Writing Tips: World-Building with Vegetation


Last week, we dove into the animal kingdom and some common misconceptions about predators and prey. Now we’ll roam the forests of the plant world as we discover the fuel system for the higher food chain.

In worlds of advanced cities and science fiction dystopias, no one cares about plants anyway, right? While many of us may not notice the plants around our day to day lives, unlike the green thumbs near us, they play a large importance in our world and the one you’re creating. Just as in nature, some plants seem only there for aesthetics and others have a true purpose, but before we became so far advanced in society, every plant had its purpose.

Plants in Avatar

We found one of the greatest uses of vegetation in James Cameron’s Avatar in the creation, interaction, and use of plants in the alien world, Pandora. The lush rain forest climate dominates the world and offers a great representation of plants we might expect to see on a different planet or moon. A lot of the focus came down to the communication between plants and the Na’vi, or the Pandora natives. After many communications between actors, biologists, and physicists, they agreed upon a concept of signal transduction. Signal transduction is an area of research that studies how plants perceive and respond to signals. This is a great example of taking plants beyond the use of oxygen producing life forms.

Make it Make sense

While you may not be working with the same world, or level of plants, as Avatar. Or if you’re well past that level. You need to make your plants make sense.

What Animals Eat

Animals, humans, aliens, but maybe not cyborgs, all eat plants, or eat something fueled by plants. While it may be amazing to have animal eating plants, they too must have something to keep them in check. Refer to the concepts of predator and prey.

Well-established plants will have many factors that keep them in the area you’ve placed them. Which animals need to eat them may affect their location? If you have ecosystems similar to our own with herbivores, carnivores, and omnivores, then you’ll most likely have a large amount of plants consumed to sustain each level.

Some plants may be poisonous to your omnivores, but not the herbivores. Or their main purpose may be too important to your world to be consumed. Not all animals eat the same plants, or some animals eat everything that looks like a plant (think of goats for the latter.)


Some plants help with nutrients for animals’ bodies, natural remedies, and sources of nutrients for food supplements. Whether your world exists pre-modernization or well into the future, you will need plants to generate nutrients not naturally found in animals. This could be important to your story or not. Survival stories often refer to plants and knowledge of them, but that means you need to do your research or create the justifications for why that plant works in your world.

Sometimes nutrients are harder to find, but just as necessary. Maybe one of your poisonous plants has important nutrients but is inedible until they cook the poison out of the plant. Eating said plant in the wild might not be possible, though it may be a delicacy in the nearby city.

Questions to Consider

What types of plants are important for your story?

What plants aren’t important for your story, but adds a fullness to the world you created?

How can you use plants to affect the story, characters, or world?

How do your plants respond to your world’s magic system?


The plants found in our world and others can change the meaning, quality, and history of life for its respective inhabitants. Sometimes the plants impact us greatly and guide us through the lessons of life, as in Avatar by James Cameron, or Entanglement by Alina Leonova. Others may find that the use of plants in their stories is nothing greater than a background item to give a scene color. From symbols to sustainment, you can use plants to root believability into your worlds.

Thank you for reading World-Building with Vegetation. Next week you will see the first in a series of articles in combining all the factors covered in the PMESII-PT, World-Building with Animals, and World-Building with Vegetation posts. If you have any topics you’d like addressed more clearly, then please comment below or contact me here.

As always, stay fresh, my nugs.

Previous: Predators and Prey

Next: World-Building Pre-Checks

3 thoughts on “Writing Tips: World-Building with Vegetation

  1. Pingback: Writing Tips: World-Building Predators and Prey – Myers Fiction

  2. Pingback: World-Building Pre-Checks – Myers Fiction

  3. Pingback: World-Building Closeout – Myers Fiction

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