View Full Version : Tree and Foliage Plugins

12 December 2005, 02:11 PM
The question is always asked about what is the best program for trees and foliage in Max. So lets discuss it here, what are you experiences both good and bad with any of these programs. Maybe this thread can help others make the decision that is right for them and there budget.

TreeStorm - Onyx Tree (
$200 - $400
This is a plugin and also it comes with a standalone application for creating your own custom trees and bushes.

Xfrog - Greenworks Organic (
$149 - $399
These guys have plugins for Maya, C4D, and a standalone. I heard a while ago that they where making a plugin for Max too...but I haven't see one just yet. They also have tree and plant models for sale.

NatFX and Easy NatFX- Bionatics (
$990 and up!
This looks like the program to have but is it worth the $$$$?
"Bionatics, world leader in procedural 3D plants modeling technology, delivers a complete suite of professional solutions for the needs of Architecture, Landscape, 3D Animation, Video Game and Virtual Reality."

Speed Tree - Digimation (
"A powerful plug-in for creating realistic trees in 3dsmax and Autodesk Viz. SpeedTree creates relatively low poly trees for fast rendering time and foresting."

Tree Factory - Digimation (
Over a dozen pre-built procedural trees. I think this is kind of like the AEC built in to MAX.

Archvision RPC (
$99 - $349
It's good...for what it is...2d.

e-on ( Vue Infinite ( with e-on Vue 5 xStream (
$599 and $495
"Vue 5 Infinite is the high-end 3D scenery solution for illustrators, SFX studios, architects, and 3D Computer Graphics professionals. It is strongly focused on power, productivity and inter-operability with existing toolkits." and "Vue 5 xStream streamlines integration by effectively eliminating any need for import/export or compositing processes."

( Itoo Software - Forest Pack Lite / Forest Pack Pro (
Free - $353.84
"Forest Pack is a package of eight plugins for 3D Studio Max and 3D Studio Viz (and a tree maps library in Forest Pro Pack), designed to give a complete solution for creation of large surfaces of trees and plants. There are other plugins that allow creation of beatiful trees (with thousands of faces), but only 'Forest' allows you to create, with half the resources, a complete forest with thousands of trees. Forest may be used to create any scene which requires large distributions of objects, not just trees."

GroundWiz Planter - ( (
$180 Volume Discounts Available
"GroundWiz Planter is a mass placement and instancing tool fully integrated with GroundWiz Terrain Map to create interactive scenes of nature/landscape. GroundWiz Planter makes it possible to create a big scene of nature/landscape, using millions of trees, rocks, bushes, shrubs, grass and so on in 3ds max/VIZ. Additionally, it manages a huge number of objects while also making sure that each one of them maintains high quality. "
So lets talk about them what are all of your experiences good and bad???

If there are more let me know and I will add it to the list.

12 December 2005, 02:05 PM
Hi Maven,

Great idea for a post.

Ive been looking for a good tree plugin so I went ahead and bought onyx tree and have been experimenting with it. I'll take a pro & con approach to this.


Good / accurate library of trees (authentic looking)
easy to use tree creation tool
detailed. ie you can texture the leaves, trunks, branches etc.

very heavy on the memory.
not easy to create groups of trees (forests)

To summarise, Onyxtree is a great plugin. The trees look authentic and the tree creation tool is a great feature. I just wish the trees were more efficient (a default cherry tree has over 60,000 polygons)

I would be curious to find out how the other tree plugins are. Especially if any can create realistic hedges.

12 December 2005, 07:41 PM
Kalari_Jack - thanks for the review of Onxy Tree. It does look like a good plugin, but as you say heavey on the polys.

12 December 2005, 08:03 PM
Not to forget TREEFACTORY from digimation. I think it's creating the best trunks and roots going into the ground.


12 December 2005, 06:39 PM
Not to forget TREEFACTORY from digimation. I think it's creating the best trunks and roots going into the ground.


Thanks Emu007 - it's added.

01 January 2006, 07:33 PM
Hmm I tried the NatFX from Biometrics and it's really nice. Also a rep actually called me and asked if I liked the demo and so on.

Detailed trees
3 version. Builboard/hybrid and complete
Easy to use
Hybrids looks good
Rep actualy called me and tried to help me customize my package

Complete trees "full polygonal" can take up alot of resources
Demo only has 1 tree

Overall I am pleased. NatFX does what I want. Plan on getting the full blown deal soon. I was really shocked getting a call on the wifes cell phone. Saw the caller ID and was like "who is in cali??" and poof a guy from Biometrics asking me how liked the demo and so on. Very professional and tried to help out with customizing the software to meet my needs and so on. Wasent pushy or tried to make it a quick call. Infact we spent probally 30 mins descussing how well NatFX works in games so. I would say worth the extra $$$ :thumbsup:

01 January 2006, 10:00 PM
Not to forget vue5 Infinite coupled with xStream, pricy yes, but without a doubt also sporting some great integration with max, not just for trees but also for creating landscapes.

xStream/vue5Infinite info (

01 January 2006, 11:40 PM
Not to forget vue5 Infinite coupled with xStream, pricy yes, but without a doubt also sporting some great integration with max, not just for trees but also for creating landscapes.

xStream/vue5Infinite info (

Thanks's added to the list. Do you own this software? If so would you mind writing about your experiences with it? Good and bad.

