Created By: Shnakepup on September 18, 2013 Last Edited By: Morgenthaler on July 12, 2016
Troped

Tree Vessel

Not just made from wood...a ship that's literally a tree.

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This is a trope, mainly in science fiction, where a ship or vessel of some kind is literally made out of a tree. Not merely made out of wood, or that a tree was used in the construction, this ship actually looks like (and possibly functions as) a giant tree. A key element is that the tree should be living, and was grown/created/transplanted specifically for the purpose.

Most often used in Science Fiction, though not necessarily limited to it. In certain cases it may be used to show a race as basically Space Elves who have both high technology and still are in tune with nature.

A Sub-Trope of Living Ship. Compare Genius Loci and World Tree. See Lily-Pad Platform and Leaf Boat for more terrestrial examples of plants being used for transportation.

Examples:

Anime and Manga

Film
  • The Tree of Life in the "space traveler" sections of the film The Fountain.

Literature
  • In the Hyperion Cantos, the Ouster "Treeships".
  • In Raft by Stephen Baxter, one of the strange lifeforms in the high-gravity universe is a species of mobile floating trees. Humans turn them into vessels and steer them through space.
  • Alastair Reynolds has a version of this in his Revelation Space Series. The "Greenfly" infestation that is depicted taking over the galaxy in Absolution Gap is shown to be billions of self-contained biospheres containing trees and tree-like plants.
  • The Last Continent does this with a tree that's been made into a boat by the local god of evolution. The leaf is a sail, the hull is a floating seed, etc.
  • Animorphs: Pemalite ships use huge trees as computers for their spaceships. Even Ax (whose species' ships have giant biodomes filled with forests and plains) finds it ridiculous.

Tabletop Games

Web Original
  • Orion's Arm has what are called "Dyson Trees". They grow into vast orbital habitats. They're genetically engineered giant plants that can survive in vacuum and synthesizes nutrients from ices found in a comets or icy asteroids, into which they're rooted. Inside there is a sealed hollow filled with air, inside which other lifeforms, including humans, can live.

Western Animation
  • Non-space example: In Ice Age 2: The Meltdown, the animals have to find a boat at the end of the valley before the ice dam breaks. The "boat" turns out to be a gigantic hollow log.

Community Feedback Replies: 44
  • September 18, 2013
    DragonQuestZ
    Four examples seems like enough.

    The name could use tweaking, as some might think this is shipping with plants as part of the couple.

    Also, what are the parameters? Is this a hollowed out tree like a canoe? Does it stand up like a tree? Can it be sat on like a log?
  • September 19, 2013
    kjnoren
    I think one key element here is that the tree should be living, and be grown for the purpose. At last that's the case in Hyperion, and how I envision things.

    As for ships, the shippers will have to deal.
  • September 19, 2013
    DAN004
    Tree Boat would be a good alternative.
  • September 19, 2013
    kjnoren
    Boat implies a much smaller vessel than ship.

    Though I imagine a tree boat in this context would be made out of a bush :-)
  • September 19, 2013
    Chabal2
    The Last Continent does this with a tree that's been made into a boat by the local god of evolution: The leaf is a sail, the hull is a floating seed, etc.
  • September 19, 2013
    KTera
    ...I'm going to admit that the title made me picture dendrophilia. Tree Vessel, maybe?
  • September 19, 2013
    Larkmarn
    The description should have more about the significance of the trope. In my experience, it tends to be used to show a race as basically Space Elves who have both high technology and still are in tune with nature.

  • September 19, 2013
    m8e
    Tree Ship is a good name, we shouldn't name it something else just because the shippers have kidnapped the word ship.(There might be different reasons, though.)

    And we have Cool Ship, Drop Ship, Ghost Ship(not Ghost Shipping), Sapient Ship, Spy Ship, Generation Ships(not May December Romance) and so on, so using ship isn't really a problem.
  • September 19, 2013
    Larkmarn
    Tree Ship is fine, I think. There's not a lot it can be misinterpreted as.

    Though I still think Generation Ships wasn't the best choice, since as much as I hate shipping and its tropes, it sounds like Intergenerational Friendship in shipping form.

    But I do have to say, unless someone establishes some reasoning behind this, it's just The Same But More Specific to Organic Technology, thus not tropeworthy on its own.
  • September 19, 2013
    somerandomdude
  • September 19, 2013
    Snicka
    I think Tree Ship is good and clear. How would you interpret a Shipping that involves trees, anyway? (Do I really want to know?)
  • September 19, 2013
    aurora369
    There is a real-life concept called a Dyson tree. Basically, a gengineered giant plant that can survive in vacuum and synthesizes nutrients from ices found in a comet or icy asteroid, into which it is rooted. Inside that plant there is a sealed hollow filled with an atmosphere, inside which other lifeforms, including humans, can live.

    ^ Ent/Entwife, maybe?
  • September 19, 2013
    SharleeD
    • Space vessels created by elves in the Spelljammer D&D setting are grown, not built, from living, leafy trees.

