It's A Jungle Out There (Part II)

I. Introduction
Part II basically picks up from the first part (see Part I here ) by briefly discussing the growth habits of certain common tropical vegetation and detailing some possible alternatives of reproducing them. We will not be covering the layout of a jungle diorama as it has been covered in the first part. I say we because I have Costas (Major Goose) on board for Part II. So without further ado, put on your boonie hats and get out your machete, coz we’re going in…..
II. Materials & Methods
The list of vegetation described here only covers a small fraction of the diversity of a real tropical jungle although a good mix and match with plants described in Part I should be able to give you a close approximation to the real thing. There’s always more than one way to make them so whenever possible we have tried to include a photo of the real plant as a reference for seeking alternate construction materials.
What we’ve termed as creepers here is a layman’s term to describe any vegetation that spreads along the ground through vine-like (runners) stems as opposed to lianas/vines which tend to climb taller trees & structures. In reality many of these vines and creepers are sometimes the same species although we have separated them based on where they are found and largely for ease of constructing them. While most creepers tolerate some shading (light to moderate), they tend to proliferate in semi-exposed areas. The one featured here, Mikania is sometimes known as Mile-A-Minute for its phenomenal growth rate (photo #1). Creepers climb over any structure including low shrubs they can grip on to as seen in Photo #2.

One method is to use glycerine preserved weeds (with small leaves but any vine like structure, dried plant/flower will suffice as long as the leaves are small and spaced out (not bunched up)). The glycerine:water mix was again around 1:10 but drying the weed was much better. Sometimes soft small weeds don’t take to glycerin well and air drying is much better. The thing is to keep them close to the ground (photo #3) restricting them mainly to more exposed areas or along jungle edges & stream banks.

Some of the commercially available PE climbing ivy could also be used as an alternative as they resemble real creepers.
Lianas can be thought as the taller cousins of creepers. Lianas or jungle vines so common to Tarzan movies are plants that started from the ground up. Their vine like structure is usually devoid of leaves and some species even have small hooks to grip on to the barks of their host tree. Rattan is a good example and its super sharp thorns are probably why American Special Forces wore leather gloves cutoff at the fingers in Vietnam. It is only at the top canopies of their host plant do lianas produce leaves either dangling downwards or crawling from one canopy to the next. Occasionally they dangle a few roots downwards too. A liana’s mission is to seek sunlight and some of the more parasitic species have been even known to strangle their host (strangling figs), so much for kindness. There also species that have no roots and these are usually lichens which dangle down from branches. I tend to think of these as more of epiphytes as covered in Part I.

Lianas like creepers tend to proliferate on trees near jungle edges and sunlit areas. Dioramas featuring jungle clearings are a good place to have lianas.

Next to grass, lianas are easy to reproduce. Seek out fine, relatively woody roots of medium sized trees. Fine roots of 1-2 mm diameter should suffice and normally such roots tend to have a fair bit of branching. The woodier it is as opposed to being soft will mean it will be durable when dried rather than brittle. It will be great if you can get twisted, gnarly looking ones too. The one shown in photo # 4 has been taken of a local medium sized (2.5 m) tree similar to a crab apple tree. The one in the photo have been dried and further preserved with wood varnish or shellac.

Attach it to the base of any tree and twist it around the host trunk as much as possible without breaking it. You could also attach it going straight up but it has a bit more dramatic effect if twirled around the tree. The end can be topped off by dangling it from the canopy or be lost somewhere in the canopy. If you’re going to dangle it then the effect would be enhanced if the dangling portion had some leaves attached. In photo # 5, I’ve allowed the end to trail off into the canopy and attached my earlier creeper material to act as the dangling portion after snipping off some leaves to give it a sparser look. Take note of the twisted vines on the trunk at right of the photo.
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  • Photo2
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  • Photo4
  • Photo5

About the Author

About CK Tang (beachbum)

Like most forum members here I started with Airfix, Frog & Matchbox at a time when there was no Internet. From the first time I saw a photo of a vignette on a Ford GPA in a swamp (from Monogram I think), I knew dioramas was the thing for me. However, it took more than a 25-year layoff from modelling...


Many Thanks Guys. Sorry I didn't reply earlier as I was away mucking around the plantations. Scott, I'm really sorry about leaving out Photos #12 and #13. Will be sending them immediately to the address you PM me. I usually blame it on the old block between my ears but I think the little woman at home usually subscribes my poor memory to as an excuse to avoid any real work. Thanks again guys and sorry for the missing photos.
APR 07, 2005 - 08:56 PM
CK - don't worry about the images, not a big deal. I have updated page 3 and added the two images. Really nice pictures.
APR 08, 2005 - 03:42 AM
This is an excellant article you have shared with us. This will help me in my Nam dios. Thanks alot.
APR 08, 2005 - 03:24 PM
Thanks Keenan. Actually Costas was also involved in Part II and we shared a fair bit of info on preserving plants and he had more experience than me on using PE alternatives. Scott thanks for the addition and the offer.
APR 08, 2005 - 04:38 PM
beachbum Keep up the good - Cheers here's a round on me
APR 08, 2005 - 11:08 PM
Dear CK i think that the combined thing of 2 parts is the best article on tropical foliage for dios i have ever read. And thats why its written from someone with practical knowlwdge on the subject , and it involves cheap and easy materials and methods. And thats what a modeller needs. Thanks u so much for taking all this time to do it . Its really a gem. Keep safe my friend. p.s. Thanks a lot for mentioning my name , but all the glory belongs to u !!!!!!!!!
APR 12, 2005 - 05:58 PM
Actually Costas I mentioned your name coz in case anyone sues US for slander, plagarism, etc. it would be my "bum" and your "goose" that would get it. Its always good to share the blame. :-) Jokes aside, the second part does reflect your contribution. Anybody who has seen your dios knows the work & research you put into your vegetation.
APR 12, 2005 - 06:22 PM
This going to be very helpfully when I do a dio with tree's. Happy Modeling Tom
JUN 12, 2008 - 08:47 PM
Thanks a lot, CK. One of the most useful tutorials here. I'm looking at tropical vegetation everyday, and your stuff's perfect.
JUN 13, 2008 - 03:44 AM
Although late to this party, I'd like to say thank you to the author(s) for all this work. I haven't built a plastic armour kit for 3 decades now. However I have started a 1/4" scale Cuban sugar narrow gauge railway. Living in the Great White North palm trees are hard to find (except in the City Conservatory). Thanks to you I now have a place to start modelling the jungle and savanna of Cuba.
SEP 24, 2013 - 04:18 AM