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THE TOP 20 POP CULTURE PLANTS

 

Plants, trees, vines, and vegetation of all sorts have played an important part of pop culture since pop culture first existed. From The Garden of Eden to The Sherwood Forest, plants big and small have influenced literature, TV shows, and toys from all generations. This list started out as kind of a joke but the more I thought about it, the more I totally dug the idea. Plus any chance I have to write about Kooky Spooky Trees is worth it.

 


#20 WHISTLING SPOOKY KOOKY TREES

What a gorgeous crazy toy! These 1962 metal robot trees would dance around with flailing arms and make kooky whistling noises. Sometimes going for more than $500 or more, each, these are certainly one of the most rare and sought after toys of all time. Every time I see one on eBay, I wonder if maybe, just maybe it's worth shelling out the dough for one. Someday...someday. As for now, I'll have to settle for the Wacky Zacky Drooling Turnip made by Ideal in 1983. (Photo from the excellent Ozziesrobots.com)

 

 
#19 GRANDMOTHER WILLOW

From Disney's gorgeous Pocahontas film, Grandmother Willow is a wise tree who sings songs and knows all. She's Pocahontas' grandmother, so at one point, someone in her family had sex with a tree. My guess is it's Chief Splinterdick.

 

 
#18 CHANDELIER DRIVE THROUGH TREE

If you're ever in the incomparably beautiful Redwood Forest in Northern California, make sure you check out the Drive Through Tree! I once drove a pickup truck through it back in the day, and it was all I could do to keep from scraping the sides as I passed through. It's been a kitchy travel landmark since the '30s and is still going strong.  CLICK HERE to read about this and other Drive Through Trees!

 
#17 MATANGO

Bradley Mason Hamlin writes in his review of Matango on our site "Matango is a classic Toho Studio film from 1963. In the States it was billed as Attack of the Mushroom People. With a title like that how can you lose? The plot is simple and brillant. A crew consisting of a psychologist, his girlfriend, a wealthy business man, a famous singer, a writer, a sailor and his skipper go on a cruise, get lost in a storm, and marooned on a strange uncharted island.

Sherwood Schwartz, you dog, is this where you got the idea? Let’s keep in mind Matango appeared a full year before Gilligan’s Island aired on television.

Anyway, this cast of castaways soon learns the only consistent food source on the island is water and mushrooms. Radioactive mushrooms. Well, kids, that’s where the fun begins. You’ve simply got to see it for yourself. If you are a monster and/or science fiction fan Matango is a must-see film—from the people who brought you no less than Godzilla himself."

 
#16 THE KILLER TOMATOES

Long before ecoli tainted spinach killed folks, these tomatoes were doing the job nicely in this film which actually celebrates its 30th Anniversary in 2008! I was disappointed in the film, however, because at the end they show a carrot popping out of the ground suggesting their reign of terror was about to end, but they never followed through.

 

 
#15 THE LOLLIPOP TREE

Kids these days probably aren't as familiar with this classic Burl Ives song, but it was always one of my favorites. Much respect is due to a kid who thought to plant an old lollipop stick in the ground, with the hopes that it would grow into a lollipop tree, and then have it come true! The YouTube video I found above captures the rollicking spirit of this tune better than I ever could. Though I'm surprised the kid in the song never took it a step further. Why not plant a money tree? Or get the fingernail clippings of the hot cheerleaders in your class and make a cheerleader tree? The possibilities are endless. In the '70s, there was a commercial for Juicy Fruit Gum that had a Juicy Fruit Tree that had tons of people gathered round picking luscious packs of gum from this tree that defied nature.

 


#14 THE HALLOWEEN TREE

Ray Bradbury wrote The Halloween Tree back in 1967 with plans for it to be an animated film collaboration with the equally legendary Chuck Jones, but the two never actually got it to happen until 1992. In the meantime, Bradbury's book has become a great underrated classic with a look at the culture of Halloween and death itself in world culture. And the image of a tree filled with Jack-O-Lanterns is still pretty amazing.

 

 
#13 THE WHOMPING WILLOW

There's not many trees that act our our fantasies for us, so to see this brutish willow smacking the characters of Harry Potter around, it's a special thrill for all. Clearly there's no lawyers in the wizarding community, because having a deadly tree like this on the Hogwarts campus is an incredible insurance liability. We can't even have liquid amber trees planted in Sacramento area schools anymore because some lady once twisted her ankle on one of those spiky balls that falls from them.

 

 
#12 THE APPLE TREES FROM THE WIZARD OF OZ

My favorite scene from The Wizard of Oz is when the apple trees get pissed at The Scarecrow and Dorothy and use their own apples as weapons. Some folks look at this as a greedy act, but I think they're just standing up for what's theirs. Oz author L. Frank Baum, a known supporter of Indian extermination, intended this scene to represent White America's divine right for Manifest Destiny. I think it's about time reparations are due, and we should permit Apple Tree Casinos all over the land to make ammends.

 


#11 TRIFFIDS

Though DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS is a silly movie on many levels, there's some pretty landmark events in this 1963 film.  For one, it's the first movie were walking plants roamed the Earth and plagued mankind.  It also showcased the magical effects of a radioactive comet to make plants into killers, 5 years before NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD did the same thing with zombies.

