It would be great to be able to congratulate the designer of the Lego spruce tree, in production for 30 years. But I can’t. I’ve cast a wide net for clues, but it comes back empty. The designer’s story will remain shrouded, yet we can still cheer the elaborate form of green plastic. I think it must be lauded as a toy icon—one of Lego’s brand-defining moments—a sculptural wonder and an engineer’s folly.

Though in my search a story did emerge, more of a tale of lineage and predecessors, a timeline of a botanical oddity. If all things Lego enchant you, then you may enjoy this nice hike through the near-monochromatic forest.

Painted Trees were the first trees on the Lego scene. Produced from the 1950’s through the early 70’s. These flat-base trees were made to be used with flat printed town plans. Eventually these trees got a hollow base and were meant to be placed over the studs of the new plastic base panels. First appearing in lighter shades of green, which changed to dark green. All versions were painted at the factory by hand.

Samsonite was a licensed producer of Lego in the U.S. and Canada during the 1960’s and early 1970’s. They didn’t distribute the painted trees, instead made their own trees. They were unpainted and the green didn’t really match the Lego green brick color. Unlike the painted trees that were updated with hollow bottoms, the Samsonite trees just received feet that slide between the studs of the base-plate.

Granulated Trees arrived to the U.S. in the early 70’s when Samsonite stopped being the toy’s distributor. These are curiously flat trees with granules of green plastic glued to them. A more “life-like” 3-dimensional tree emerged. There were 2 types of granules attached to the trees… first a large cube-shaped granule, and then a second smaller tube-shaped style. Finding the granulated trees is rare now since they were in production for a relatively short time.

Lego Round Trees and the star of our show appeared in Lego land in the late 70’s. Solid plastic… formidable ridges of plastic to simulate the leaves give this design robo-botanic feel. Except for rounding the tips to make them safer the basic design of the trees has not changed for almost 30 years. The size of the trees grew in both directions. A very tall cypress was added to the line, and since has been sadly retired… it was stately. I’m very fond of the spruce… I think the fruit tree is a little silly.

This guy has a good Lego eye.