This is a question about the same magic explained in this one. I also explain the magic below.


In my fantasy novel, magic is a natural part of the world. It is not some mystical force shrouded in mystery, but rather backed by science (though only I, the author, know it's true workings).

In my world, magic is a force that by its nature changes living cells. It is similar to radiation, but different in the respect that it changes what the cell does, usually in a beneficial way. For example, if the cells of an eye were exposed to magic, the magic might make the eye also see infrared light.

There are those in my world who can control the change worked by the magic. (They can force the magic to make the eye see infrared light. They can also use magic to make that same eye go blind.)


Using this magic, could a tree be grown into a specific shape, or made to form specific things solely with its wood? My goal here is to have individuals (think elves) be able to grow a living tree into a house, building, tower, shelter, etc. If possible, I would also like them to be able to grow armor out of the tree - have the tree shape the armor and then pinch it off, like it would a dead leaf.

Let me be clear here. Control cannot be established over the cells. They can simply be altered, so that they produce different chemicals or react differently. You cannot, for instance, just take control of a vine and have it weave itself into a basket. It would have to be grown that way.

Would growing on this scale be biologically possible, and if so, how would it be done (what in the cell would need to be changed)?

  • $\begingroup$ No... you are denying the 3d printing evolution! actually science can switch on/off certain genome of a plant DNA to increase its growth rate or anything you can imagine... the hard part is finding out which one is the switch? $\endgroup$ – user6760 Mar 31 '15 at 8:05
  • $\begingroup$ Why do you call it magic, if it has a scientific explanation? $\endgroup$ – enkryptor Mar 25 '16 at 7:56
  • $\begingroup$ @enkryptor Because I am writing a Fantasy novel. Including science would interrupt the story and jar against the genre and what the reader expects. $\endgroup$ – Thomas Myron Mar 25 '16 at 17:00

Your key in this will be the plant hormone auxin. Auxin causes most growth in plants. Auxin makes the cells it is in elongate, making the plant grow in a specific direction. You can see this when plants grow toward light. Auxin gathers on the side of the plant facing away from the light. This causes the dark cells to elongate and the plant grows towards the light.

You should have your elves be able to cause plants to create auxin. They will also need to be able to effect the growth speed of plants. The elves could make the plants point one direction with auxin, then have them grow a certain length. More auxin adjusts the growth direction. Using this ability and the power to make stems thicken and you could grow a house from a tree.

  • $\begingroup$ That sounds like exactly what I would need. Would the cells themselves be able to produce more auxin with no change in their environment, or would they need special chemicals/circumstances to help them along? $\endgroup$ – Thomas Myron Mar 31 '15 at 18:03
  • $\begingroup$ I believe they can produce it without changes. Obviously, if you obey the laws of mass conservation, you'll need to figure out where the elements come from. $\endgroup$ – DonyorM Apr 1 '15 at 5:37
  • $\begingroup$ Quick question: Using this principle, would it be possible to grow trees with a hollow tunnel on the ground level, enabling people to walk through them? $\endgroup$ – Thomas Myron Aug 18 '15 at 18:30
  • $\begingroup$ It should be able to. If I were going to do this, I would merge many roots growing in a circular shape, rather than making one branch grow hollow. $\endgroup$ – DonyorM Aug 19 '15 at 12:02

You mean something like this?  (WP:Tree shaping)

Tree shaping via Pooktre method

from Wikipedia courtesy of Peter Cook, depicted

Living root bridges by Arshiya Urveeja Bose

Living root bridges in Nongriat village, Meghalaya, India by Arshiya Urveeja Bose (CC) via Wikipedia

If it's possible to do by training vines and plants, then it's certainly theoretically possible to do so by biological adaptation (whether magical or using genetic means or otherwise).

I am new so don't have rep to post the relevant wiki links, but the above wikipedia article on "Tree shaping" has much, much more where that came from that your elves might be interested in. See also WP: Vine training and Living sculpture.

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for that info, it should be useful. It will especially help me to visualize what the trees might look like. $\endgroup$ – Thomas Myron Mar 25 '16 at 16:59
  • $\begingroup$ Happy to help! I am a fan of this sort of "architecture"/environment, so it's a cool idea. $\endgroup$ – Ber Mar 25 '16 at 20:11
  • $\begingroup$ Also, I have to add that the person who made that chair looks exactly like Tom Bombadil. All he needs are yellow crocs! The wikipedia article about tree shaping describes quite a collection of unusual characters. $\endgroup$ – Ber Mar 25 '16 at 21:42

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