"They shouldn't even be growing in the same hemisphere!"
Lots of writers put animals where they don't belong
. But to most people who aren't botanists, most plants look pretty similar. So you're safe sticking any old plant anywhere... right? Uh, well, wrong. Sometimes writers, artists, or programmers will stick a very specific plant into a scene, and it'll be completely misplaced.
There is some overlay here with Television Geography
in live action.
This can be easily justified since many travelers have introduced plants from elsewhere if the new area's climate can accommodate them. For example, relatively few palm trees grow native in the US, and cacti
in North and Latin America unless taken abroad. Also, if a work of fiction is set somewhere that's like
somewhere in the ancient or medieval world but isn't specifically there, they have an out for including things like potatoes or any other real-life plant: it's not set in the real world. Plant misplacement is especially present in works taking place in rainforests since it's hard to search for the tree species growing in these locations even with the help of the Internet. Not only there are a lot of different tree species unknown to the public, but different rainforests have different trees.
All Deserts Have Cacti
is a common subtrope. May occasionally be the result of SoCalization
, though filmmakers are careful not to show palm trees growing in places too temperate for them. Viewers aren't that moronic
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- In a recent Ocean Spray commercial, they claimed to be on a blueberry farm in Maine, but were standing in front of high-bush blueberries with no other trees visible. This is much more common in the south; Maine blueberry farms are mostly filled with the low-bush variety, which tend to grow in rocky terrain, and are frequently surrounded by pine forests.
Anime and Manga
- In anime (and consequently, most video games made in Japan), seeing rafflesia is a sure sign that you're in a jungle, even though real-life rafflesia are only found in southeast Asia.
- Major season 4 features the main character Goro Shigeno playing for a minor league team in Memphis, TN where the stadium is surrounded by a cityscape featuring palm trees planted LA style along the streets. Memphis is a very forested city, but palm trees don't grow well there.
- Used in an Awesome by Analysis moment in Naruto. While Sasuke and Naruto are unconscious and Sakura is protecting them, the three Sound Ninjas try to kill them all. Dozo is clued into the fact that Sakura has laid traps by the fact that the dirt is a different color and that the type of grass she used to cover the dirt doesn't grow in the forest they're in. Which makes one wonder where she got the grass.
- Tintin in the Congo had rubber trees, native to South America, growing wild in Africa. Could possibly be justified post-hoc if they're not not truly wild, but simply feral. There are commercial rubber plantations in Africa.
- Roman legionaries are seen peeling potatoes as part of their chores in Astérix, some 1700 years before their discovery by the western world. Justified by Rule of Funny, as Anachronism Stew is nearly the entire point.
Films — Animated
- The Emperor's New Groove features venus flytraps that are apparently growing on vines... in the middle of the vaguely South American jungle. Real life venus flytraps are found only in a vanishingly small range in coastal North Carolina. They are horrifyingly endangered in the wild. (The More You Know...). And Venus Flytraps don't "snap" shut; it usually takes at least second or two for the trap to mostly close, and several minutes to seal up completely. It also doesn't go "snap" - it's silent. The "teeth" are stiff bits of leaf, so no they can't bite your finger, nor can anything larger than a largish housefly get stuck in the trap. (Take two leaves, hold them together around your finger. Try to get loose. There ya go.) And despite what you see in movies, the biggest trap is less than two inches across.
- Disney's The Jungle Book, if you look very closely during the Elephant Patrol's first appearance in the film, you can actually see acacia trees in the background. Acacias grow in very dry deserts and scrubland, not jungles.
- In the same movie, Baloo explains to Mowgli in a song how to pick the fruit of the prickly pear... which is a species of cactus from the arid zones of America.
- An earlier animated work called Goliath II featured acacia trees growing in India.
- Another Disney case, The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea features a massive tropical coral reef beneath friggin polar ice sheet.note Actual polar marine ecosystems can sometimes appear quite lush, but definitely not tropical coral reefs with colorful fish. That's a pinch from the movie's big geography mess-up. Wait... complete with ice-hating giant clams.
