"Well, money doesn't grow on trees, does it?" demanded the count.
"I've heard not," said Milo.
"Then something must. Why not words?" exclaimed the undersecretary triumphantly.
A fantasy trope, mostly confined to children's fantasy, where trees don't just grow fruit, they grow anything you could want. Sometimes it's food, and sometimes it's something like shoes, or hammers, or whatever the author wants.
The idea of a money tree is also a great fantasy, even though you'd need a pretty big Artistic License in Economics to believe that buying things with such money is any more sustainable or ethical than counterfeiting.
Compare Level Ate, for more useful landscaping, and Solid Gold Poop for another money-for-nothing scenario as well as Body to Jewel for when it's not trees, but the (human) body which produces jewelry specifically.
If a plant is a potential source of anything you might want, but its parts still need to be processed before they're usable, it's a Multipurpose Monocultured Crop.
- In a series of adverts for Barclays Bank in 2004, Donald Sutherland tells Gary Oldman all about an old friend of his who learned how to grow money trees, and soon owned a thousand forests of them.
Gary: Well, if money trees are real, how come you ain't got one?
Donald: Are you crazy? If it were that simple, we'd all be growing them!
- Zekkyou Gakkyuu: In one story, a girl discovers that the source of a classmate's family's wealth is a bonsai tree that grows bills. She steals it for herself and her family uses it to live more prosperous lives, but then her father mysteriously vanishes. The girl discovers far too late that the tree gets nutrients by sucking people underground and eating them. Unfortunately, the tree has by that point eaten her classmate's family, her own parents, and herself.
- In De cape et de crocs, there is an island where cheese and eggs grow on trees. It's later revealed they come from the moon, where almost everything, including precious gems and gold, grows on trees. Selenites think of gold as annoying weed. The only currency on the moon is poetry.
- Judge Dredd has treemeat plantations, from which farmers harvest meat that grows on mutant trees.
- A Mandrake the Magician story takes place in a country of botanists who developed plants for any — and I mean any — possible purpose. Just a few examples: fluorescent lamppost-like trees, self-cooking potatoes, steak bushes, nylon stocking plants, giant mushroom houses which grow complete with central heating and electrical wiring. The most far-fetched is probably the transport — miles-long trailing vines that grow at 40 MPH with passengers clinging to the leaves.
- Twilight Sparkle Solves Carnivory: Twilight Sparkle decides to solve the ethical issues inherent in carnivory by creating a meat tree. The issue is that, unlike the examples where a regular tree grows something exotic on its branches, this is an entire tree made out of skinless meat and vascular tissues. The presentation goes... poorly, partly due to the audiences' visceral reaction to the tree itself and partly from carnivorous species resenting what they feel to be ponies attempting to push their own cultural maxims onto them.
- In Big Top Pee-wee, Pee-Wee Herman is a farmer who keeps a hot dog tree under wraps.
- In Kamen Rider Wizard In Magic Land, protagonist Haruto is utterly gobsmacked to find Magic Land's version of the Second Rider Nitoh fishing for squeeze-bottles of mayonnaise (which even flop in the bucket like fish). Nitoh's response is "Of course I am! What, does it grow on trees where you come from?", complete with a brief Imagine Spot.
- In Magic Island, the protagonist (a kid from the present-day) sees a tree on the eponymous island which has slices of hot pepperoni pizza growing from its branches. Later, a couple of pirates find the same tree, which is now growing legs of roast chicken. It's also guarded by a land shark.
- The joke about an irate mother whose child keeps taking apples from the kitchen: "Apples don't grow on trees, you know!"
- The Adventures of Pinocchio: The Fox and the Cat tell Pinocchio that if he plants some gold coins in the ground, they will grow into a tree with a thousand gold coins growing on it. It turns out to be a fraud.
- Cetaganda, set on a planet where genetic engineering is a high art, has a tree that has kittens as its "fruit". They don't survive being "plucked", however, if not ripe yet. The man who plucked one (attracted by their sleeping mewing) thought they were somehow glued to the tree and failed to look before effectively ripping one in half.
- Dave Barry's Guide to Marriage and/or Sex has an illustration depicting the Colombian condom bush (Citcalyhporp rebbur).
- The Diamond Age has the Chinese trying to create nanotech "Seed" devices that sprout into items and buildings when planted. They do this to end reliance on the western-controlled "Feed", a Matter Replicator system with a centralized architecture.
- Dirge for Prester John features a tree that produces books.
