down to where these plants mean business - the shallow layer of soil. They are the edge between the life above and below ground. They are avid analysts of both and translators between the two. In their carefully grown rhizomes, they form elaborate networks without a centre. They prepare various concoctions of chemicals and data, to explain and influence the world (above and below). They communicate and mediate with all layers through their roots, rootlets and swollen stems.


These plants have convoluted and extended rhizomatic communication conduits, spanning the whole world. Their roots / rhizomes are a an entangled network of different shapes, reflecting the nearby environment. When there are nutrients present, the roots swell to become locally bulbous, like thick stalactites. When there is water, the section closest to it inflates like a transparent sack. When there is nothing much around, they thin out and protrude multiple rootlets that spread in all directions in search of other plants, nutrients, water, sedimented objects, or anything else of interest. The colour of the rhizomes is most often light orange-brown, with some plants also including red and purple tints.


They don't flower, but reproduce through cloning (asexual) and grafting (sexual) underground. Sexual reproduction happens when two rhizosphere roots (of different species) touch and fuse. From the fusion point an new rhizome will appear. This rhizome will have characteristics of both parents. Asexual reproduction happens when the plant aboveground is wilting and a new seedling needs to be produced, or when a part of the rhizome (tuber) is broken off from the parent(s), to start a new plant elsewhere in the garden (this requires help from non-plant species, on request of a plant guild).


The tuber is not a seed, but acts in the same way as a seed - it is able to produce new roots and seedlings, when separated from the parent. It looks like a thick-set stalagmite, with several asymmetrical rings of oriental looking patterns around its irregular ginger-like shape. As it is usually broken off the parent, one of its ends is a rough cross-section. As soon as a tuber is put into the ground, it produces new rhizomes and a sprout. The colour of the tuber is the same as the roots (light orange-brown, with some red and purple tints).


Some plants sprout just one giant leaf, others spread a bunch of leaves, all without a stem. The leaves are either round, or heart shaped, with smooth or spiny edges and reticulate veins. The leaves are thick, leathery and quite dark in colour. Some of the plants grow soft hair on the leaves, making them able to capture dew.

Growth (above ground)

These plants grow their leaves wherever light is available. If there is enough light close to the ground, they won't bother shooting upwards, they'll spread their broad, fern-like leaves horizontally across the surface. If higher plants are around them, the leaves will grow larger and taller until they reach the light. When they do, they will resume horizontal growth, gently curving in the process.


These plants decay by drying up and shrivelling. Their pores above and below ground widen and all moisture disappears. The drying tissues shrink and contract, until they become brittle and paper-like, slowly pulverising into dust.

  • metaphor: foundation, basement, bedrock
  • archetype: alchemist, technologist, scientist

Layer: Soil Surface

The plants in this layer are the twilight-dwellers between life and death. Their lives are extremely short and they spend long periods in suspension / hibernation. They indulge in decay (both of self and of others). They live in large, rather conservative clans, who stick to themselves and their traditions. They are hard-working, no-nonsense life-forms, at the edge of the plant-kingdom. They communicate and cross-fertilise with non-plant species who are equally attracted to death and decay. Their thick, fluffy clumps cloak the topsoil in dampened colours - mushy greens, blues & purples, dark reds, rich browns and cloudy greys. The colours change depending on their diet - they digest the dead from various layers, swallowing and transforming matter and knowledge & passing it down to the soil, nourishing the life beneath it.

Roots & Rhizomes

Their roots don't reach very deep. They are modest and satisfied with occupying a few centimetres of the surface above and below, forming a translucent shroud, a wooly veil of the land. Their roots are very thin, but dense and clumpy, able to find nutrients that other plants' large roots can overlook. To maximise the surface of each other thread-like roots, they resemble miniature springs (or spun wool), spiralling their way through the ground, around and through each other. When they reach water/nutrients, they are so thin that they can penetrate the substance and completely immerse themselves in it. The roots are very lightly coloured - resembling white cotton balls…


They reproduce without sexual fusion, through spores which they exhale at the moment of death. The plant bursts open and a cloud of spores bursts forth from the dying flesh of the parent.


The spores of these plants are tiny, hairy balls, that are so light they can be carried by the wind far from their parent plant. On close inspection, they look like plankton - tiny anemones, jellyfish or amoebae. They are nearly translucent, almost, in light blue and turquoise hues.

