[The following contains major spoilers for Avengers: Infinity War and the Guardians Of The Galaxy films.]
Guardians of the Galaxy’s Groot is a sentient tree only capable of uttering the words, “I am Groot,” the irony being that Groot is actually so much more. Recently, we wrote about the heartrending reality behind his final words to cohort Rocket Raccoon. As director James Gunn explained, just before dying, he said, “Dad.” This was nearly as sad as Gunn’s revelation that Groot’s sacrifice at the end of the first Guardians was final, and that the sequel’s Baby Groot was not a resurrection, but rather a son with no memory of his father.
As a matter of argument, some fans have pointed out that Groot’s consciousness carries through his cuttings, thus puncturing Gunn’s vision of the character. Well, now an honest-to-god botanist has entered the conversation to further complicate things.
Over a series of tweets, botanist James Wong breaks down the biology of Groot, using science to answer the question of just how much of the original Groot lives on in his offspring.
It turns out that there’s some validity to both Gunn’s claims and those of his critics. Wong explains that Baby Groot (and, of course, Teen Groot of Infinity War) is more like an “identical twin” than a son, having been born from a form of asexual reproduction known as vegetative propagation. This supports Gunn’s vision, in that the plant is absolutely a separate entity from the original Groot.
Most interesting, however, is that if Groot was cultivated as a cutting, Wong says that it even possesses the ability to “retain Big Groot’s memories” due to plants being able to “process complex information about the world around them & retain it without the need for a centralised storage organ.” This lends itself to the vision of Groot as laid out in the comics, and conflicts with Gunn’s claim that Baby Groot has no memories of his “dad.”
All that said, there’s also the possibility that Baby Groot was born not from a cutting at all, but rather pollen, spores, and/or seeds emitted by Groot, which, as Wong points out, brings the possibility of a “mysterious ‘Lady Groot’ character into the mix.”
And while we probably won’t be finding her in future Guardians movies, we’re sure she exists in the deep annals of online fan fiction.