During his research into the nature of flora, Goethe began to suspect the existence of what he referred to as the “Urpflanze,” a primordial plant from which all others had been derived. At the end of his quest to find it, he instead came to the conclusion that, rather than there being such an archetypal plant, there instead existed a single, protean form from which all others had been constructed: that of a solitary leaf.

Of course, it is well known today that plants are far more complicated beings than mere iterations of twisted and folded leaves. They are just as genetically complex as supposed “higher” lifeforms, and contain numerous unique mechanisms required for their survival. That’s not to say that Goethe was entirely wrong about there being a common structure underlying all plants; the emergence of cell theory would come to establish exactly this just a few years after his death.

Researchers at the University Beneath Chicago have continued his quest to find the Urpflanze in his absence, for the existence of this lifeform has never truly been disproven. While it is certainly not a plant from which all others are constructed, it may yet be one from which all others are carved.

The ability of certain floral species to survive grafted to one another, as well as their capacity to reproduce by budding, suggests a deeper, stranger fluidity among plants, as though they are meant to be united. The modern conception of the Urpflanze takes these properties into account: if it exists, it is a rapidly mutating bramble of genetic incongruency, one covered in thorns and flytraps and rainbows of strange blossoms. Within this tangle, new species would constantly be erupting from the stems of others with no centralized form to define the whole: a beautiful, taxonomical chaos. Every known species of plant was once part of its Gordian knot, and all that are currently part of its structure have never before been seen.

In this sense, if there is such an Urpflanze to be found, there is also no such thing.

The existence of molten roses has been cited as a counterpoint to this hypothesis.

Even the giant tumbleweed was once part of the Urpflanze.

There may yet be undiscovered musical instruments in the tangle.