Fictional plants are commonly used in worldbuilding and can be found from alien worlds with alien forests, to magical herbs for fantasy potions. When it comes to creating a fictional plant, the possibilities are endless. However, there are a few key considerations that can be considered to make your plant both believable and interesting.
Environment and Habitat
The first thing to consider when creating a fictional plant is the environment in which it lives. Does it grow in a hot, dry desert, or a wet, humid rainforest? The habitat of the plant will affect its physical appearance, its nutritional needs, and its ability to survive in different conditions.
A plant that grows in a desert environment may have adaptations such as long taproots to access deep water sources, or thick, succulent leaves to store water. A plant that lives in a rainforest may have large, broad leaves to capture sunlight in the crowded canopy.
The physical characteristics of your plant should be based on its environment and habitat. Consider the size and shape of the plant, the color of its leaves and flowers, and any unique features that it may have. These characteristics can be inspired by real-life plants or entirely from your imagination. Often worldbuilders will use real world plants as the basis for fictional ones but alter characteristics such as size, color, and shape to generate a new twist on an already familiar element.
Plants that glow in the dark are common features of game-oriented worlds in locations where it may be difficult for players or an audience to otherwise to see, such as cavern systems. This characteristic is not based on ecology, but rather a need to showcase a world.
Uses & Benefits
Consider the uses and benefits of your fictional plant. Does it have medicinal properties, or is it used in cooking or for its fragrance? Is it a source of food or a valuable resource for a specific industry? Can it be refined into a powerful drug or a rich spice? If a plant has important uses, it may be farmed, trade routes may have been established to transport it vast distances, and wars may have been fought to control it (with those that do becoming wealthy).
In game-oriented worlds, fictional plants often contain properties that allow them to heal, poison, or bestow other status effects on players.
Just like real-life plants, your fictional plant will have nutritional needs that must be met to survive. Consider what nutrients the plant needs, and how it obtains them. Does it rely on photosynthesis to create its own food, or does it obtain nutrients from the soil or other sources? Massive carnivorous plants are a common element in adventure and fantasy worlds and may pose a terrain hazard.
You could create a plant that obtains nutrients from a symbiotic relationship with a specific insect or animal, or a plant that creates its own food through a unique process of photosynthesis.
Plants may have cultural significance. Flowers may be given under certain circumstances; certain trees are associated with death and religion. Plants may be considered sacred or cursed. There may be folktales that center on them or their use.