Yes, some spoilers of Stranger Things, the popular Netflix series are enclosed within. If you don’t want to know, come back once you’ve watched.
The Duffer Brother’s series Stranger Things has an eeriness to it, that there is something else to the world just beyond human perception. It took Eleven, a girl who is forced by the government to spy in a sort of astral plane that finds an alien-looking creature she touches on one of her journeys breaching a hole between worlds, to one parallel but different to ours. Welcome to The Upsidedown.
Why am I writing about The Upsidedown on a plant science blog? The alien, the strange, the faceless monster, the demogorgon, that captures Will Byers and kills Barb, almost invisible. The Upsidedown is dark. It has vine-like structures everywhere. The vines even ensnare and trap people. There’s eerie white stuff just floating in the air, like pollen or light and fine orchid seeds in the wind.
The Upsidedown isn’t good for people to be in Stranger Things.
There are some parasitic-plant like qualities to The Upsidedown. Parasitic plants have to be sophisticated in their behaviors to trap their prey, and determine just what is worth going after and what isn’t. Venus flytraps have sensory hairs in their modified leaves. Two of them have to be triggered in rapid succession for the trap to trigger. Pitcher plants aren’t always slippery. An ant can safely crawl inside one and think it’s fine. But later, when it’s retracing its steps, the pitcher is suddenly slippery and the ant falls into the trap.
Many parasitic plants are invisible. They live entirely within their host plant and only burst forth to flower, like the giant Rafflesia arnoldii that has a 1m width fleshy flower. Sundews have sticky hairs then curl over upon trapping prey. Cuscata sp (Dodder) can preferentially choose a host (and sense a host, moving towards it) and will cover a plant with parasitic vines to further it’s health at the expense of its host. Some plants don’t parasitize other plants, but live off of fungi, like the ghostly Monotropa uniflora. Plants are bizarre. And parasitic plants are especially alien.
Welcome to the real Upsidedown.
The botanical world is opposite and different to us in a lot of ways, and yet not. They breathe in CO2 and expel oxygen. We breathe in oxygen and expel CO2. They capture sunlight (though many parasitic plants have lost the ability to photosynthesize), making the sugar we eat. We all need nutrients from our environment, however. We all need phosphorous, nitrogen, trace metals, and a few other things to survive. We share DNA.
In the 2nd season, The Upsidedown tunnels into the town of Hawkins and starts killing patches of pumpkins, and more. Like a parasitic plant might, strangling its host world in this case, one pumpkin at a time.
Eleven breached a hole into a bizarre world, a slower world. A slightly plant-like world. I’m not sure exactly what the Duffer brothers inspiration was with The Upsidedown. Stephen King is certainly an inspiration. However, there is certainly something planty about it. A world just beyond our conscious perception, one that is just as sophisticated and trying to survive as we are. We benefit from it every day and can’t cut out the green world if we wanted to. So in that sense, at least, the breach, the connection, between worlds will always be open.