Skip to content
22 Jan 2019

Botanic baddies and buddies: Our favourite plants in pop culture

Here at the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney our love of plants goes well beyond the garden – even as far as the big screen. To get us in the mood for the upcoming screening of cult classic Attack of the Killer Tomatoes! at The Calyx for the Tomato Festival Sydney, we asked some of our experts about their favourite botanical baddies and buddies. Let's check them out:

The Krynoid

"The Krynoid from Doctor Who Seeds of Doom - a kind of galactic weed that settles on planets and eats the animal life. Gotta love a seed that germinates and absorbs the grower or the hapless butler near it and then starts to get plants to kill people in various horrible ways before growing into a very tall and mobile plant" Dr Marco Duretto, Manager, Senior Research Scientist.

A couple of spoilers here from Marco, but true Whovians will be familiar with this Tom Baker classic. A real-life Doctor himself, Marco studies plant diversity including evolutionary biology, botany and taxonomy.

The Big Bad Banksia Men

From our Science & Conservation team we talked to Lesley Elkan, who works at the Garden to document the flora of NSW and beyond. We also spoke to Dr Kerry Gibbons who is currently using genetic data to understand the classification and evolution of plants. 

"The Big Bad Banskia Men by May Gibbs. Freaked me out as a child but also inspired my interest in and love of Australian natives and Banksias in particular" Lesley Elkan, Botanical Illustrator.

"I grew up on a bush block near Ku ring gai National Park, and we had a couple of old, gnarled Banksia serrata (Old-man Banksia) in our front garden. This is almost certainly the species May Gibbs depicted in her illustrations" Dr Kerry Gibbons, Scientific Officer.

Kerry and Leslie agree that the scariest part of their Australian childhood wasn’t snakes or crocodiles – it was the Big Bad Banksia Men from May Gibbs! 

A Big Bad Banksia Man by May Gibbs


A post shared by May Gibbs' Home & Garden (@maygibbsnutcote) on

A Banksia serrata in the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney

Bigweed and Lil’ Seaweed

"These guys were the two villains from the 1980’s cartoon “Snorks”. They were crafty seaweeds with very creative “bad guy” ideas, and they worked well as a team" Yola Metti, Phycologist. 

It’s no surprise our resident underwater expert Yola chose these slippery suckers. Her research interests focus on understanding evolutionary relationships of marine algae through algal molecular systematics and traditional morphological studies… in other words studying the tiniest building blocks that make up seaweed and other algae.

Swim along with the Snorks and spot the baddies here:

Killer Tomatoes

"The tomatoes from Attack of the Killer Tomatoes are the stars of this fun, ridiculous movie described as a “musical dark comedy horror film”. They refuse to give up, and make a mean tomato juice" Wendy Symonds, Tomato Festival Sydney Producer.

A love of all things tomato, good and bad, Wendy brings the annual Tomato Festival Sydney to life (but not “to life” to life). 

Fancy a taste of Attack of the Killer Tomatoes? Secure your tickets to this one-off retro movie extravaganza alongside the carnivorous plants of Plants with Bite here

Swamp Thing

"Swamp Thing! 'Cause he protected the swamp from bad people!  Also, I grew up in a swamp" Jimmy Turner, Director of Horticulture. 

Did you know that the 7,000 carnivorous plants in Plants with Bite are planted in boggy garden beds? Texan native Jimmy is the brains and creative behind Plants with Bite, and clearly brought a few tricks from home for this one. 

So who is your favourite botanic baddie or buddy? We would love to hear from you! Let us know via our Facebook or Twitter and hashtag #botanicfriendorfoe so we can repost!

Category: Events
If you are a journalist and have a media enquiry about this story, please click here for contact details and more information.