Worldbuilding plants may be a crucial part of writing some stories – let’s take a look at how to create some vegetation!
I have already covered Creating Fantasy Animals in another article. While some animals are carnivores, who eat other animals, the other ones have to eat vegetation – plants. These plants can also be used by more intelligent species as food, for medical treatments, making clothes and a variety of other purposes. Most of the fictional worlds simply have to have plants.
Earth has around 400,000 species of plants. Your world, if similar life conditions as Earth, will have a similar number of species. Of course, you won’t be able to create so many, but you should create at least a few. Those created flowers can be used in your stories – sometimes even as a major plot point. So let’s dive head in worldbuilding some plants and flowers!
The first thing you should consider when inventing a plant is the type. Plants can be native (growing wildly in the area), agricultural (used for farming), horticultural (used as decorations, for example in gardens) or weeds (invasive species, can cause trouble for the native species).
Another classification in which you take part is the general category of the plants – will it be a tree, a flower, a bush, etc.
After your general type, give your plant a name. Names are mostly derived from the plant’s description, the location of growth, or use. Lettuce in its scientific name, Lactuca, is named for the white milk-like sap inside – lac meaning milk. They can also be named after a myth or a story associated with the plant, the forget-me-nots are one of the examples. In German, where the name originated, there is a story about two lovers. The man had given this flower to his love, but he was swept away by a river. In his last words, he told her to not forget him.
Here comes the fun part in worldbuilding plants. I would honestly advise you to get an atlas of herbs and spend an hour or so just skipping through it. It will help you learn how to describe plants and give you some inspiration. The world is full of different, unique vegetation – you can and should always look to the real world. The descriptions of the plants, of course, are going to differ from type to type. I will give you an example of a description for each major type (trees, flower, mushroom).
The Krum Fir is a native to the Krüor region. It grows up to 40 meters and can live up to 150 years. The Krum Fir has thin, scaly bark, a narrow trunk with a cylindrical shape, ending in a high treetop.
It has thin needles, mostly dark green in color. The cones open up at spring.
It can withstand freezing winters and relatively hot summers.
The Krum Fir is used in some parks and gardens as decoration – as the tree can thrive in a variety of environments, its seeds can be planted even in climates unnatural for it, like cities and near-sea areas.
The Tree of Healing is native to the Elven Forests. It is a small tree, only reaching about 10 meters. In four years after reaching adulthood, the tree can hold apples, in the right circumstances. These apples, if correctly processed, can work as a healing ointment, mending to cuts, preventing infection.
The Tree of Healing can live up to 30 years, which means that the apples are produced for only about 8 years in the tree’s life.
This tree is heavily sought after, because of its healing abilities. However, it cannot survive radical changes in its environment and as the Elven forests are mostly destroyed or inaccessible, the apples are very rare at this point in time.
The Hunter’s Blessing is a big flower, reaching heights of 2 meters. It grows mostly on hunting grounds, as the heavy presence of animals helps the flower to reach its ideal conditions, blooming approximately a year after the seeds are planted, striking a deep blue color with six smaller leaves.
It is often used by skilled hunters to arrange meetings and send messages, as the flower’s stem includes patterns unique to its growing place – hunters can cut off one of the flowers, and another hunter could, by reading the stem, determine the particular location where it was cut off.
The Hog’s Family is a mushroom growing in clusters of five. The largest of the so-called family is often called the male, or the father. This mushroom is responsible for distributing supplies to the whole family, while the second largest, the mother, creates new offsprings that are released in the form of airborne spores as soon as the family dies. The mother always dies last, as the father always prefers to supplying her with water and other nutrients, before all the other family members. The three smaller individuals simply gather said nutrients from the ground.
Most often, the Hog’s Family has a light brown color, with tens of small spikes growing out of every member. These spikes protect the family from potential predators, such as squirrels and similar forest life.
The cluster of mushrooms grows on rocky foundations in forests.
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As with animals, it’s always a great idea to gather inspiration from the real world. As mentioned above, the Earth has around 400,000 different species of plant-life. Grab an atlas of herbs and start looking through some descriptions.
You can also take inspiration from the works of other people in the world-building community, without outright stealing their ideas, of course. For this reason, I’m currently building a Pinterest board full of art of fantasy plants. As soon as it includes at least 100 pins, I will put a link for that board here.
Have I forgotten anything about worldbuilding plants? Be sure to let me know. Also, send your created vegetation my way (the comment section is down below the article)!