Created By: GiantSpaceChinchilla on October 26, 2010 Last Edited By: jormis29 on May 23, 2014

Neural Roots

a intelligent forest made out of non intelligent trees

Name Space:
Main
Page Type:
Trope
Needs Launching Votes and/or hats not sure what's broken but it's not moving.
Did you know that sometimes a Wise Tree is actually a wise grove?

The logic flows something like this:
  • Plants have roots.
  • Roots kind of look like Neurons.
  • Aliens can look like anything.
  • Therefore a swamp, forest, or jungle is really a large brain that may or may not be out to get you.

Logic!

See also: Genius Loci, Hive Mind, Plant Aliens, and Setting as a Character


Examples

Anime and Manga

Film

Literature
  • Star Wars Expanded Universe: Bafforr trees used roots to create a surface wide forest brain on Ithor.
  • The Deathstalker series by Simon R. Green had the Red Brain
  • The True Game series of nine books by Sheri S. Tepper had sentient forests.
  • The Grid in Double Vision by Tricia Sullivan, a seemingly sentient fungal clonal colony on an alien planet. It turns out it's the main character's subconscious attempting to interpret TV marketing.
  • "Father", the planet-sized Hive Mind in The Ellimist Chronicles, a kind of giant sponge-like organism that absorbs its victim's memories.
  • Tom Bombadil's "Old Forest" in The Lord of the Rings seems to be something like this. The trees by themselves don't appear to be completely sentient (although Old Man Willow comes closest), but they all behave together to funnel intruders deeper into the forest.
  • The trees on Lusitania in Orson Scott Card's Speaker for the Dead although each one is intelligent, they are host to a more powerful entity collectively.
  • Ursula K. Le Guin's Vaster Than Empires and More Slow features a planetwide network of that kind.
  • In Alan Dean Foster's Midworld and Mid-Flinx, the green world with no name is effectively this trope, all of its vegetation being linked as a gestalt consciousness. They-Who-Keep, a type of tree in which the human inhabitants entomb their dead, form this global "nervous system's" most crucial "ganglia".
  • Not necessarily intelligent, but there's a communal plant-creature in The Hour Of The Gate that moves slowly through the Swordsward, through the coordinated movements of hundreds of interwoven plants. Definitely some sort of neural-analogue communication at work there.

Live-Action Television

Tabletop Games
  • In Magic: The Gathering, Dominarian forests have maro-spirits, entities who are empathically and spiritually linked with every tree and living creature in the forest and act as a living representation of the forest's soul.

Video Games
  • The Thorian in the first Mass Effect 1 game is a sentient plant-like thing. As researchers in-game commented, no one really knew what to classify it as. At first they thought there were a bunch of plants along the surface of the planet, but later they realized it was just one big plant.
  • In Sid Meierís Alpha Centauri, the Xenofungus serves as a hindrance to terraforming and a hiding place for the rapacious Mind Worms. It also turns out to be a vestigial neural network housing a fledgling sentience, one which has achieved near-godhood on multiple occasions in Planet's history only to inadvertently trigger mass extinctions which resulted in its inevitable collapse. The human factions can not only aid the Planetmind in its ascension, but use it to achieve their own transhuman evolution.

Webcomics

Western Animation
  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender, there's The Swamp, a huge habitat reportedly made from one central tree. The 'forest' itself seems to have a mind of its own, too, though whether it's sentient or not is mysterious.

Real Life
  • Pando, a clonal colony of aspen trees. All one organism and connected by a massive underground root system. As of yet though no sign of sapience or sentiments, it may be biding it's time though.


