Confession time: I have never seen an Avengers movie.
But if it can redeem me, I have seen one Marvel movie (which I am very grateful to have seen!) and that was Guardians of the Galaxy. Which I loved. Since I don’t have space, in one post, to analyze all five beautifully crafted lead characters, I want to talk about one: Groot.
Almost everyone can appreciate a good humanoid tree. I have yet to talk to anyone who doesn’t love Groot, but really now, what’s not to like? He is a walking, talking tree who can regenerate from one twig, whose vocabulary consists of I and am and Groot (in that order).
But my favorite thing about Groot is the way he grows. From his habit of shooting up twice his original height to reach things for people, to the flower he spontaneously grows out of his palm for the beggar girl on Knowhere–I love the way he is simply bursting with life. There’s a special place in my heart for the glowing firefly-like things he generates at the end.
What I did not realize until just recently was how appropriate this attribute was for a (sort-of) talking tree.
I’ve spent this school year finishing my high school biology course (“Exploring Creation with Biology” by Dr. Jay L. Wile), and I’m really enjoying it. The latest chapter I finished was all about plants, including (of course) trees.
One thing Dr. Wile discussed was stems. He pointed out that the stem you would typically think of as a plant stem (herbaceous stems) cannot grow any larger after they mature. This is because they will crack the skin of the stem, and expose the inside of the plant to the elements.
Tree trunks (or woody stems), however, are another story.
Underneath the outer bark of a tree trunk is a layer called the cork cambium. Its job is to produce new bark, underneath the old layer of bark. This allows the tree to continue growing as long as it can and simply break through the bark, since there is always a new layer underneath.
Whether the makers of Guardians of the Galaxy were aware of this or not, I love how accurate their depiction of a “human tree” is; trees are literally cracking their own skin with the pressure of the life inside them!
Groot’s unquenchable, thriving growth is actually quite congruent with his real-world counterparts.
‘When that happens to a tree, you find that some have bad hearts. Nothing to do with their wood: I do not mean that. Why, I knew some good old willows down the Entwash, gone long ago, alas! They were quite hollow, indeed they were falling all to pieces, but as quiet and sweet-spoken as a young leaf.’ (457)
The Tower Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien
Alright, we storytellers just love trees.