Films — Live-Action
- Austin Powers lampshades this in The Spy Who Shagged Me. While supposedly driving along an English country road which looks remarkably like one in California, he remarks to camera: "You know what's remarkable? Is how much England looks in no way like Southern California."
- How coconuts exist in Arthurian Britain is a constant Running Gag in Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
- Any movie (or book, or TV show) taking place in the age of the dinosaurs and featuring grass. Grass (for the most partnote ) wasn't around back then.
- Splash. Madison is supposed to be swimming around Cape Cod, Massachusetts. The problem is that she swims past coral reefs, and there are no coral reefs near Cape Cod since the water is too cold. Those scenes were actually filmed in The Bahamas.
- Justified and lampshaded in Jurassic Park, where the incongruous flora is mentioned as being potentially damaging to the megafauna, but was added to the park anyway because it's pretty. There are other examples pointed out by Ellie Sattler, who first identifies an extinct plant by the leaves shortly after arriving on the island. She then points out, as one of the signs that the whole endeavor is negligent and careless, that some of the decorative plants in the visitor's center are toxic to humans. She then diagnoses the digestive problems of a stegosaurus by noting that there are toxic berries growing in the same place it would scoop up gizzard stones.note
- The Science of Discworld II: The Globe plays with potatoes. Rincewind is horrified that Elizabethan England doesn't have the humble spud.
- In-universe example in Tamora Pierce's Daja's Book — the characters need an illusion to cover up a magical artifact they've accidentally created in the middle of nowhere, so Niko makes a tree. Plant-mage Briar comments that it's a nice illusion, but that you'd never find a cork oak this far north. So Niko changes it to a pine.
- Toldi, a heroic poem that served as the artistic debut of Hungarian poet János Arany, comes close to making this mistake, when the titular outcast nobleman is reunited with his loyal servant. The servant mentions maize in an offhand sentence. The plot takes place centuries before the discovery of America so there was not way he would know what maize is.
- The island where The Swiss Family Robinson find themselves hosts an astonishing and unlikely variety of flora and fauna.
- Lampshaded in-universe in Dream Park, when S.J. remarks that the vegetation in Gaming Area A is from South America rather than New Guinea. Justified in-novel (though not in-Game) by the fact that the jungle setting had been constructed by the Army for a war-game scenario simulating an attack on Brazil, and was being reused for the South Seas Treasure Game.
- In the climax of Duma Key, which takes place on an island off the west coast of Florida, the main characters have to go through a jungle containing plants that should not be there without human interference, like Australian or Brazilian trees. Justified, because the jungle was raised through supernatural means by the Big Bad as protection.
- It's occasionally claimed that the trees visible in establishing shots on Seinfeld couldn't possibly grow in a New York climate — however, those shots are all taken in New York!
- The X-Files was filmed predominantly in British Columbia for its first few seasons before moving to California. Consequently, everywhere on Earth looks mysteriously like Canada early on and like California later on. In a particularly egregious example, British Columbia became Puerto Rico in "Little Green Men" by turning up the color saturation and dubbing on jungle sound effects. Similarly, "Anasazi" had a New Mexico that was actually a Canadian quarry painted orange.
- The opposite happened once the show moved to California. Desert shots—like the ones in "Within/Without" which were actually shot in a desert—were more realistic, while the ones portraying other parts of the US became markedly less realistic. Season 7's "Chimera," for example, set in Vermont, has many plant species (and weather for the time period it's set it) that simply do not exist in New England.
- The episode "Detour" purportedly took place in the Apalachicola Forest in north-central Florida. A Pacific Northwest forest was used as the set instead of the expected live oaks and slash pines.
- LOST is famous for it. One example, in several episodes of the second season we see aloe vera barbardensis... in the jungle. Also, you can see their plastic pots sometimes. This can easily be Hand Waved, since the island apparently has the ability to move.
