There’s no better time than Earth Day to get our hands dirty and bring you the top 10 plant-powered comic book characters. Many of these heroes and villains have their roots in horror origins and strange science, but one thing is for sure — their super powers are all organic!
Across Marvel and DC Comics, there are plenty of plant-themed characters who have grown on readers over the years. Some strive to design plants that can fight back, such as Poison Ivy’s ex-girlfriend The Gardener or the elderly brigade known as Hordeculture. Others have been implanted with powerful green thumbs by accident, like Plantman, or through mutations, like Klara Prast.
However, the following heroes and villains are the ones who really put the petal to the metal. So, plant yourself in your seat and don’t leaf until we finish counting down these green guys and gals. Let’s get started!
10) White Mercy
White Mercy is a plant-based life form like no other. In fact, she lives inside the collective mind of a plant called the Black Mercy. The Black Mercy is a plant that creates a dream of a person’s perfect life. In the Justice League Animated Series, it latched on to Superman and showed him his perfect life on Krypton, with his wife and two children. His parents were still alive, and Krypton was safe. When it attached to Green Lantern, he was able to save all of Coast City from destruction.
However, when attached to Mongul, the villain created a world where he defeated all of the heroes of the world to conquer the entire universe, and even had a child—White Mercy. The child’s “mother” is Poison Ivy, granting White Mercy chlorokinetic abilities as well as the power of possession and dream manipulation. Mongul used White Mercy and manipulated Poison Ivy in an attempt to actually defeat Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman in the real world, but White Mercy saw the pain in the heroes, and chose to help them.
9) Floronic Man
Floronic Man is also known as the Plant Master, the Seeder, and Floro. In actuality, he is Dr. Jason Woodrue, originally an exile from a planet of dryads who was later reimagined as a world-class botanist. In this scientific persona, he has been associated with other notable DC Comics botanists like Alec Holland and Pamela Isley. His humanoid body is mostly plant-based, and he is able to control and manipulate plant life, as well as physically merge with plants.
He has been a villain against the likes of The Atom, The Flash, and Green Lantern, later joining the Secret Society of Super-Villains to combat the Justice League. Floronic Man even manages to connect with the Green, a mystical force binding all plant life in the DC Universe. Once, he tried to drive humanity to extinction by overwhelming all life with too much oxygen. However, Swamp Thing forced him to realize that plants need animals to survive. Over time, Woodrue has shifted between adversary and reluctant ally.
Dr. Ted Sallis was once just a biochemistry professor until he was recruited by the United States government to make a second Super Soldier serum. The serum had failed countless times before, and his should have failed too, but he crashed his car into a magical swamp. The swamp saved him and transformed him into the Man-Thing, full of nature’s mighty powers.
He’s made of swamp, and he can regenerate from any swamp. He’s practically immortal and can resist nearly all types of physical damage. Since he became Man-Thing, Ted Sallis’ neural pathways spread all throughout his body, changing his intelligence completely. He no longer thinks as a human, but as nature. Something about the change also gave him the incredible ability of an empath. He is able to understand and perceive the emotions around him. If someone acts with anger, he naturally secretes a corrosive acid to protect himself. Man-Thing packs quite the plant punch and he’s also the guardian of the Nexus of All Realities.
Groot hails from Planet X, the capital of branch worlds. He is an alien known as a Flora Colossus. Their language, like their skin, is as rigid as bark. Due to their rigid internal organs, it seems they can only repeat the phrase, “I am Groot.” However, some heroes like Rocket Raccoon and Thor are able to understand him, whether from practice or from an Asgardian language class. Despite the language barrier, Groot is hyper-intelligent and creative with all of his powers.
Groot can control all trees and plants and regenerate his own plant skin in any formation or density. He can create shields and vines to defend himself or others, on top of already being super strong and durable. With this regeneration ability, he can make any plant grow at high speeds, entangle foes in his grip, poison them, or even create bioluminescent plant life on his own body. Groot is a light in the dark galaxy and can bring life where there was none.
6) Nature Girl
Naturally, a list of plant-powered comics characters will delve into some radical ideologies. Lin Li, AKA Nature Girl, definitely fits the bill. As a mutant student at the Jean Grey School for Higher Learning, Nature Girl was a bit of an enigma. She kept to herself, rarely engaging in battle and just barely developing a tentative friendship with Eye Boy. For a while, she didn’t speak to anyone at all and her first friendly interaction was with The Living Island, Krakoa. Her powers, on the other hand, are literally the forces of nature — she can influence, understand, and manipulate all flora and fauna as well as weather, matter, and energy related to the natural world.
Everything recently changed for Nature Girl when she encountered a turtle killed by trash. Enraged, she took the plastic bag to the store it came from, confronted the owner, and killed him after he was indifferent to the turtle’s death. Suddenly, Nature Girl was a fugitive of Krakoan law. The Quiet Council wanted to punish her with the Pit of Exile. However, she assembled a haphazard crew of mutants and animals, dubbed X-Men Green, and escaped Krakoa thanks to the island itself.
There’s a side of Mantis that we don’t entirely get to see in the MCU, but it’s hinted at when she helps control Ego, the living planet. Mantis is a powerful empath who can understand and even control the emotions of people around her, whether she’s getting Ego or Thanos to fall asleep, or even using telepathy. She is also strongly connected to plant life.
