Where did Groot come from? In reality, Groot came from the imaginations of Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, and Dick Ayers. This plant came from another planet in the Guardians of the Galaxy movie. In here, this plant came from the stuff in your yard. We’ll see what Groot plants are in real life and how these plants might have evolved to become the world’s most beloved tree-man.
What Are Groot Plants?
The African Daisy
If someone asks us what Groot plants are in real life, then we may mention this plant. At one point in the Guardians of the Galaxy film, Groot pauses to make the world more magical by giving a flower to a kid. At first, we think the delicate color of the flower makes it seem like an apple blossom, but on closer examination, it seems to be a daisy. The daisy is part of the Asteraceae family, which includes daisies, sunflowers, and asters. We all think of daisies with bright white petals surrounding an even brighter yellow center, but Groot’s flower looks more like an African daisy. This species comes from South Africa and has white petals that exacerbate to purple around the center of the flower. Or it has yellow petals that exacerbate to brown at the center. Or it contains oddly tapered and flared petals, shaped like dew drops, that are purple and yellow.
The fact is daisies have a lot of variation in them. They should because humans have played around with Asteraceae for thousands of years. They are the domesticated dogs of the plant world. They come in all various sizes, colors, and shapes. They survive in wildly varied habitats. They can be shrubs and long-stemmed flowers. They were evolved in temple gardens in Egypt and grown in Europe as medicinal plants that could reportedly cure eye problems and ulcers. If you want to breed a sentient plant with a specific set of qualities and is friendly with people, these are the plants to start with. We are not the first to think so; Luther Burbank, a famous horticulturist at the turn of the last century, used African Daisies in his book Shortcuts Into the Centuries as an example of how humans should stop waiting for evolution to happen and breed plants to their specifications. He described how humans scurried up evolution by purposely cross-breeding the white African Daisies with an orange daisy and making a pink one, but it’s a start.
We don’t even require to set out to create a walking tree to get a walking tree. The family Asteraceae is good at crossing over with wild plants. One study on sunflowers showed that a few volunteer plants sprang up in a field of cultivated sunflowers ‘volunteers’ being what botanists call plants that spring up from seeds or cuttings made by cultivated plants but which have not been cultivated themselves. These volunteers act as gene intermediates between cultivated and wild plants. Genes inserted in cultivated plants are inherited by volunteers, and volunteer flowering and pollination time overlays with wild plant populations. It allows the genes to flow from cultivated plants to wild ones. The researchers speculated that the volunteers could spread and establish ‘feral’ populations with modified genes. Who knows what can happen from there?
The Sycamore Maple
Here you can see Groot plants depicting a new power. The glow is eye-catching, but let’s focus on whether Groot can produce samaras. Samaras is winged seed cases; they can be anything from the little fluff on a dandelion to winged gliders the width of a human hand. At first, we thought the samaras that Groot produces made him the offspring of the Burmese lacquer tree. What a fool we were. Burmese lacquer trees are beautiful but not hardy. They are endangered. They would also cause terrible team-mates, as their sap and sawdust cause skin irritation and inflammation. A Burmese lacquer, Groot could never carry out a selfless rescue mission without providing all his teammates rashes with his splinters.
Although the lacquer tree pods look similar to Groot’s samaras, Groot is more similar to the product of the growth of the sycamore maple. This species usually has samaras in groups of two, which look like bat wings, but it is not unusual for certain trees to diversify and create samaras of three or four, giving them a true helicopter appearance. The tree is urban-friendly, can take pollution, cold, and high salt concentrations, and responds well to having parts of itself hacked off. Sometimes it is sold as a bonsai tree and trained for certain circumstances.
Acers thrive as transplants. Suppose Groot isn’t a direct descendant of the Acer pseudoplatanus, the sycamore maple. In that case, there’s a good chance he’s a close relative of the genus Acer. The sycamore maple tree is well-known in the United States but originated in Europe. It’s been followed across the pond by its proximate Acer platanoides, or the Norway maple. Acer platanoides has established itself quickly and has yet to be content to stay on the sidelines, springing up in industrialized areas or newly-cleared ecosystems. It’s elbowing aside well-established, old-growth forests, prompting scientists to develop the deliciously-named Enemy Release Hypothesis.
Some life forms are adapted to their environment and, should they be transplanted somewhere new, will be depleted by the tougher predators and parasites in their new ecosystem. In contrast, some lifeforms are barely kept in check by their ‘enemies’ in their environments. Transferring them someplace new will let these superbeings increase wildly.
Let us say a well-designed samara from an enterprising Acer got caught up in the trail of a spaceship visiting Earth. As we see in the movie, spaceships visiting Earth are not unusual with a bit of solar wind, luck, and the seed lands on a planet where it can take over. Many generations after, there is Groot, the imperishable.
The Honey Mushroom
It brings us to Groot’s most mysterious quality that he produces light. It surprises everyone in the film, including any botanists who watch the movie. Bioluminescent plants are very recent additions to the world made by humans. If Groot were an offspring of any of these plants, he’d have to be very young. On the other hand, bioluminescent fungi have been around worldwide for quite some time.
Although Groot could have originated as a mushroom, it appears improbable. Groot could have fallen from some of these fungi. The mushrooms contain the compound luciferin, which, at an essential time, gets an electron ripped off by the enzyme luciferase. The reaction releases energy in the faint green light form. One of the reasons researchers need help studying fungi is the mushrooms require particular conditions to grow. The Groot plant has a house plant of its own. Honey mushrooms have been known to send their roots up into decomposing wood. Those roots glow, often causing people to think their wood pile is contaminated with something. Groot could cultivate fungi that grow under his outer bark and that he deploys when he needs the light. Assuming he photosynthesizes, it would be helpful to have something that can give him photons on command. It’s a method of storing energy.