- In any given episode of Friends, look closely at "Central Park" and you'll see a great example of California Doubling: since when do Eucalyptus and Cycad trees survive in New York?
- Xena: Warrior Princess eating a tomato. In ancient Greece.
- Hercules: The Legendary Journeys had lots of ancient Greek villages with tomato-filled carts and corn cobs drying outside.
- St. Louis, Missouri is not nearly as riddled with evergreen trees and Lawrence, Kansas is not as leafy as Supernatural would have you believe, and most of the trees that are there are deciduous.
- The area "just outside of Grand Junction" happens to be a desert, which makes all the leafy greens outside the car when one of the characters states their location seem a little odd to Colorado natives.
- Demian, in his Television Without Pity recaps, often makes mention of Bobby's house set in the lush coastal rainforests of central South Dakota.
- Star Trek has been known to feature American vegetation on planets, even the ones where no man has gone before. Since they also have Human Aliens, Klingon coffee, and Romans speaking modern American English, that's hardly inconsistent. They wave "parallel evolution" around a lot on Star Trek. For a specific example of getting real-world vegetation wrong in Star Trek that doesn't have the "another planet" excuse, in the first episode of Enterpise, the Klingon ship crashes in Broken Bow, Oklahoma in the middle of a flat corn field. Broken Bow is far from flat, and in a coniferous forest to boot. You'd have to go to central and western Oklahoma to have any big giant corn fields like the one shown in this episode. Also doubles as Artistic License - Geography due to the lack of the ubiquitous Ouachita Mountains that surround the area. Now, it wouldn't be bad if it had been set in Broken Arrow, which still has rolling hills, but has lots of flat areas to grow corn in, but they apparently didn't think of that.
- Good Eats plays this for comedy. The episode "Down and Out in Paradise" is framed as Alton Brown being stranded on a desert island in order to show of tropical foods. Throughout the episode the various fruits, such as pineapples, mangos, and coconuts he finds confuses him as to where exactly he is, since none of those are naturally found in the same location. Turns out he was in Hawaii and just couldn't see the city across the bay from him due to losing his glasses.
- In one episode of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, the murder victim was found on a golf course. One clue to just where on the course the murder took place was a specific variety of bentgrass on the golf cart. Some bentgrasses are grown specifically for golf course use (they apparently make nice greens). The one they found is a noxious weed, and if it was growing anywhere on a tournament-class golf course the entire landscaping crew would have been fired.
- Stargate SG-1:
- Daniel comes into contact with his wife and finds out where her child is, the planet he and his wife meet on is entirely covered in blooming Scotch Broom, which is quite invasive in the Pacific Northwest.
- Also in SG-1, scenes that take place in the woods immediately outside Cheyenne Mountain usually depict a lush forest with lots of ferns, which certainly would not be found in comparatively arid Colorado Springs.
- Subverted in Farscape where the presence of Strelitzia a.k.a. "Bird of Paradise" flowers which at first appears to be an example of this trope is actually a major plot point
- Animal Crossing has rafflesia, if you let there be enough weeds in your town, then one will eventually pop out of nowhere. It isn't that jarring, considering this is the same game where you can fish up piranhas and coelecanth from a small town filled with anthropomorphic animals.
- Absolutely everywhere in Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, though it's justified by being imported species for government experiments. Interestingly, the one example The Last Days of Foxhound chose to lampshade this trope (tumbleweeds) is actually a native species to the region, and an invasive weed in the southwestern United States where it is most well known.
- The Valparaiso map of Bad Company 2 takes places in a jungle. The real Valparaiso is nowhere near any jungles, and has a semi-arid climate that more closely matches Southern California.
- Ditto the Valparaiso track in Wipeout 2097
- Halo 3: Plants from the Pacific Northwest (eg rhododendrons, ivy) in the African jungle. And there aren't any jungles in that part of Kenya anyways.
