Plastics imitating plants

There are a number of ways an object made of plastics can imitate a material derived from a plant, and a number of reasons why you might want a synthetic alternative.

Some plants take a long time to grow.  An artificial topiary box tree (1) provides instant impact without needing several years to be trained and clipped into shape. The box spiral has a naturalistic form whereas the Maria Partition (2) delivers instant impact in a more abstract fashion.  The leaf shapes are fitted together to offer shade from the sun or screening from neighbours.


Cut flowers are short lived, providing colour in the house for about a week, and the perfect lawn or sports field needs to be feed and cut regularly.  Artificial flower stems (3 - 7) and grass (8 - 12) offer the user a long lasting, maintenance free alternative to their natural counterparts. 


Coopering is a skilled craft which takes time and expertise and culminates in an expensive product.  This polyurethane promotional ice bucket (13) has the effect of a coopered barrel but has been cast.  As such, it is mass produced can be sold at a significantly lower price point.  Similarly, carving a wooden bowl is an expensive production technique.  The effect can be produced more cheaply by using compression moulded melamine (14) a material that can be moulded to shape and is easily coloured.  Unlike wood, melamine is scratch resistant and does not absorb liquids.


The previous objects have all been moulded into the shapes of the materials they are imitating.  Surface printing can give a look of a plant-based material but provide a soft playing surface, without the grass stains as in the grass puzzle tiles (15).  Alternatively, it can offer a natural looking flooring solution (16) which can be mopped clean without time consuming prior treatment.

Plastic corks (17) have now been developed to replicate the cellular structure of natural cork creating an improved bottle stopper that offers a consistent, predictable level of oxygen permeation and eliminates the risk of contamination.  Unfortunately, this has resulted in groves of cultivated cork trees being threatened as demand for the ‘real thing’ lessens.