A most imaginative landscape I would love to actually see and experience is one that comes from the mind of James Cameron of the movie Avatar. Incredibly based on many aspects of the real world, real plants and places come to cinematic life in a fantastically new way. One of the most astounding discoveries of a possible new place is a study done by Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics claiming a planet such as Pandora may actually exist. Out of the mind and into reality.
If I want to make the trip and show you the splendor of place, I would have to do so as a blue, ammonia breathing avatar capable of living in an environment having the air much thicker than here on earth. The planet has a higher magnetic field and a weaker gravity than Earth.
So to prepare for my journey, I made my transformation to avatar and am now ready for my transport. You would have to know me to see the resemblance, but that is actually me below as a Photoshop Na’vi. This and the Title Blocks are the only images in this post that are my works, most others are credited. I loved this movie for the story and spectacular cinema graphics. The color and magnitude of it all had me captivated. So come along as I introduce you to the plants and places of Pandora.
This optical feast of fanciful, magical, fictional universe is so incredibly engaging. The real life inspirations of plant and wildlife are stunning and almost as unbelievable and otherworldly as well.
Bridge above the Forest Floor
If you have not seen the movie, in it’s most simplistic terms, it will take you on a journey to a far, far away world in the year 2154, where greedy humans exploit the planet by mining for the valuable and rare mineral, Unobtanium. The indigenous inhabitants are in touch with nature, the environment, kind to animals, and grateful and appreciative to anything that they must use for sustenance from the planet. There is a clash that occurs as you would expect from two opposing and drastically different cultures.
Pandora is home to the Na’vi, a more highly developed and more ecologically aware humanoid. Let’s take a hot new eco-tour of Pandora and see for ourselves. It would be so great to stand on a branch and have this view, below.
With so much vibrant and unusual color on Pandora, it’s kind of striking that most of the vegetation on the planet is actually green. Partially the decision to make the landscape an Earth green was that we psychologically associate green with life.
Many plants that we know are illustrated in the forest images. Plants such as ferns, succulents, palms, mosses, agave (see fellow blogger, Onenezz post on Agave), grasses, and bamboo are seen in form, but not necessarily the correct color or texture. See what I mean in the two cycads. Cycad from Pandora, left. Cycad from Earth, right.
At night, things become bioluminescent and magical with illumination.
The themes of life and nature were very important to the premise of the movie. Check out the real water fall image below. Compare that to the image of the branch I wanted to view the water from, earlier in the post.
One of the most striking correlations of plant and natural form was the Hallelujah Mountains from the movie, with the actual karst limestone formations in China. They drew inspiration from the real mountains and we can see them from images on Wikipedia. And the one below from a region in China called Zhangjiajie, found here. They probably inspired the general terrain in Pandora, but also became inspiration for the Floating Mountains I pictured at the end of the post. They are a dream like experience in creativity and imagination.
Actual Huangshan, Anhui, China with trees and clouds, image from here, and the Pandoran Floating Mountains. below.
The flora of the alien tropical forest of Pandora is similar to rainforests on earth but they are larger than life in this alien environment. Three of the prominent trees are; the Tree of Souls; the Trees of Voices; and the Giant Hometree.
The Hometree is used for housing the clans. This reminds me of the Gnome Birthday Tree. Families of gnomes can live in a gnome’s Birthday Tree. A big difference is, in a gnome home, they have built furniture, where in the Hometree, the Na’vi sleep in net like hammocks, made of the tree itself. They have no architecture of any kind on Pandora. Everything is of the planet.
The Tree of Voices allows the Navi to hear the voices of their ancestors. They gain wisdom and knowledge by prayers that are heard and sometimes answered.
The Tree of Souls is a tree where the Na’vi are able to communicate with the biological network that exists throughout Pandora connected by the vast root system of the plants and trees. They connect with their deity here also. This tree, like the Tree of Voices, has bioluminescence.
Forest of Tree of Voices
The Tree of Souls looks a little like a Weeping Willow, and has the extensive and exposed root system.
The jellyfish looks very similar to the seeds of the holy Tree of Souls below.
The Woodsprites, or seeds of the holy tree are also similar on appearance to the glowworms from New Zealand below.
New Zealand Cave Ceiling lighted by real Glowworms
An agaricoid puffball, Podaxis pistillaris, the False Shaggy Mane in the image to the left. This real tree is grown in Hawaii. The forest floor in Pandora, above with strange puffball like plants, called Puffers.
The Octoshroom mushroom is larger than life, and Na’vi use it to make tea. That is one thing about Pandora, anytime the Na’vi take from the forest, they thank Eywa for what she has provided and thank the animal for its life. Eywa is the guiding force and deity of Pandora, who is assumed to keep the ecosystem in perfect equilibrium.
The mushroom grow to enormous size on Pandora. The one above is probably over 12 feet tall and possibly as wide.
Many real Earth mushrooms, like those pictured above are bioluminescent. These actually exist and are not made by movie magic. The colors are fantastical and almost radiate the brilliance. The blue is my favorite.
Even the perennials are beautiful. Fireweed is pictured at the left.
Even the pitcher plants look similar. No little lid on top of the ones on Pandora. The Pandora image looks so real because the Direhorse Pitcher Plant sits in a bed of ferns. The Direhorse drinks from the Pitcher Plant.
Indonesian Pitcher Plant, below right
Direhorse Pitcher Plant, on Pandora, below left
But what I would be sure not to miss is the sacred Floating Mountains. I would charter a helicopter and take the dangerous ride through these moving mountains. The mountains float like clouds among the fixed mountains and swirling clouds. They circulate slowly in the magnetic currents and act like icebergs at sea on Earth. When they are in clear sunlight they cast distinct shadows on the land below.
Floating Mountains, here.
This tour of course was imaginary, but the real plants and locations that inspired the recreations are quite fantastical and amazing. In a Chinese province, they actually renamed a limestone formation Hallelujah Mountain in hopes of profiting on the success of the movie. Sometimes gardening inspiration can come from the most unlikely sources. What we might take away from this is the caring nature and respect in which the Na’vi give their planet. We can profit from the ecological and moral wisdom of the movie as well.
Update: See Garden In Paradise, Flaunting My Favorites This Month
It is part of My Ten Favorite Things post, hosted by Oneezz.