- The Last Continent takes this trope to extremes. A god of evolution causes trees and bushes to sprout with anything the wizards who land on the island desire, up to and including cigarettes. Let's just say that, when they decide to leave the island, a fully organic ship turns up, complete with a figurehead (with a disturbing resemblance to the only female on the party).
- The Discworld Atlas mentions that FourEcks (the "vaguely australian" country) has a pasta bush. This has been introduced to Brindisi (the "vaguely italian" country), but they're suspicious that it's not proper pasta.
- In Evolution, the lasts descendants of man live five hundred million years from now in symbiosis with borametz-like trees (and symbiosis means that they're literally born of said trees) on the Mars-like, arid, and hot plains of Pangaea Ultima.
- The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy:
- In Life, the Universe and Everything, it is explained that since the universe is so very large, everything one could possibly manufacture is growing somewhere as a natural product. The two things he mentions specifically are mattresses (apparently a swamp-dwelling animal species), and screwdriver trees.
- In The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, a culture of idiots that has just been transplanted to the prehistoric Earth decides to make leaves their national currency, then immediately begin burning down trees to fight inflation.
- Land of Oz:
- In Ozma of Oz, Dorothy and co. come upon lunch-box trees in the country of Ev, which contain a ham sandwich, a piece of sponge-cake, a pickle, a slice of new cheese, and an apple. The trees also grow napkins.
- In Tik-Tok of Oz, the inhabitants of Oogaboo are named after the crops they grow on their orchard trees — Jo Apple, Jo Candy, Jo Stockings, Jo Files, etc. Jo Files also has a storybook tree, where the stories are "dull and confusing" if they're picked too soon, but if you wait until they're ripe, they're excellent. In the same book, a prisoner in the Nome King's domain survives by eating off what he calls "Hotel Trees", which grow coconut-looking things you can unscrew to reveal they contain a three-course dinner, from soup to nuts.
- The Lotus Caves: The protagonists find a cave filled with plant life that responds to their desires. This includes a tree that reshapes itself to be a diving board over their swimming hole.
- The Magical Monarch Of Mo. In the land of Mo, everything the people need in their daily lives grows on trees. This includes swords, hats, rings, peanuts, medicine, preserved apricots, shrimp salad, animal crackers, and bicycles.
- In The Magician's Nephew, the kids plant a piece of toffee and it grows into a toffee tree (overnight!), although it only produces remarkably toffee-like fruit instead of actual toffee. They also manage to produce gold and silver trees out of dropped coins, as well as the much more famous iron bar that grows into a gaslamp-post. When Uncle Andrew realizes the implications of this effect, he starts talking about coming back with guns to take over Narnia and make a fortune turning scrap metal into battleships and train cars. Aslan later explains that his scheme wouldn't have worked, because the only reason Narnia was doing this was that it had been created only the previous day, and it still had a sort of echo of that power in it. Within a few days, the effects would fade and only regular seeds would produce trees.
- The Pendragon Adventure: Played for Laughs.
Boon: Food doesn't grow on trees, you know!
- Pettson and Findus: In A Rumpus in the Garden, Pettson is planting carrots. Findus doesn't like carrots, so he plants a meatball instead.
- The Phantom Tollbooth: Letters grow on trees. When Milo questions this, they point out that money doesn't grow on trees, but something must — why not words? (Numbers, by the way, are mined.)
- Slaughterhouse-Five: One of Kilgore Trout's short stories is about a tree that grows money. It's fertilised by the blood of humans who fight over its leaves.
- Snow Crash has a dog whose virtual reality includes steaks growing on trees.
- La sorciere du placard à balais (The witch from the broom closet): The main character ends up with a macaroni tree in his garden.
- The Star Diaries: One story has such plants. However, they've been left uncultivated for several generations and the cross-pollination has created some bizarre results (like carnivorous, ambulatory furniture).
- The Story of Ferdinand features a cork tree that has bottle corks growing on its branches like acorns. In Real Life, cork does grow on trees, but as bark that needs to be peeled off and shaped.
- The Talking Parcel by Gerald Durrell: In the Magical Land of Mythopoeia, this is the default means of producing many common items: bottles and corks are each plucked off their own respective tree, for example. The main characters' guide finds the real-world version of a "cork tree" rather ridiculous by comparison.
- The Thousand and One Nights: The tale of Aladdin features a grove in the cave where the lamp is found, where grow trees producing, for instance, emeralds the shape (and size) of Pears. Of course, you'll die if you try to take them...