- And again with Rafflesias, The King of Fighters XIII has one in the Brazil stage.
- For some reason, Glacier le Cactank of Mega Man Zero 3 is an ice-based cactus based in a snowy region.
- One episode of Disney's Aladdin: The Series had Africans growing corn in the Middle Ages.
- Dora the Explorer is implied to take place in Mexico. She has been seen picking wild blueberries in the show; mainly on Blueberry Hill, where the villain Swiper the Fox lives. Blueberries never grow in Mexico, they're farther north.
- G.I. Joe: Renegades made the same mistake with St. Louis that Supernatural did: though all the trees around Duke's family's house are (correctly) deciduous, the ones passed by in all the car-cashes were all conifers, which would only makes sense if they were going past a series of enormous Christmas tree yard.
- Total Drama Island lampshades it. Chef expresses confusion as to what a palm tree (found almost exclusively in tropical or subtropical climates) is doing in temperate northern Toronto.
- Thanks to mankind's tendency to move species around for the hell of it, you can find certain species in areas where they have no right whatsoever to grow. There is a small Caribbean island infested with pine trees that the government was having the darnedest time killing off. The eucalyptus tree, native to Australia, has expanded across southern California, South Africa, Madagascar's highlands, and Ethiopia, and north of Spain for the same reason. Much like Misplaced Wildlife, this either kills off the plants moved or the indigenous plants, depending on the environment. Many countries maintain noxious/invasive weed eradication programs similar to this US example.
- A good real life example is in California: Palm Trees. They're not native to this area, they were just brought here because they grow nicely here and "look pretty." Problem. Here? They -rain- pollen, so if you're in So Cal and wonder why you can't stop sneezing: it's because of this trope.
- The one exception is the Washington Palm, Washingtonia filifera. It's for this tree that Palm Springs was named. However, this is usually not the same tree that lines the streets of LA and other Southwestern cities.
- You know where else you find palm trees? Ireland. To give an idea of how messed up that is, Ireland sits on the fifty-third parallel, which puts it on the same latitude as Edmonton, though the Gulf Stream makes the temperatures relatively warm and stable.
- Here's one that might blow your mind: tumbleweeds are not native to the American west. Their common name among botanists is Russian Thistle. They were originally accidentally unleashed on South Dakota in 1870 or 1874 in a shipment of flaxseed, and had colonized the west coast by 1900. We now associate them with the wild west that Western movies are almost obligated to include them, even if they weren't present at the time depicted.
- Kudzu in the southeastern US is another notorious example; it's originally from China. (Fun fact: it's edible)
- And in Florida (as well as Lake Victoria in Africa), Water Hyacinths from South America. They clog the lakes up. The Florida State government, for example, said, "Do what you want. Get rid of this!" in legalese.
- Almost as bad in the North as Kudzu is in the South, English Ivy has gone from picturesque ornamental plant to major pest.
- Tamarisk, aka Salt Cedar, is a drought hardy plant that was brought to some areas of the US (Colorado and Utah have loads of this, particularly the Colorado river system), but is a majorly invasive species. You see, Tamarisk is originally from the Kazakh steppes not far from Russia. Eastern Colorado has a very similar climate to the Tamarisk's natural habitat, but has none of the natural counters to it. Thus this tree spreads like weeds all over the southwest's precious little water resources. It's difficult to kill off (you can't burn them out, the roots survive to grow again), they can (and in several places DO) suck a river dry, they weed out the native trees and plants and they're ugly to boot! The Colorado state and local governments have been waging a war against these plants for over 10 years and have yet to make significant progress against them. The current strategy employed is introducing ANOTHER species, the Tamarisk Leaf Beetle, Diorhabda elongata, which is released en mass every year to go out and eat the tamarisk.
- Russian Olive is also similar in Colorado, as it's actually outlawed. The Tree of Heaven is also considered a noxious weed, and it can grow anywhere, even out of a crack in the road.