Above ground


  • metaphor: carpet, floor covering, veil
  • archetype: gardener, undertaker, garbage collector

Layer: Vertical

These plants are the only ones in the world in which an individual plant can indulge in spatial travel. They criss-cross the other layers, connecting, entangling and confusing their dwellers. They can be fickle and treacherous at times. Their tangles are communication conduits between the different layers above ground. However, the information that passes through the twining vines rarely arrives unchanged - translation is never perfect, always enigmatic and slightly glitchy. Some plants in this layer are aggressive bullies, that can even turn murderous. Others can enjoy a cushy, parasitic life, usually sucking-up to the larger plants. Others again turn into explorers, venturing across ground and layers, to the furthest reaches of the world. As their shape reflects their journeys for the rest of their lives, they take utmost care to the twining and tangling of their paths, creating magnificent, twisting and undulating ornaments throughout the landscape. On their travels grip the ground lightly, without venturing underground. In order to prevent being blown away, their grips are distributed throughout their elongated bodies and can cling to any surface - soil, plant, rock…


The roots of these plants travel horizontally, while the plant is 'on the move'. In these times, they are able to send connector-roots up towards the creeping plant (to minimise the travel of nutrients), so they can look like a horizontal ladder. The thickness of the roots mirrors the thickness of the vine above ground. When the plant doesn't creep over the ground, but more vertically, the roots will begin spawning thinner rootlets 'sideways' from the main root (resembling a centipede's legs) and thereby strengthening the grip and widening the search for nutrients. Their colour is pink and purple, resembling tentacles of sea-anemones…


The vertical plants are able to flower. Their mating rituals are slow, elegant and entangled, that occur when two flowering vines (of appropriate species and sex) touch and entangle each other's petals. The petals twist around each other, until they form thin ropes that knot together in increasingly tighter formations.


The seeds of the vertical plants resemble a ball of knotted wool or wire (sometimes spiky barbed wire). They are formed from the tightly packed, twisted and knotted flower-petals. In the twists, the reproductive juices of both plants are blended. From this blend a new vine emerges. There can be several vines emerging from one seed. Each of the vines will travel in a different direction, as soon as it reaches above ground. The seed has a shiny, glistening appearance (as the petals twist, their juices are squeezed out of the pores; in contact with air, the juices solidify into a protective coating). Their colour is usually dark purple, with a green sheen in some light angles. Some of the verticals produce seed-pods containing several seeds. In this case, the knotted seeds are protected by long, translucent seed pods.






  • metaphor: connection, communication, cabling, plumbing
  • archetype: trickster, translator, hacker


Functions are actions that particular plants undertake to sustain themselves and balance (in) the environment. By performing these actions, the plants take on different roles in the vegetal society. In order to perform these actions, they rely on microscopic organisms that live in a symbiotic relationship with the plant. When the plant is young, it has the ability to summon a specific type of micro-organism, that will allow the plant to assume a particular role in society. This role can change only once in the plant's life-time, when it reaches adulthood. In a specific ritual, a plant can either accept its childhood role for the rest of its life, or go through a role-shifting phase to accept a new role. Not all micro-organisms can be summoned in the childhood phase - some are solely adulthood-related actions.

Function: Fixing Nitrogen

This function can be summoned from childhood. A plant which accepts this role is able to absorb and transform an important mechano-chemical. This chemical can be diffused back into the environment, in order to change the life-giving properties of the soil. This role can increase and decrease the density of the world, as well as steer growth and morphology of plants for generations to come. The micro-organisms assisting the plants in this function are swarms of tiny organo-robotic creatures, hybrids of vegetal and machinic organisms. They are capable of mechanically transforming matter on the scale of atoms and molecules. They can change the bio-mechanical make-up of soil by creating holes and tunnels, as well as shape plants themselves (pushing and pulling on plant matter in stems and roots. They move as swarms (not unline insects) inside the plants and underground, and can move from one plant to another when their roots touch (if the other plant has accepted this function).

  • metaphor: transforming, crafting, creating
  • archetype: industry, technology (bio-engineering, nanotech…)

Function: Pest Controlling

This function can be assumed from childhood. Plants function as immune system of the world. They protect themselves and others from external threats and dangerous internal anomalies. They can do this both offensively (attacking the threat directly) and defensively (healing the diseased plant, or environment). The micro-organisms responsible are liquid flows of single-cellular, amorphous beings. They are able to stream through the plant's veins and moisten their surfaces, thereby coating them against threats. In sunlight some of them can temporarily evaporate into a gasseous form, thereby being able to travel to other plants through air. In most other cases, they will form droplets that can rain down on other plants, or diffuse through the soil.

  • metaphor: defending, protecting, healing
  • archetype: border, front-line, hospital, clinic

Function: Mulching

This function can only be summoned when adulthood is reached. The plants who assume this function are invaded by heaps of dust-like particles that are able to decompose plant tissues and transform them into soil and nutrients for the environment. These plants give up their physical form and decide to live suffused throughout the world, communing with other plants by being consumed. The micro-organisms, the dust-particles have abrasive edges, that are able to carve through the cell-walls of plants, allowing their contents to pour out into the air and soil, freeing the plant juices (and plant perception) of their physical boundaries. The carved-out plant fossils remain as memories of the individuals. The fossils are brittle and will over time be reduced to fertile dust by wind and rain.

