Today I want to talk about a classic monster. This one is a personal pain in the butt for me, not because it’s extremely generic or a hardcore boss, but because it opens too many questions for me… What the hell is a man-eating plant?
Well they are called man-eating plants because they are plants…and they eat people…so the name says it all. Like most of the creatures of the Bestiarium, they are a combination of fantasy and reality. In the real world, carnivorous plants are a group of plants that obtain some or most of their nutrients from trapping and consuming little animals or insects. They usually grow in places with high light with soil poor in nutrients.
This meat eating greenery normally attract their prey with pheromones or tasty smells to trap them in at least five kinds of ways. One, by the use of rolled leaf that contains a pool of digestive enzymes in which the prey fall (pitfall trap). Two, by the use of sticky leafs (flypaper trap). Three, with leafs that close as soon as there’s a vibration (snap trap). Four, by sucking their prey with an internal vacuum (bladder trap). Finally, the fifth way, with the use of a designed entry in which once the prey is inside, the internal hairs pulls them towards the digestive organ (Lobster Trap).
Biollante from Godzilla
In real life the biggest thing that carnivorous plants can trap are small mammals like rats. In the world of cryptozoology, we have the man-eating tree, a description to refer to several carnivorous plants that are large enough to kill a person. These tales came from places such as Madagascar, Nubia, and even Nicaragua where victims end up trapped in vines that suck up their blood completely.
Very hardcore if you ask me
In video games, most of the man-eating plants are based on the Venus Flytrap (Dionaea Muscipula) the plant that basically created the concept for carnivorous plants in pop culture.
Here’s the Dionaea in action
The venus flytrap styled man-eater is usually portrayed as a single stem with a bulb-like object formed by two lobes with sharp teeth on the inside that quickly closes as soon as something or somebody is near. Other variations are based on…
Nepenthes the pitfall trap
And, despite not being a carnivorous plant, the parasitic plant Rafflesia
But at the end they all have something in common: they are all hungry for you…
These plants are current enemies in RPGS like the ones from the Final Fantasy franchise, Pokemon, Digimon, The Legend of Zelda, Tales of Symphonia, The Secret of Evermore, Fallout 2 and New Vegas. They also appear in shooters and action games like Resident Evil, The Resident Evil Outbreak files, Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare, House of the Dead 3, Ghostbusters for Genesis, Metal Slug 3. Platformers like Spelunky, Bionic Commando, Joe and Mac, not to mention of course the Super Mario Bros series, also include flesh eating plants.
Home of the iconic Piranha Plant
For me these mutated plants are always kind of odd, because they are portrayed in games like Mario, Final Fantasy or Jak and Daxter as creatures able to think, move and even talk. What makes this weird is, unlike previous monsters here, these fellas don’t have organs that allow them to perform these advanced functions that their animal counterparts use regularly. It’s not like they are possessed by spirits, because in general spirits prefer trees (I mean that’s what “Poltergeist” and “Evil dead” taught me). Also it isn’t implied that these plants are magic, at least most of the time, so you basically have to suspend belief and accept that plants like these exist in the game world.
Jill Valentine, police woman and part time gardener
The only games in which there’s an explanation of their behavior and size are games like House of the Dead or Resident Evil. The plants are infected with virus or even created with destruction and death as their main objective. Unlike some of the other man-eaters, these aren’t smart and don’t have the ability to talk. They do share most of their characteristics and abilities, such as:
The weirdest part of this battle, is that this monster came out of an egg.
I don’t understand how plants can move, but sci-fi movies, video games and japanese cartoons have taught me a very important lesson. If it looks like a tentacle and it acts like a tentacle, it’s probably a tentacle, and it’s going to get you. The vines of these plants are no exception, despite being leafy rather than fleshy. While tentacles found on cephalopods have suction cups to grab their prey, tentacle vines usually have sharp thorns that can tear apart the flesh of their victims. Some even have smaller and easily disposable bulbs on the tip, that acts as deadly claws to catch any object near of them.
Toxic Saliva and Spores
As mentioned earlier, some carnivorous plant contains digestive enzymes that are used to consume their victims. This is translated in video games to “Plants can shoot acid” because “Why the hell not?” This saliva can melt your face or turn even you into a zombie (happens in Wario Land 4) Why? Because…the T-Virus I guess.
Of course acid saliva is not the only good debilitating ability that man-eating plants have. They also have the ability to throw or spit deadly spores into the air. Unlike “The Happening” these spores won’t make you kill yourself but instead paralyze your body, put you to sleep, or poison you. Other projectiles these monsters can shoot from their mouths include bubbles, fire balls, and even seeds that turn into smaller plants.
Planted in the Ground
You know, this would be challenging if at least their vines were longer
Man-Eating plants usually act like traps. No shit, you say, but I’ll clarify why I want to bring this up. They are usually placed in spaces where you must be very careful, like the edge of a cliff or in small corridors that makes them pretty hard to avoid. The man-eaters are firmly planted in the ground or in a heavy pot, meaning the player will have to deal with them somehow. They can still move to eat you, but only by bending their neck or stem.
And this makes them an easy target to hit.
Their stationary nature is why these villainous plants use vines to attack their enemy. It could also explain why the the boss variations of Man-Eating Plans are always so huge. They have nothing to do but grow. Of course there are cases in which they can move, like in Metal Slug or Final Fantasy. The plants use their roots or leaves as legs. In the case of Pokemon, they are more monster than plant… and because having a Pokemon that can’t move would be so damn stupid. There are similar moving flesh eating plant examples of course, but that would fit in the category of Plant People. Another entry for another day.
Om nom nom nom
Man-eating plants are hungry… like really… really hungry. They don’t have any problems eating a whole human being with just one single bite. The sharp teeth and the toxic saliva of their mouths is basically a one-hit KO in most games. Even if you manage to escape in one piece, you surely will be badly injured and probably drugged with all kinds of poisons. This drugged up state is something known as “The Malboro effect”…you know, from Final Fantasy.
If you ever played a Final Fantasy game you know how annoying these green bastards are…
These are the reasons why man-eating plants are so deadly, and at the same time so cool. This is despite the fact that I’m not much of a fan of them. I have to admit that they are a classic enemy by this point, so it’s no wonder why they are in comics, movies, cartoons and even my favorite card game.
Not this one…
Flesh eating plants might not be the stronger or smarter monsters, but like slimes or goblins, they are just part of video game’s Bestiarium. You can’t deny how popular and deadly they are. So be careful the next time you enter to a dark forest, there might be a man-eating plant around the next corner.
Be careful or you might end up as fertilizer!