TRIFFIDS is based on a 1953 novel by the same name by respected science fiction author John Wyndham.  The movie turns up the camp and fun, however and really plays up these plants as great vegetable versions of zombies.  Apparently they have a horrible sting, drain the life force from folks, and make this insane "POCKETA POCKETA POCKETA" sound when they walk around that's probably annoying the crap out of you right now if the background music is playing.

It turns out that everyone in the world who sees this horrible comet goes blind, which makes them easy pickings for the marauding plants (and sales for the Braille version of "Are You There God, It's Me, Margaret?" go through the roof).  The hero, who luckily can see, has a final showdown with them in a lighthouse, turns on a firehose, and finds out that saltwater turns them to goo.

What the?  That's not a very strong monster after all.  You could basically whip out your dick and piss on these things and make them die a miserable death.  After the hero radios the rest of the world and clues them in on this little fact, they're all killed in about an hour.

What's even funnier is the absolute end of the film, when the hero and his gal fly away off the island they were stranded on, to a happy ending.  Only, they leave a few hundred blind people behind to fend for themselves.  THANKS, ASSHOLE!

The BBC also made a TV miniseries of this in 1981 that was a bit more faithful to the original novel.

 
#10 TREEBEARD THE ENT

Treebeard is a badass giant talking tree from The Lord of the Rings trilogy. He's kind of like a Jedi that's a tree and instead of The Force, he uses his mystical sap to spread joy throughout the forest. He killed Sauron with his tree buddies at the beginning of Part 2 (Revenge of the King), and helped bring Frodo and Pippin to a giant volcano so they could melt the evil ring down and stop the evil forces of The Shire from taking over the world. It's been a longtime since I've read the series, but it remains one of the greatest science fiction epics America has ever produced.

 

 
#9 THE BURNING BUSH and
THE TREE OF KNOWLEDGE OF GOOD AND EVIL

The Burning Bush that fucked with the "not high" Moses is perhaps the most famous plant from The Bible. The Burning Bush told Moses to go free the Jews from Egypt's enslavement. He did such a good job of it, there's no written record of the Jews ever being enslaved in Egypt at all! Hats off to Moses, though. The only thing a burning weed ever told me to do was by Gummi Bears, Doritos, and a bag full of White Castle.

 

 

Tied for 9th place is the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, which had apples that tasted so good, God didn't want Adam to eat it because he would find out that he was naked. God originally wanted mankind to be ignorant and not find out about clothes. Hell, I felt the same way about half the girls I went to high school with. Apples originated in Asia, by the way, so Adam and Eve were probably Chinese. Unless someone just made this stuff up.

 


#8 KEEBLER ELF TREE

Any tree that can double as a factory for delicious cookies is OK by me. Thanks to Elfin Magic, the thing never caught fire, cause you know that whole place is an OSHA nightmare.

 

#7 AUDREY II

Perhaps the most entertaining vegetable to star in a musical since that ill-fated Andrew Lloyd Webber fiasco that mixed the world of skateboarding and Terry Shiavo.

 

#6 POD PEOPLE FROM
INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS

Gotta love those body snatchers. Though some think they're the most impressive vegetable substitutes for humans, your girlfriend will no doubt disagree.

 

#5 THE BEANSTALK

Fuck this ethanol stuff, if something that big could grow from a handful of magic beans, I think we have a new renewable resource for bio fuel that'll make corn obsolete. The Disney version of the tale, Mickey and The Beanstalk, remains my favorite. It's also still one of the best Mickey Mouse cartoons ever made.

 

#4 SWAMP-THING

Alec Holland was a man that become a swamp monster, but a revamp of the comic book series by the legendary Alan Moore showed us that Swamp-Thing was just a plant who thought he was a person. Later became a Plant elemental and lord of all the world's vegetation, which qualifies him as a super delegate for the Democratic Primary.

 

#3 THE GIVING TREE

The 1967 classic from Shel Silverstein is still one of the sweetest and most poignant books ever written. Shel was a genius. It's certainly been interpreted many different ways. The tree selflessly gives things to the boy throughout his life up until the end where he's a stump for a tired old man to sit on. Some folks think the boy is selfish and does nothing but take and gets no punishment for his behavior. Others look at is a weird tale of unconditional love. Still others look at it as the ultimate erotic fantasy between a boy and an apple tree. Thankfully, those folks are mostly in jail.

 

 


#2 CHARLIE BROWN'S CHRISTMAS TREE

There's perhaps no greater example in pop culture of seeing the beauty of something pathetic than Charlie Brown's tree from his legendary Christmas special. In a season where it's easy to get caught up in commercialism, Charlie's tree reminds us to celebrate what the true origins of this season is all about...Pagan Tree Worship!

 

 
#1 TRUFFULA TREES

Who would have thought Dr. Seuss' 1971 masterpiece The Lorax,  would still be so good and relevant all these years later? The Truffula Trees with their wonderful Truffula Fruit are as much of a symbol of our vanishing paradise in the name of progress as anything. We need more people to speak for the trees. Those damn Barbaloots sure aren't going to do it.

 

So did I leave out your favorite? Email me below and let me have it.

 

-Robert Berry
rberry@retrocrush.com