Created By: GiantSpaceChinchilla on October 26, 2010 Last Edited By: Snowy66 on November 26, 2017

Neural Roots

An 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:
  1. Plants have roots.
  2. Roots kind of look like neurons.
  3. Aliens can look like anything.
  4. 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
  • Avatar: The Ewya of Pandora is described as a vast network of fibre optic like branches and roots. Na'vi are able to hook themselves into this network and upload or download information.

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. - Zero-Context Example
  • Sheri S. Tepper
  • 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 this kind.
  • Alan Dean Foster
    • In 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.

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 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 its time though.


Community Feedback Replies: 40
  • 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?
  • January 29, 2017
    Aggron9988
    Why does the description mention aliens?I feel lost on what this is about now.
  • January 31, 2017
    Arivne
    • Capitalized the first word of sentences.
    • Corrected spelling (A -> An, it's -> its).
    • Added punctuation (periods at the ends of sentences).
    • Changed * to # to auto-number a list.
    • Examples section

    Zero Context Examples have been marked as such. They need more information to show how they fit the trope, such as the fact that the example is an intelligent forest. Please don't remove the marking unless you add enough context.
  • June 24, 2017
    AmourMitts
    Isn't the description too short?
  • November 24, 2017
    Pichu-kun
    Bump
  • November 25, 2017
    Theriocephalus
    All right, so: this definitely has potential, and I definitely can see this being tropeworthy, but there's some serious issues with the write-up:

    • The description is rather minimal and bare-bones, and needs strengthening.
    • In the Star Wars example, the "wide" in "surface wide" is Sinkholed to Depending On The Writer for reasons unclear. Splitting up a single word or term between two links in that manner is confusing and bad formatting, as is making a Pot Hole to something unrelated to the text. If Depending On The Writer does come into play in a relevant manner, the example should mention how, rather than making the reader guess.
    • From what I can tell, the thing with fungus from the Sheri Tepper example and Father from Animorphs are not examples and should not be here. Neither is Pando, since it's not sapient.
    • Going by the description, the Thorian from Mass Effect is a subversion (they thought it was a bunch of connected, collectively sapient plants but it wasn't). If so, the example should mention this.
    • There's a crapton of ZCEs that need fixing.

  • November 25, 2017
    zarpaulus
    • In Metamor City Nocturna's Lilies are a species of flower that grow only on the site of a Fantastic Nuke, they are all part of the same large plant and remain psionically linked even after cutting. They also act as a means for the hive mind of energy beings formed from the victims of the Balefire to observe the material world.
  • November 25, 2017
    TheGreatConversation
    The "Whispering Forest" in Welcome To Night Vale is a sentient, all-loving grove that whispers compliments to passersby and assimilates them if they draw near enough.
  • November 25, 2017
    zarpaulus
    ^ Not quite all-loving, when Kevin comes near they stop beckoning people to come join them and instead beg him to leave.
  • November 26, 2017
    Berrenta
    Unlaunched as it was rogue-launched without proper discussion. Culprit called in.
  • November 26, 2017
    Theriocephalus
    Figured this was going to happen when I saw it in the launches.

    Anyway. Thinking about this, I think the issues with this draft lie in the description, or rather the lack thereof. It's minimal and barely discusses the proposed trope — it doesn't really say anything about what this trope is beyond a bare minimum, how it's used or what its narrative purpose is. I personally think this is why the examples are all over the place. The description doesn't give a good feel for what this trope is — which I'm guessing is when an interconnected system of trees('s roots) ends up simulating a brain — so it doesn't give many cues for structuring examples. This is probably the reason beyond the ZCEs, too.

    On a related note, another reason this Needs A Better Description: at the moment, I don't think it gives enough of a basis in this trope's use in the narrative and worldbuilding for it to be more than an X But More Specific case of Genius Loci, which is what a lot of the examples seem to be gravitating towards right now.

    For the record, I do think this can be a good trope, but it needs a lot of work first.
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=c6t0aid1t1kvqclwzj97mdz7