    "A Tree At Sea", maybe?
  • September 19, 2013
    zarpaulus
  • September 19, 2013
    CosmeF
    Usopp from One Piece is an expert on seeds of bizarre plants, and has a seed suited for every situation, including the seed of a boat-plant, useful to cross rivers.
  • September 19, 2013
    kjnoren
    @Larkmarn: A Tree Ship can be made out of magic, not only Organic Technology.And I think the concept is common enough to warrant its own trope page, especially as there are cases where the Tree Ship is the only organic technology shown (I eg think that's the case in the Hyperion books).
  • September 20, 2013
    DAN004
  • September 20, 2013
    kjnoren
    And Leaf Boat.
  • September 20, 2013
    TonyG
    In Ice Age 2 The Meltdown, the animals have to find a boat at the end of the valley before the ice dam breaks. The boat turns out to be a gigantic hollow log.
  • September 25, 2013
    Shnakepup
    Updated the description a bit. Added an image. Had a hard time finding a good "treeship" picture, since a lot of what I could find was fan-art and didn't often look very tree-like. If someone else can find a better image, or think one of the other ones I linked are fine, let me know and I'll change it.
  • September 25, 2013
    Frank75
    • In German, the word for "dugout" is "Einbaum", which literally means "one-tree".
  • September 25, 2013
    Paradisesnake
    Sorted the examples by media.
  • September 25, 2013
    SharleeD
    Not sure if this counts, but:

    • In the Dragaera novels, Vlad once makes passing reference to some odd-looking trees as being shaped that way because they're "shiptrees, for designs no longer used". It's implied that the trees are Organic Technology that grow naturally into the shapes of ships or ship parts, but whether they'd be harvested alive or dead isn't stated.

    BTW, the hull of the boat from The Last Continent is a floating gourd, not a floating seed. We do see its seeds a bit later in the novel, but they were surfboards, not ships.
  • September 25, 2013
    JonnyB
    Not quite sure if this would count: In Larry Niven's novel, The Integral Trees, human descendents of a spaceship crash live in giant tree-like plants floating in a gas torus orbiting a neutron star.
  • September 26, 2013
    Shnakepup
    I remember thinking of that one, but I've never read it. Do the trees move in any way? Like, guided by the humans as vessels?
  • September 26, 2013
    SparkyYoungUpstart
    • The ships grown in the Rocketship Forest in Sa Ga. Granted you can't really steer them, but they are open to suggestion.
  • September 26, 2013
    XYZ
    The observatory in Dragon Quest IX could count as this.
  • September 26, 2013
    CrypticMirror
    Worth mentioning World Tree in the "see also" line maybe?
  • October 7, 2013
    Snicka
    I say you can keep the name Tree Ship, and mention in the description that it has nothing to do with Shipping that involves trees.
  • August 7, 2014
    littlemissmuffet
    • Two of Jim C. Hines' "Princess" novels, The Mermaid's Madness and The Snow Queen's Shadow, feature a ship called the Phillipa captained by a dryad named Hephyra.
  • August 7, 2014
    DAN004
    Why not Tree Boat?
  • August 7, 2014
    bejjinks
    I added the word transplanted because I think some examples where the tree was already in existence but relocated would qualify. The point of this trope is that the tree remain a tree and not just a source of wood. It doesn't have to have been created for that purpose as long as it remains still a tree.
  • August 7, 2014
    Paycheckgurl
  • August 7, 2014
    LordGro
    Take Tree Ship. It's about ships that look like trees, not boats that look like trees.
  • August 7, 2014
    DAN004
  • August 7, 2014
    IndirectActiveTransport
    I'll give it another hat when it has more examples. Till then I think we can afford to sit for another four or five.
  • August 11, 2014
    JonnyB
    ^^^^^^^^^^^ The trees aren't guided, no. Although one drifts out of orbit and breaks apart...
  • July 11, 2016
    Morgenthaler
    Since it seems the OP has forgotten about this one, I'll take up sponsorship.

    And seeing as this already has 7 hats, I'll give it a few more days before launching this.
  • July 11, 2016
    Snicka
    I vote for the name Tree Vessel, since the word "ship" is a Loaded Trope Word which is about Shipping.
  • July 11, 2016
    Morgenthaler
    ^ Agreed, I could go with Tree Vessel.
  • July 11, 2016
    DAN004
    ^ yay.
  • July 11, 2016
    Chabal2
    Animorphs: Pemalite ships use huge trees as computers for their spaceships. Even Ax (whose species' ships have giant biodomes filled with forests and plains) finds it ridiculous.
  • July 12, 2016
    Avengium
    I agree with @snicka "Tree Vessel" could fit better and avoid the confusion. I thought in a shipping relationship with a tree character. Also in a lot of sci-fi works, the transport are vessels.
  • July 12, 2016
    Morgenthaler
    Adjusted the title accordingly.

    ^^ Added, but namespaces next time please. This isn't the first time I've noted this either.
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