- Another huge problem in the western US? Grass. Namely cheatgrass and several other species of brome. Originally introduced as feed, it went wild and took over the landscape, obliterating all native grasses in their path. Not only that, but because they aren't well adapted to dry environments, they're a huge fire hazard. Every year there are thousands of wildfires spread and fueled by these grasses.
- Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare), native to Europe and Asia, has become a major pest in parts of the US, and a particular bane of equestrians, as it spreads prolifically and is toxic to horses.
- Originally imported from Europe for erosion control in developed areas in the temperate US (particularly around roads), Scotch Broom (Cytisus scoparius) has since been designated a noxious weed due to its tendency to spread rapidly and crowd out native species.
- Bindweed, often mistaken for Morning Glory due to being in the same family.
- Blackcurrant almost became this. It's native to Europe, but was outlawed in the US because it carried the vector for white pine rust, and this threatened the logging industry in New England. While it is not a federal ban anymore, it's making a bit of a "comeback" from places like New York. (As a result, Americans prefer the more native Cranberries or blueberries.)
- Another Floridian example - one variety of melaleuca, the paper bark tea tree (usually just "melaleuca" to locals) was originally brought in to help quickly drain swampland to make more habitable land, particularly near the Everglades. Between its thirst, its ability to block out saplings of local plants, and the fact that almost nothing native to Florida eats it, it has become a serious menace to the Everglades.
- Anywhere north of the sixtieth parallel is either boreal forest, tundra, or shield country (or, if you go really far north, sea ice). Boreal forest has a very distinctive appearance - the trees are mostly conifers, with the occasional birch or larchnote thrown in, and very tall and skinny. A forest full of thick deciduous trees pretending to be the Yukon isn't particularly convincing, no matter how much snow is on the ground.
- Most cases of grass in the Mesozoic era or earlier, due to Science Marches On. The "Walking With..." was one of the only series to avert this, until they recently found out that there was grass during the Cretaceous period.
- The Middle Ages in general are a big victim of this, what with all the American crops that didn't exist there yet, the most conspicuous being potatoes, a staple food in modern Europe. Name the fantasy novel that takes place in pseudo-Medieval-Europe that doesn't have potatoes in it. They're just too yummy to let go.
- Similarly, tomatoes. Tomatoes originated in South America; nowadays Italian cuisine puts tomatoes in a lot.
- Tall, waving White Pines (covered in snow, no less) in Georgia (See Dreaming of a White Christmas).
- Pineapples are strongly associated with Hawaii... and originated in South America. To the extent that in Peru, if not other South American countries, restaurants will frequently call menu items "Hawaiian" if pineapple is an ingredient.
- Cottonwood trees have invaded northern Arizona (there is in fact an Arizona city named for them).
- Indian Figs are native to the Americas, but have successfully invaded most of the Mediterranean region after they were introduced in the 1500s. They also became a plague in Australia in the 19th and early 20th centuries, prompting government policies to eradicate them.
- A more common name for Indian figs is "prickly pear cactus", for clarity.
- Hydrangeas are not native to the Azores, but began to proliferate there after being brought over.
- Garlic mustard, native to Europe, is a huge problem in North America.
- A German soccer team trainer once famously stated that a certain African player should go back to Africa to dribble around the cacti; little did he know that there's not a single cactus growing on the whole African continent.
- Rhododendron ponticum is not native to the UK, having been introduced in the 18th century (it had existed in region prior to the last Ice Age but had no recolonised after the ice retreated). It has caused untold damage to the native flora and fauna and is considered a major pest with eradication strategies having been in place for years. However, it's found everywhere so people often don't realise that it's an introduced species, or how much damage it's doing to the environment. This lack of awareness is especially evident in period shows where, despite the producers doing their best to make the location look as un-modern as possible, they don't tend to care if plants such as rhododendron appear in shot despite them not having been introduced to the country at the time of the show's setting.