- Treehorns Treasure: Treehorn puts some money his parents give him in a hole in a tree, as a hiding spot. The next day, he notices that the tree is now growing bills, as if they were fruit (he keeps from picking some on the basis that they didn't seem "ripe"). The whole thing ends abruptly, when he takes the money out of the tree at his dad's request (bizarrely, they never noticed the tree now growing money and Treehorn himself was weirdly indifferent to it).
- Xanth uses it a lot. Furs are grown on fur trees.
- Community: Played with in "Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas" . The plants in carol canyon produce Christmas carols instead of oxygen. Don't worry they are all in public domain.
- Panorama (a British news show), in a rather infamous April Fool's Day gag, had a report about a successful crop of spaghetti from Swiss spaghetti trees, following an effective treatment against the spaghetti weevil. Hilariously, people believed this report was true and wrote in asking how they could get this spaghetti tree. The BBC responded with "Place a sprig of spaghetti in a tin of tomato sauce and hope for the best".
- "The Big Rock Candy Mountain" by Harry McClintock and various other related versions of the hobo-ballad going back to the Medieval concept of the "Cockaigne", an Earthly, idyllic paradise where all needs are met without need for toil. The McClintock version and several others refer not only to Cigarette Trees, but to lakes of stew and whiskey, and springs of soda pop, lemonade, or alcohol.
- "Liar", a German cabaret song covered by Ute Lemper on her album Berlin Cabaret Songs, contains a reference to a tree to produces steaming hot black coffee when you tap its trunk.
- "On Top of Spaghetti" features a meatball that rolls off a plate, out the door of the restaurant, and under a bush. The next year it grows into a meatball tree. The song doesn't really make much sense.
- There is a song sung in Welsh primary schools about various birds sitting in trees. The first verse is pretty normal and tells of a yellow bird in a banana tree. Then the second mentions a red bird in a tomato tree. The third is about a green bird in a cucumber tree, and just when you thought it couldn't get any stranger, the fourth verse is about a blue bird in a bubblegum tree.
- The second verse of an Australian children's song called "Kookaburra:"
"Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree
Eating all the gum drops he can see
Stop, Kookaburra! Stop, Kookaburra!
Leave some there for me"
- Iolanthe: The Chancellor's nightmare song mentions trees grown by planting people associated with making their "fruit" — a grocer will grow into a tree with many kinds of regular fruit, a baker into one that grows pastries, and so on.
You get a good spadesman to plant a small tradesman (first take off his boots with a boot-tree),
And his legs will take root, and his fingers will shoot, and they'll blossom and bud like a fruit-tree—
From the greengrocer tree you get grapes and green pea, cauliflower, pineapple, and cranberries,
While the pastrycook plant cherry brandy will grant, apple puffs, and three-corners, and Banburys—
- In Animal Crossing:
- Random items can appear in trees, as leaves are used to represent stored items and any fallen leaf can resolve into, say, a piece of furniture when picked up.
- It's possible to grow a money tree by planting a bag of Bells with a golden shovel or in the hole dug in a spot where the ground is shining, which will grow crops of bags containing an amount of money equal to how much was buried.
- Castlevania: The Wakwak Tree in Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow and Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin grows Fleamen.
- Digimon: While it doesn't technically grow on trees per se, meat grows from the ground like a vegetable.
- FarmVille: The game started out with a selection of fairly regular fruit trees, but the proliferation of special trees for various events ended up taking this to some pretty wild extremes. Not only is there a money tree, there are also bubble gum trees, cookie trees, jewel trees, marshmallow trees, candy heart trees, paper lantern trees, rainbow trees (that is, not simply a multicolored tree, but a tree that grows tiny rainbows as fruit), galaxy trees (where the canopy is literally a tiny galaxy hovering over the branches, and the fruit seems to be stars) and countless others. If you can think of it, there's probably a tree that grows it.
- In Grow RPG you can grow a big tree with blue leaves that produce bombs.
- Guild Wars 2: One of the playable races, the sylvari Plant People, grows from special trees like humanoid fruit.
- The Legend of Zelda: Oracle Games feature Gasha trees, which sprout from Gasha seeds you plant and their nuts bear various useful items.
- In some Game Mods, this trope appears as crops rather than trees. IndustrialCraft and the Spiritual Successor to its crop system, Agricraft, provide various plants that can be mutated from others via crossbreeding and grow small amounts of mineable materials. The requirement is that these plants need to have a block of their respective ores below their soil, whether to grow them or to be obtained via mutation. Ore-producing plants and trees appear in several other mods, usually with similar requirements in terms of needing to be planted on stone, ore or mineral blocks or requiring lava to "water" them.
- Another mod, Magical Crops, allows making similar plants, not limited by the ore block requirement but more expensive and limited by other traits, that are not limited to mineable resources. Other than the ore plants, there are mob plants, crops that can provide resources from mobs like beef, string and Wither Skeleton skulls. There are also four elemental plants, whose produce can be made into many different types of common resources like dirt, clay, cobblestone and snow, and the Nature plant, whose produce can be made into different plant matter items.
- Money Tree: Leaves fall down out of the sky and you attach them to the formerly-bare tree. While most grow only mundane fruit, now and again you'll get one that grows paper money.
- In PixelJunk Monsters it's never a waste of time to sprint through the trees whilst your babies are getting eaten.
- The Sims:
- Money trees can be grown in several games.
- The Sims 3 lets you grow cheese, egg, burger and steak plants, and also has the omni-plant, which can grow almost anything.
- The Sims 4 has Trash Plants, which are the byproduct of letting garbage sit out in the open for too long. Once they reach full maturity, they can be harvested for Trash Fruit, which is used to grow — you guessed it — more Trash Plants.
- Splatoon: Referenced during one of the stage announcements for Kelp Dome: Callie states that anything you plant in the dome will grow really well, to which Marie responds that she wants to plant some french fries.
- Stone: The inhabitants of the planet Rain use leaves as currency. It rains all the time on Rain, so there is no danger of a deflationary forest-clearing project like in Douglas Adams's The Restaurant at the End of the Universe.
- World of Warcraft brought farming to Azeroth in Mists of Pandaria. Along with standard vegetables and fruits that can be grown, there are plants you can grow that give ore for blacksmithing, herbs for herbalism, cloth for tailoring, and even magical enchantment essences.
- A Beginner's Guide to the End of the Universe: The miscellanopod trees grow a wide assortment of items in their pods and flowers, such as bacon or weaponry. Hundreds of years in the future, they're humanity's only source of... pretty much everything, seeing as nearly all of the universe was destroyed long ago.
- Full Frontal Nerdity: In one story arc, the guys have gotten their hands on a blender that combines anything put into it — and not in the normal way. Nelson and Frank test it out with such things as the "banana-steak" and the "habanero-peach", but Lewis goes straight to putting money and acorns into the blender to get seeds for a money tree. (He also uses it to combine Red Bull and Miracle-Gro fertilizer, so he won't have to wait for his harvest.) Fortunately for the economy, Frank and Nelson manage to kill the trees by blending septic tank root-killer with articles about Bitcoin and inflation, thermite, and Lewis' unpaid credit card bills.
- Gaia has a sausage tree and a "steakolon" (a watermelon made of meat) in a banquet scene that one would initially mistake for a dream sequence.
- The Order of the Stick: A sword tree shows up as a gag in an early comic. Specifically, Roy's sword was destroyed and he's stuck without a replacement because they sold the other magic swords they found in the dungeon. While in the forest, Roy is forced to use a non-magical greatclub due to lack of alternatives, complaining that "swords don't grow on trees". Naturally, the last panel of the page shows the group narrowly missing an encounter with "the world famous sword-growing tree".
- Penny Arcade: played on in this strip, where Tycho believes that "the back" (as in when a store employees "checks in the back" to see if there's a copy of a desired item) contains trees and bushes that grow desirable goods like fruit.
- In Sinfest, Satan grows stripper poles. Trike feminists object. This goes on.
- In Tales of the Questor, a Journeyman Biomancer creates a species of plant designed to absorb "bauxite contamination" out of the water and soil. The plants dispose of the contamination by forming it into berries — of solid aluminum (check the punchline). Save for a couple of variant plants that produce rubies and sapphires...
- Tower of God has Jigena's Flower, which grows jewels on is blossom. The plant is, however, parasitic and in a giant sea monster.
- Cyanide & Happiness: This video features a bacon tree. You have to climb high enough to reach the crispy ones!
- Orion's Arm: Deliplants are genetically-engineered plants that grow animal products, which is more efficient and ethical than using animals.
- SCP Foundation: SCP-038, the Everything Tree, grows copies of anything that touches its bark. It's capable of growing even fully formed and living clones of organisms that touch it, although these clones age quickly and only live a couple of weeks. Another one is a tree that grows fruit identical to human corpses hanging by the neck, which were at first mistaken for suicides.
- Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers: The Kiwi specialize in Fantastic Fruits and Vegetables, so much so that this Trope is a galactic punch line when talking about the species. In the pilot episode, a human and Andorian botanist joke about growing shoes.
