Follow TV Tropes


Bonsai Forest

Go To
In Real Life, the smallest maple trees will still grow to about five times the height of an ordinary human.

Usually when a forest's upper trees are shorter than 15 metersnote  in Real Life, it means that the soil is either too dry (sandy or limestone soil), too wet (bog) or just too low on nutrients to allow proper tree growth. As such, it's also common that the forest in that case is sparse.

In some media, it seems that entire forests can be very low-lying (and still can be impassably thick). Sometimes even in biomes you wouldn't expect the same to happen in real life. The reason may be due to technical limitations. Sometimes this is a result of things not being strictly to scale. Sometimes it just seems to be Artistic License.

Some try to prevent that by doing the opposite — gigantic sequoia-like forests. However, there are almost no forests (especially passable forests) which have densely packed thin and tall trees.

Related to Units Not to Scale. See also Firewood Resources, where wood for construction is collected in improbably small bundles.


Video Games

    open/close all folders 

    Action RPGs 
  • The vast majority of Quest 64's trees don't reach up past about three times Brian's height, be they evergreen or deciduous. Even the taller ones are only about two stories tall. The various forests have more realistically-sized trees (but not in Quest RPG).

    Eastern RPGs 

  • Justified with the Sacred Forest in Paper Mario: Color Splash, as the forest was shrunk to a ridiculously small size by Kamek's magic. The trees are only barely taller the Mario in there.
  • Pokémon:
    • Most games in the series have very small trees, so much so that a 3' 11" Sudowoodo is mistaken for a tree in Pokémon Gold, Silver, and Crystal, as well as in the remakes HeartGold and SoulSilver. This is downplayed somewhat in Generation IV, where the inside of Eterna Forest is dappled with light and shadow to give the impression of large trees overhead — despite the actual trees seen still being as small as ever, almost seeming to suggest a layered forest with regular trees above bonsai ones — and in the Generation V games, where occasional trees, usually in forest areas, are twice as tall as normal tree sprites.
    • Fully averted starting with Pokémon X and Y: besides employing the same dappling effect as in Eterna Forest, the series' Video Game 3D Leap allows trees to be portrayed at realistic sizes. Note that this only applies to trees within forest areas—trees in overworld routes and cities are as bonsai as ever.
  • Golden Sun: When moving around on the overworld, trees come up to your sprite's waist. Background screens during a battle and forested locations such as Kolima and Mogall show more realistic trees.

    First Person Shooters 

  • Trees in Serious Sam had a poor tree growth. Serious Sam II somewhat improves it (Magnor doesn't count since it's a Macro Zone).
  • Trees in the Unreal series are rather small relative to the player character.

    Hack And Slash 
  • Diablo II have rather short trees. It may be justified in the first half of chapter 1 and chapter 5 due to them taking place in moors, stony fields, marshes and tundras where the growth of trees is naturally poor. Chapter 3, however, doesn't have that excuse since it takes place in a rainforest.

  • Furcadia's original default trees were not much taller than players with one literally being an oversized bonzai tree. This has been averted with more recent tree additions, some of which are so large they require two items to be placed on the map to make one tree.
  • Runescape has very few trees which reach three times of a human height. This also includes palm trees and rainforests. Eventually in 2011, many of those short trees were gradually replaced by trees of the size of a lamppost.
    • And, after yet another update, the very trees seen pictured above now tower over player characters, at a size befitting an actual maple tree.

    Platform Games 
  • Eversion has trees barely taller than the character, although whether they are really short trees or just tall bushes is up for debate.

  • In Scribblenauts, even redwoods are maybe twice Maxwell's height.

    Real Time Strategy 
  • Age of Empires:
    • Age of Empires I had trees so small they were dwarfed by elephants and weren't much bigger than Villagers.
    • Invoked in Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition after a post-release update, where you can scale the trees down to AoE I sizes in the options menu. This is because they have a tendency to obscure units and buildings.
  • Trees in the Warcraft series are rather short as well. This is not the case in World of Warcraft, where they are realistically sized.


    Simulation Games 

  • The trees in the Animal Crossing series are only slightly taller than its characters.
  • In the first Black & White game, all trees were at most twice as big as an adult villager (presumably so that all objects you and your Creature can pick up are of roughly the same size). Forests are even stranger, appearing as abstract green blobs that only barely clear a villager's head.
  • The trees in the various MechWarrior games are not only short, but they're pencil thin. In addition, they almost all seem to be skinny, unhealthy-looking pine trees. You never encounter a redwood or even a respectably sized oak. Averted in Mechwarrior Living Legends, where trees and other foliage is to-scale with the Powered Armor suits and real life, though once you climb into your Humongous Mecha everything looks tiny.
  • RollerCoaster Tycoon. Even the tallest trees (much taller than average) are more 10 meters than 15.

    Western RPG  
  • Justified in The Elder Scrolls series' backstory, St. Veloth was the legendary Chimer mystic who led his people away from the decadence of the Summerset Isles to their new homeland in Morrowind. He was said to have brought the seeds of trees with him from the Summerset Isle and planted them in Vvardenfell. With ashy, volcanic soil not being the best supporter of vegetation, the trees that took were sparse and remained quite small. This can be seen in Morrowind, where trees are sparse, limited only to the greener areas of the island, and generally remain small across Vvardenfell.
  • Neverwinter Nights: In the Rural tileset, the trees are both ludicrously thick and not exceptionally tall (being about one terrain-height variation tall, or about 5m).

    Wide Open Sandbox  

  • In Minecraft, the majority of trees are short enough that you can strike the top of the trunk from the ground level. Under the right conditions, saplings became adult trees in a matter of hours, but never grow any taller after that point. Despite this, the trees grow very thickly in forest biomes, and can merge their canopies with other nearby trees, producing an illusion of forestry. This is averted with the occasional giant oak, plus the trees in the tall birch forest, taiga and rainforest biomes, which grow much taller than the regular kind.
  • In Don't Starve, even the tallest trees - both evergreen and deciduous - are only around three times the height of the Super-Deformed player characters, and around the same height as the more realistically proportioned NPC Maxwell. Treeguards are somewhat taller, since they have arms and legs attached to the tree.

Non-Video Game Examples

    Tabletop Games And Related Hobbies 

  • In the Wargaming hobby, scale model figures and accessories are used to simulate actual battles, often over the most accurate possible landscape modelling, with accurately scaled buildings and terrain features. however, in real life, a mature tree might grow to between eighty and a hundred feet depending on species. In the widely accepted 1:72/25mm scale where a human figure stands an inch tall, a tree in perfect scale would be at least 14 inches tall. (35cm). Imagine a scaled-down forest in this scale, or even a small wood, and the problems of miving your inch-tall figures around them become apparent. Therefore all wargamers compromise with what might be thought of as bonsai trees - giving the general impression whilst being way out of scale.
    • The same constraints apply to model railway hobbyists, who accept perfectly scaled trees would paradoxically look grotesquely oversize and detract from the trains. model trains also tend to move among "bonsai trees".


  • LEGO tree pieces are like this, about a head taller than a minifig. More "serious" builders defy this by making more realistic looking brick-built trees.

    Web Original 

  • The trees in Petpetpet Habitarium of Neopets are only about thrice as tall as the ladybug-sized insects. Sure, they only have four leaves each, but also have relatively thick brown trunks that indicate these are no seedlings.

    Real Life 


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Videogame Trees Grow Poorly, Trees Not To Scale


Sacred Forest

Thanks to Kameks magic, the trees and everything else are tiny.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (2 votes)

Example of:

Main / BonsaiForest

Media sources: