The plants and animals here on planet Earth have evolved to survive in the various environments in which they live. It therefore makes sense that evolution will have come up with similar solutions for similar environments on other planets and we would be wrong to criticise somebody for populating their 'other world gaming table' with pine trees and cacti (although hopefully not at the same time - no excuses there). Realism however, is not the bottom line for wargames terrain. We just want something for the little dudes to hide behind that looks good on the table. So when it comes to alien plants: let's get weird!

Alien Plants

Alien PlantsOf course we can't get too weird before it stops being 'recognisable' as a plant. A 'plant' that looks like a hairy pink Model T Ford motor car would be a little too weird. The trick is to be weird, but not too weird and from that point of view, capthugeca's plants from drinking straws shown above are just about perfect.

The example to the right, sent to us by Antony Van Der Linden, and shows some Epic scale terrain made by Andy Skinner. The terrain features 'plants' made from dried peas. With a different paint scheme, they would work as boulders too.

Antti Lusila (SeanKhan on the forum) has produced some similar looking 'bushes' and some rather more radical 'trees' for his Star Wars terrain in which Stormtroopers and Wookies are battling it out below.

Alien Plants

Alien PlantsAntti's first rule for scratchbuilding is to "keep your eyes open" and his starting point for this terrain was a 'lucky find' in the form of some Christmas decorations.

The bushes simply required the removal of the wires before the 'spheres' were added to bases, which were then painted and flocked. The trees required a little more work:

Alien PlantsAs can be seen from the picture on the left, each of the 'stems' has several 'spheres' on the end. In the picture, Antti has taken six stems and twisted them together to make a tree.

Alien PlantsThe trees were then attached to bases and balanced so that they stand up on their own. Antti then used slivers of polystyrene foam and plaster filler to bulk out the bases before applying paint and flock.

Inspired by the artwork of Frank Hampson for the Dan Dare strip in Eagle comic, Phil 'px166bajaj' Arkell created a plethora of alien plant species for his entry to one of our forum competitions in 2006:

Alien Plants

Alien PlantsPhil made significant use of gap filling foam (available from builder's merchants), as can be seen from the work in progress picture to the right.

The mushrooms at the back of the picture and the 'splatter fungus' at the front were made from expandy foam. The splatter fungus was made by squirting the can upside down, so that the foam 'spits' out rather than coming out in a steady stream. All of the foam pieces were extruded onto a concrete floor which I had emptied a bucket of water over. This prevents the foam sticking to the floor.

The small green plants are plastic plants as sold for use in fish tanks.

The tower is made from the guts of four thermostatic radiator valves, the coggy bits are integral to the plastic moulding, the part of the valve which goes "tick tick tick" as you turn it round. The larger circular piece used for the base of the tower was taken from a shower control while the supports are made from four disposable razors.

At this stage the baseboard is untextured but Phil eventually achieved the texture shown in the previous photo with off-cuts of textured wallpaper.

Alien PlantsPhil also made use of another material from the builder's merchants: adhesive mastic. Check out your local DIY/hardware store where it will be called "Liquid Nails", "No More Nails", "I can't Believe its Not Nails" (Honest!) or something of that ilk.

The tree trunks in the photo to the left were made by inserting pipe cleaners into the open end of a mastic gun, and squeezing them out again slowly. The process makes rather nice organic shapes. The pipe cleaners were poked in 3 or 4 at a time and slowly squeezed out again. Then they were hung up to dry for a couple of days. They retain a little flexibility until the end of day one, so they can be styled to suit the trees you are constructing. In later experiments I used wire intead of pipe cleaners which results in a sturdier end product.

The tubes come with a screw on nozzle, the aperture of which can be adjusted by cutting the tip off at the wider part. I would recommend cutting the tip of the tube off with a small saw, rather than a knife. A saw will roughen the edges of the aperture, adding texture to the mastic as it is squeezed out. To make my trunks, I used the tube without the nozzle. This gives the widest aperture.

Alien PlantsTwo different techniques were used for the foliage on these trees as shown in the photo to the right. The trees in the background use ping-pong balls to create a type of tree that may well be related to Antti's trees that we saw earlier in this article. (This was actually a work in progress shot and you can just about see a tube of adhesive mastic hiding behind these trees.)

Alien PlantsThe trees in the middle of the picture have leaves made from voile, a thin semi-transparent dress making material of cotton, wool, or silk. (The picture to the left shows another work in progress shot before the voile was trimmed to shape.

The plants in the foreground are simply dried poppy seed heads that have been given an alien paint job. They are commonly available from craft shops and florists as they often feature in arrangements of dried flowers.

The vines that are growing around the tower (you can see them better in earlier pictures), are made out of fancy parcel string left over from Christmas, dipped into red paint.

Alien PlantsColonel Shofer posted the image to the right on our forum as a work in progress shot in order to ask for suggestions about what colours to paint it. A number of suggestions followed including the suggestion that he leave it just as it is. We never did see the end result however we've reproduced it here because it a superb example of how a part of a real plant (the seed pods from Poplar trees apparently) can be used to make very effective alien plants.

Ariss has also used natural items for the plants in the images below. In this case they are clumps of moss, lichen, and other small plants collected while out hiking. Of course found items that are to be used in this way need to be thoroughly dried or prepared (see our article on preparing lichen), before use. In this case they are thouroughly dried out as Ariss collected them some three years prior to actually getting around to using them.

Alien Plants

Alien PlantsHeath and woodland are not the only places where you can find real plants that can be employed as alien fauna. The image to the right, uses kelp holdfasts that deejay collected from a beach. Again, they were thorougly dried out prior to being used. Fishing floats were attached to make the 'heads'.

Wiz has also used items from the beach (shells) in the terrain below however the main 'plant' items are dried seed pods and fruits. These are often used in flower arrangements and can be found in craft shops and florists. They also frequently turn up in discount stores.

Alien Plants

Wiz used pieces of MDF for the bases and covered them with woodchip wallpaper to add texture. The shells, small stones, and sand, add more texture which has been painted and drybrushed with various shades of grey. The seed pods however, attached using hot glue, have not been painted and are displaying their natural colours.

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