- The Amazing World of Gumball: Nicole Watterson goes on a rant believing Gumball thinks money grows on trees (after his constant opening of the car window (then caused by Rob using a space-time-altering control remote) distracted Nicole that led to crashing into a mess of crashed cars). During the rant, though, she backpedals and says trees are used to make dollars so technically the expression is right to some point, before going back to rant more, culminating with her doing incoherent angry sounds.
- In Back to the Future, Jules grows a money tree, but the bills wither once they're picked.
- Camp Lazlo: One episode has the jelly cabin trio grow a lollipop tree for all the forest animals. A scene that plays during the end credits has Chip and Skip plant a rubber glove to try and grow a rubber glove tree but only succeed in growing a stethoscope tree.
- Darkwing Duck: In one episode, Bushroot developed a money tree that produced counterfeit bills. While it provided him with endless cash, the real purpose of the bills were that they were like seeds that would turn into vines when placed into safes containing real money; the vines would then carry said safes back to the supervilliannote .
- DuckTales (2017): "Raiders of the Doomsday Vault!" is set in a fictionalised version of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault which includes the seed of a money tree, among other mythological plants. As well as banknotes for leaves, the tree has gold for bark, and grows really fast.
- Ed, Edd n Eddy: In "Here's Mud In Your Ed", Rolf helps Jimmy get back at Eddy for scamming him by selling Eddy a seed for a bogus "money tree".
- Gravity Falls: Mentioned when the gang visits Mabeland in "Weirdmageddon 2: Escape from Reality".
Dippy Fresh: Hey, take a chill pill. Those grow on trees here.
Dipper: You stay out of this, Dippy Fresh!
- Lost In Oz has the lunchpail tree planted by Ojo and his father, which is Exactly What It Says on the Tin. The contents of the pails varies from year to year.
- In Ok KO Lets Be Heroes a powerful energy source known as glorbs grow on trees. And an exceptionally large one grows underneath the bodega KO works at, it's kept very well guarded.
- Robot and Monster: According to one episode, bacon grows on trees.
- The Simpsons:
- In one episode, Homer falls asleep in church and dreams that he and Marge are Adam and Eve. One of the things available for their enjoyment in the Garden of Eden is the "porno bush", as well as another bush containing the more innocuous People magazine (featuring just them, since they're the only people around).
- Another episode has Homer and Grandpa return to their old family farm while touring the state as Snake Oil Salesmen. Homer decides to go and see if a hotdog tree he planted has grown.
- On "Treehouse of Horror" short has Homer travel back in time and accidentally alter history by changing some small thing in the distant past. He spends the majority of the episode repeatedly going back and changing different things, creating different Alternate Timelines while trying to get back to his own. He eventually ends up in a seemingly perfect timeline: his family is filthy rich, his kids are well-behaved, and Patty and Selma have recently died. Homer seems very content to stay in this timeline, until he finds out that donuts were apparently never invented, causing him to run screaming back to his time machine. Right after he leaves, donuts start falling from the sky, and Marge groans in annoyance, "Darn, it's raining again".
- The Smurfs has an episode where Gargamel's mother plants a money tree outside Greedy's house to test his avarice. Although the "money" it produces is actually a confectionery wrapped in golden paper called a "golden goodie", it has the effect of drawing the Smurfs to it and trading what they thought was personally valuable just to have a single piece of the money tree's candy.
- The Wuzzles: An authentic money tree appears in one episode.
- There is a plant called the silver dollar plant, because the seed pods can be dried, and then the outer membrane can be rubbed off of these to reveal a shiny silver surface that kind of resembles a coin. (Sadly, that's where the resemblance to a money tree ends.) You'll often see these as accents in dried floral arrangements.
- Many mesoarmerican cultures used Cocoa beans as currency. The beans, naturally, grow on cocoa trees, and are the main ingredient in chocolate, doubling as Practical Currency.
- The popular bonsai plant Crassula ovata is nicknamed the "jade plant", the "lucky plant" and the "money tree" for its supposed power to bring good financial luck.
- In most Tarot decks the seven of coins (pentacles) depicts a bored-looking farmer tending a plant growing gold coins.
- At one point during the Premiership of Conservative Party Prime Minister Theresa May, her speechwriting team demonstrated a fondness for pointing out that there was no "Magic Money Tree" to fund certain services, thus necessitating cuts. When subsequent Conservative administrations increased spending on other things (without any accompanying moves to increase revenues), commentators were quick to point out the irony.