  • metaphor: composing, conserving, decaying, dying, regenerating
  • archetype: cemetery, waste-dump, sewage, sublimation

Function: Providing nutrients

This function can be summoned from childhood. It is meant primarily for healthy, altruistic plants. The plants performing this function are required to continually seek solid, liquid and airborne chemicals, then dissolve them in blisters of living solution that grow across their bodies, as soon as the function is assumed. Once the blisters fill up, they swell and burst in pulses of a viscous liquid. Above ground, the pulsing droplets are smaller and can spray metres through the air. Underground, the spray is heavier, but with higher pressure, so can quickly burst through the pores in the soil. The chemicals are primarily meant to sustain the growth of plants, but their composition and concentration have a strong influence on the shape of the plants and their bio-chemical make-up. This function can speed up and slow down the growth in the world, as well foster its diversity.

  • metaphor: making, cooking, gardening, hunting & gathering, parenting, educating
  • archetype: philosophy, religion, school, kitchen, library, temple, family

Function: Attracting Pollinators

This is a strictly adult function, that can only be assumed by particular plants capable of sprouting open translation organs in their flowers. The evolution made this into an adult function due to the fragile relationships between the plants and the non-plant pollinators. The action of the plants with this role might be damaging to the world, if the attraction skill is not mastered. Young plants can become apprentices, but the full function can only be attained when the skill is sufficient. The attraction of non-plant pollinators is only permitted to be exercised in particular seasons, while it can be performed as practice and entertainment with other plants at all times. The micro-organisms involved in this function are clouds of airborne gasses, that act as pheromones, affecting emotional states of their recipients. In plants, this can be visible through coloration. In seasons where communication with the non-vegetal is impossible, the clouds can carry reproductive cells themselves. When this communication is possible, they attract moving creatures and seduce them to carry reproductive cells between the plants.

  • metaphor: seducing, imitating, storytelling, translating, poetry, con-artistry
  • archetype: park, theatre, street, festival

previous groWorld backstory (unused)

draft version 200802 (will not be used)

Plants. Green, juicy, sensuous beings and sophisticated chemical factories. Expendable individuals, robust communities. Violent enemies and seductive partners. Tasty to humans and other selected animals. Humans. Inventive, impulsive, mobile and adaptive creatures, able to fashion tools, cultivate living things (including ourselves) and manipulate symbols. Tasty to plants, particularly when decomposing. From single, isolated sprouts in scorched deserts, to unstoppable tangles in dense forests, from huts on top of mountains to sprawling urban jungles; humans have always had a curious relationship with plants. Plants and humans eat, consume each other and each other's waste products. Humans need plants, yet they are also seen as a threat. Plants provide humans with air, food, fuel and shelter. They are sources of inspiration, imagination, beauty and mystery. At the same time, the more aggressive plants crack their walls, invade their crops and poison their foods. Slowly, relentlessly, patiently… So familiar, yet so alien. For a period of time, humans attempted to keep plants out of their cities and homes, to construct a world in which they could be independent from them. In which they could suck the knowledge out of the plant temples and leave them to die. The plants waited… Slowly the world started to crumble. Slowly, the plants began to move back into the human world, through the cracks in the pavements and doors blown open by turbulent weather. This time around humans changed their tactics. They were going to become symbionts with plants. Human-plant-hybrids. It was going to take a long time, but they were determined to succeed. The alternative was slow but certain death of most humans and quite a few species of plants. They began to grow plants beyond mere food and fuel crops. They began to cultivate plants to cultivate humans. Aside from still sprouting delectable foods, gardens became places in which things could generate, grow and transform. At first, people cared mainly about the food that the gardens produced. There was one difference though, they attempted feeding the whole eco-system rather than humans alone. Not only that, the humans wanted to feed a culture that would help them creep out of an overstressed, slightly schizophrenic social and economic systems that they were living in. Some of them called it permaculture, others open re/source culture. Many names and many approaches to find a way forward, without forgetting the past. One of these cultures decided that changing the world could only happen if you would start growing your own world, an eco-system that can sustain itself and reach out to others. People thaught each other in small communities, a few neighbours at a time. Soon after, they connected to other communities and learned from them, using all available means of communication. An alternative map of the world was created – the one that connected the gardens and the paths of the gardeners. Their thoughts grew beyond their small patches of green and reached out to entangle the whole planet into a fertile ARG, augmented reality garden. etc…

Version 0.1 Feb 2008


groworld_story.txt · Last modified: 2016/08/10 17:08 by maja