When it comes to plants, her powers practically double. Mantis is able to travel through space by transferring her mind to plants anywhere in the universe. When she arrives, she can change the plant growth to make an entirely new functional body to fit her needs. Not only that, but even if she is killed, she can be born again in a new plant body. In some versions of her story, Mantis can control nearby plants through her unique plant-telepathy.
Honorable Mention: Quoi and the Cotati
In addition to her vast telepathic and chlorokinetic talents, Mantis was also prophesied to be the Celestial Madonna. The Priests of Pama, who were Kree prophets, believed Mantis would give birth to the Celestial Messiah, a being destined to change the universe using his connection to the Cotati. Long ago, the Skrulls forced the Cotati and the Kree into a tournament, which the Cotati won — thus earning the wrath of the Kree. Most of the Cotati, a race of telepathic plants, were massacred by the Kree. That’s why the Messiah would be their retribution against all animal-based life in the universe.
One minute they’re a little sapling, the next they’re scheming to control the entire galaxy — they grow up so fast! Sequoia, AKA Quoi, was the son of Mantis and a Cotati-possessed Swordsman. He has similar abilities as his mother, plus energy manipulation and an entire army of Cotati at his disposal. As the Celestial Messiah, he brought horticultural havoc upon the Avengers, the Fantastic Four, and especially Emperor Hulkling and his husband, Wiccan.
Krakoa is slightly different than most of the characters on this list because Krakoa is an entire island, capable of creating humanoid and animal-like life forms to walk around and communicate with inhabitants. Krakoa is alive and even feeds off of mutant powers. When the X-Men first encountered The Living Island, Krakoa was more of an antagonist.
In Jonathan Hickman’s House of X series, Professor X decided to create a nation of mutants, interestingly enough, on Krakoa. On Krakoa, mutants have built a safe haven from the rest of the human world. Their society has been forever changed. Through Krakoa, they have established economic power using Krakoan medicinal drugs to trade with humans. Only Doug Ramsey, AKA Cypher, can communicate with Krakoa, and together these two have often undermined the Quiet Council. In the Age of Krakoa, mutantkind has expanded to Mars (now known as Arakko) and regained its footing in a hateful world — all thanks to Krakoa.
At first, Julio Richter, AKA Rictor, was merely a troubled mutant who could induce geological disruptions. His youth was full of turmoil and repression, and only later in his life has he embraced his identity as well as his true power. While living on Krakoa and working alongside the new Excalibur team, Rictor’s astounding potential has finally shaken loose.
Under the magical tutelage of Apocalypse, Rictor has tapped into his Druidic connection. While he is undoubtedly a Latino hero, Rictor is also exploring the ways in which his geokinetic powers grant him ancient knowledge of the earth. As a Krakoan, his powers have expanded beyond moving the earth and magma to a deep mystical connection with the planet itself. Now that Apocalypse is gone, Rictor is the heir apparent to mutant magic.
2) Poison Ivy
The original comic book eco-terrorist Pamela Lillian Isley, better known as Poison Ivy, was originally introduced in Batman comics as a botanist named Lillian Rose. She survived a poisoning attempt and became immune to all toxins and diseases, inspiring a career switch to villainy. Neil Gaiman rewrote her origin as a part of the massive Crisis on Infinite Earths retcon, giving us the modern version of Poison Ivy. Dr. Pamela Lillian Isley studied botanical biochemistry under Dr. Jason Woodrue, who injected her with toxin as an experiment, driving her mad and transforming her.
Poison Ivy considers herself an “eco-terrorist of global importance” and is known for her crimes against humanity to ensure the survival of plant life. She has a superhuman immune system and her own body is a poisonous weapon, famously through, but not limited to, a kiss. In some forms, she breathes carbon dioxide and has aloe blood and chlorophyll skin, making her more plant than human. She can also control all forms of plant life on a molecular level and was recently reborn in Heroes in Crisis as a potential new Avatar of the Green. While she is a legendary member of Batman’s Rogues Gallery, over time her relationship with Harley Quinn has encouraged Ivy to blossom into a complex antihero.
1) Swamp Thing
Swamp Thing is a shambling elemental creature connected to the Green in the DC Universe. Created by Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson, he first appeared in House of Secrets in July 1971, two months after Marvel’s Man-Thing debuted. Thought to be the mutated form of scientist Alec Holland, it was later revealed (by Dr. Woodrue from earlier) that Swamp Thing is actually a sentient mass of plant matter that had absorbed Holland’s memories and personality.
Swamp Thing is chlorokinetic and can easily regrow himself whenever damaged. He can also transport his consciousness into plants across the world — he once regenerated himself out of tobacco that John Constantine was carrying. He is immensely powerful and the upper limits of his strength have yet to be established.
Alongside Swamp Thing, the Parliament of Trees are a council of Elemental beings who serve the Green as protectors of all plant life. They secretly had an agenda to remake Earth and destroy mankind, but Swamp Thing refused and protected humanity, and the Parliament was punished accordingly. Swamp Thing is the official protector of both plants and (when deserved) humans.
So, did we cultivate a strong, growing list? Or did we forget to water this one? If we missed someone that you think should be on the list, tell us in the comments — and don’t forget to Let Your Geek Sidegrow!