For the past week or so, the wild idea that high concentrations of “male trees” in cities are the reason that people experience intense allergies has been gaining renewed traction in certain circles online. This and the concept of exclusively “male” trees being planted in cities in order to rob urbanites of free fruit from “female” trees may sound a bit ridiculous to you, because they are. While the dude-equivalent to trees might not be an actual thing in reality, there are actually quite a few notable ones featured in fantasy and sci-fi.
Here in the real world, the vast majority of trees and other plants do not have the sort of sexual dimorphism commonly seen in animals. Hermaphroditic plants most often reproduce through pollination, the process by which pollen (essentially plant sperm) is transferred to a flower’s stigma (the parts that eventually produce fruits, which contain seeds).
While some plants are pollinated with the help of insects, many — like trees — rely on the wind, which is particularly effective at moving pollen particles around. But in order for wind pollination to be effective, plants have to produce massive amounts of pollen because it’s ultimately a game of chance, and plants have no way of homing in on one another for precise, direct reproduction. These are the sorts of things one learns in basic biology, but it’s easy for people to get caught up in bad science at a time when misinformation runs rampant on social media.
But back to the fun kind of fiction, where some fictional trees have sonorous voices and luxurious beards you’re probably familiar with. Let’s rank some, shall we?
6. The Pequeninos and Father Trees
Much like their creator, noted homophobe Orson Scott Card, the pequininos of his novel Speaker For the Dead are quite preoccupied with ideas about masculinity and what it means to be male. What the humans who first land on the pequininos’ home planet do not understand initially is that the aliens’ pig-like appearances are only one of the three stages of life they progress through. What the humans see as the male “piggies” murdering and disemboweling their brethren is actually the pequininos’ helping their honoured peers take root in the soil in order to become Father Trees, massive sentient trees that can communicate with one another telepathically.
Though Groot’s ability to regrow himself into Baby Groot after dying in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 1 points to his — like some real-world plants — being capable of asexual reproduction, most everyone in the MCU (and James Gunn) have gendered the character as male. As a teen, Groot is immediately one of the most insufferable male trees on the list, but his position could change as he matures.
Woodmon and its evolutionary line of tree-related forms (see: Cherrymon and Puppetmon) are all some of the foulest creatures to pop up in the Digimon franchise. Though tree-Pokémon edge their Digimon counterparts out a bit in terms of having creepy lore attached to them, the Digimon’s overall designs are far more inspired, and they’re much more upfront about their villainy.
Though there are a handful of genderless Pokémon, Sudowoodo, and other tree-like Pokémon — like Phantrump, Trevanant, and both variations of Exeggutor — can be either male or female, but it’s very difficult to spot the differences between their sexes. Male Sudowoodos, the only tree-like Pokémon that displays sexual dimorphism, are known to have slightly longer horn branches than their female counterparts.
At some point during Middle-earth’s history, male Ents and female Entwives roamed the lands taking care of all varieties of plant life that were sustained by the world’s rains and the sun’s light. But after the Entwives broke away from the Ents to dwell in the Brown Lands (which were subsequently razed by Sauron), they essentially disappeared from the world, leaving the Ents to lumber about and eventually play a role in destroying the dark wizard.
1. The Great Deku Tree
In many Legend of Zelda games, the Great Deku Tree features as a protector of the forests who patiently stands by as Link, Zelda, and Ganon are reincarnated time and time again. As much as the world changes around him, the Great Deku Tree’s always there as a constant reminder of what all Link and Zelda keep rising up to protect in their endless battle against Ganon’s darkness. Plus, he’s always ready to lend a helpful bit of advice if and when you get stuck. Top tier man tree, truly.