Community Feedback Replies: 30
  • October 27, 2010
    1774689
    Would this be something of just a sentient forest, ot with the assorted leap of logic with it?
  • October 27, 2010
    GiantSpaceChinchilla
    The sentient forest, specifically the plants acting as neurons to a forest looking brain. most likely a sub-trope of Genius Loci, Hive Mind, and Plant Aliens
  • October 27, 2010
    SweetMadness
    Real Life example: "Pando", a clonal colony of aspen trees. All one organism and connected by a massive underground root system.
  • October 28, 2010
    NativeJovian
    I don't believe that Pando is sentient, so if that's part of the definition of the trope, then it shouldn't be listed. Just sayin'.
  • October 28, 2010
    GiantSpaceChinchilla
    Oops, thanks for pointing that out. I'll have to think about what to do about that.
  • October 28, 2010
    pinkdalek
    Literature example: The Grid in Double Vision by Tricia Sullivan, a seemingly sentient fungal clonal colony on an alien planet. It turns out it's the main character's subconscious attempting to interpret TV marketing.
  • November 1, 2010
    Chabal2
    "Father", the planet-sized Hive Mind in The Ellimist Chronicles, a kind of giant sponge-like organism that absorbs its victim's memories.
  • November 1, 2010
    highcastle
    • The Thorian in the first Mass Effect game is a sentient plant-like thing. As researchers in-game commented, no one really knew what to classify it as. At first they thought there were a bunch of plants along the surface of the planet, but later they realized it was just one big plant.
  • November 1, 2010
    Manifest
    Western Animation: In Avatar: The Last Airbender, there's The Swamp, a huge habitat reportedly made from one central tree. The 'forest' itself seems to have a mind of its own, too, though whether it's sentient or not may be up for debate. I'm not entirely sure if it qualifies for this trope though.
  • November 4, 2010
    GiantSpaceChinchilla
    I'm not sure either, From what I saw of the episode it literally was one big tree although it might be different if it was a forest of clones or something. Anyone think I should add it anyway? It seems to be in a grey area of technically a forest.
  • April 25, 2011
    Zeta
    Swamps, forests, jungles are all more or less variations on the same thing as far as this trope is concerned. I mean, technically Avatar was a jungle, not a forest, or whatever.
  • April 25, 2011
    dalek955
    ^^^The Swamp in A:TLA is indeed a single tree. It appears to be telepathic, calling Aang to enter it, and then sending members of the Gaang visions of Princess Yue, Toph, and Katara's mother. It may even be a Bender; when the Gaang decided to ignore its call, a tornado appeared and they wound up crashing into the Swamp anyway.
  • April 26, 2011
    troacctid
    • In Magic The Gathering, Dominarian forests have maro-spirits, entities who are empathically and spiritually linked with every tree and living creature in the forest and act as a living representation of the forest's soul.
  • May 31, 2011
    Ryusui
    • In Sid Meiers Alpha Centauri, the Xenofungus serves as a hindrance to terraforming and a hiding place for the rapacious Mind Worms. It also turns out to be a vestigial neural network housing a fledgling sentience, one which has achieved near-godhood on multiple occasions in Planet's history only to inadvertently trigger mass extinctions which resulted in its inevitable collapse. The human factions can not only aid the Planetmind in its ascension, but use it to achieve their own transhuman evolution.
  • June 1, 2011
    randomsurfer
  • June 4, 2011
    GiantSpaceChinchilla
    I'm unsure of the Magic: The Gathering and X files examples, so I didn't add them. Sorry.
  • June 4, 2011
    Octagon8
    Compare Hive Mind.
  • June 4, 2011
    nameheregrrer
    I think the A:TLA example definitely counts. Although it's technically one big tree, it's got an immense number of trunks, to the point where you can't tell it's one big tree on the outskirts even from the air.
  • January 6, 2012
    Noaqiyeum
    Bump.
  • January 6, 2012
    LeeM
    ^^ Sheri S. Tepper also had an intelligent fungus in more than one book. IIRC it would spread widely in the form of underground filaments, and somehow influence humans into making love not war.
  • January 7, 2012
    Ceruleanst
    Webcomics: In Skin Horse, the Cypress.
  • March 15, 2012
    GiantSpaceChinchilla
  • March 15, 2012
    surgoshan
    A lot of these examples don't seem to match the description. The description says it's a neural network, an intelligence distributed across multiple organisms. Several of the examples, the Angel episode and Mass Effect's Thorian, are of a single intelligent plant-like organism.
  • March 18, 2012
    shimaspawn
    See also Setting As A Character for when the forest just seems like it's alive, but it isn't.
  • March 18, 2012
    JonnyB
    Tom Bombadil's "Old Forest" in The Lord Of The Rings seems to be something like this. The trees by themselves don't appear to be completely sentient (although Old Man Willow comes closest), but they all behave together to funnel intruders deeper into the forest.
  • March 18, 2012
    GiantSpaceChinchilla
    I'll delete the angel episode, but I'm not sure about the Mass Effect example, since Thorian appeared to be made up of different plants, if they were all identical a la Avatar The Last Airbender then simply being a plant could mess up the distinction since many plants are natural clones vegitative or otherwise of each other.

    Also, I'll add the old forest since they seems intelegent enough and seem to be acting on their own, the hive mind trope could use some non-Sapient members.
  • March 18, 2012
    kallman1206
    I'd say the trees on Lusitania in Orson Scott Card's "Speaker for the dead" might apply; though each one is intelligent, they are host to a more powerful entity collectively.
  • March 19, 2012
    Omeganian
    Ursula K Le Guin's Vaster Than Empires and More Slow features a planetwide network of that kind.
  • March 19, 2012
    SharleeD
    • In Alan Dean Foster's Midworld and Mid-Flinx, the green world with no name is effectively this trope, all of its vegetation being linked as a gestalt consciousness. They-Who-Keep, a type of tree in which the human inhabitants entomb their dead, form this global "nervous system's" most crucial "ganglia".

    • Not necessarily intelligent, but there's a communal plant-creature in The Hour Of The Gate that moves slowly through the Swordsward, through the coordinated movements of hundreds of interwoven plants. Definitely some sort of neural-analogue communication at work there.
  • May 23, 2014
    DAN004
    Can somebody explain this in layman's terms?
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=c6t0aid1t1kvqclwzj97mdz7