01 January 2006, 03:53 PM
Great idea for a thread. I'll be reading regularly. It would also be nice to see examples (still and animation examples/wind, etc.) if people have the time to post them.


01 January 2006, 01:18 PM
Great idea for a thread. I'll be reading regularly. It would also be nice to see examples (still and animation examples/wind, etc.) if people have the time to post them.


Good idea.

01 January 2006, 07:24 PM
Hey Maven, for any xStream questions check out this thread

As for v5I and vxStream coupled with max, it realy is a solid production pipeline solution where you can work inside of max and load and edit complete vue landscapes and of course plantīs, but check out that thread for some more opinions about how it works together with max.

01 January 2006, 01:46 PM
with onyxtree you can adjust the level of detail from millions to a dozen polys if you like.

01 January 2006, 10:54 AM
with onyxtree you can adjust the level of detail from millions to a dozen polys if you like.

Hi Krz9000,

Could you tell me how I can adjust it to that extend? Ive been able to reduce about 10,000 polys but I dont seem to be able to adjust it any further.


01 January 2006, 06:24 PM
Here is a small example of the optimization avaiable in Onxy Tree. I don't think it's the best for forest. Very poly heavy.

03 March 2006, 09:26 PM
Well out of all of those I have only used OnyxTree (which I still use). It's great sometimes (easily textured in 3dsmax if you use the polygon ID's) but I completely agree about the heaviness of polygons. It runs slow in viewports in 3dsmax because to get a somewhat good looking tree, it generally needs about 60,000+

I am interested in trying out Vue-Xstream, because I would really like something that is more integrated with 3dsmax. I haven't used NatFX yet but it looks very it somewhat easy to use?

03 March 2006, 12:22 AM
I have been using an AutoCad program called AccuRender for years and am just learning VIZ. AccuRender has a great Plant Editor that creates the plants at render time. Each insertion is slightly different from the last (programable) so they look great.

I have hundreds of trees, shrubs, flowers etc. I even used it for plant materials for the United States National Arboretum. You can see some of them at this URL:

Is there any program that will do this as a plug in for VIZ or MAX? Or is anyone capable of figuring out the code in the blocks? The information is stored in an "Anonymous block". It sure would be great if we could use them in VIZ and 3DS Max.

The rumor is that author wrote the code in 2 days!

07 July 2006, 04:23 AM
I just found this big list of appz for creating tree/vegetation:

07 July 2006, 04:44 PM
I noticed something missing from the list - the FREE plug-ins!

over at, check out Tree Maker 5.0

super easy, doesn't have anything in the way of animation or anything like that, but if you want to make custom trees fast and free, it doesn't get any better. it was written by Shawn Lewis.

08 August 2006, 05:40 PM
I recommend also you take a look to our software Forest Pack ( I think it's the best solution
if you need to create large surfaces of trees. We have free and commercial versions (Forest Lite & Forest Pro):

08 August 2006, 06:14 PM
I recommend also you take a look to our software Forest Pack ( I think it's the best solution
if you need to create large surfaces of trees. We have free and commercial versions (Forest Lite & Forest Pro):

Hey thanks. I've added it to the list....

08 August 2006, 06:48 PM
Hey thanks. I've added it to the list....

Thanks, but there is some problem with the html code in your post, the link doesn't show.

08 August 2006, 08:47 PM
I recently bought XFrog 3.5 and OnyxTree, so here are my 2 cents. Keep in mind the following 2 points:

1. I use them in Max8 (not in Max5 or 6 and not in C4D, or Maya).
2. I gave my input based on using them to CREATE YOUR OWN plants and not grabbing the premade trees and placing them into the scene.

XFrog 3.5

I really hate to say this, but if you want to model your own trees, Xfrog 3.5 is, well..., let me just say that I'm not quite happy with it. I bought the 3.5 application, since they don't have a functional plugin for max8 yet. The 3.5 application is old. Unfortunately, you don't find this out from the website. The more I played with it, the more bugs I found. They have a plugin for max that can read the generated xfr files. Of course the app also exports other standard formats, such as 3ds, obj, etc. (etc is not a file format :-) Anyway, the xfr format is good because it produces quads as opposed to triangle meshes. The downside is, that the xfr reader plugin for max8 incorrectly interprets quite a few parameters. So depending on what you want to model, your object might look screwed up just a tad, or completely (like the leaves curving in the wrong direction, the flower head is growing upside down, things like that). However, for simple modeling, such as a basic tree, it works.

The interface is relatively easy to use so after you read the documentation and try out a few tutorials - which are good by the way - you should be able to model your own entities in a short time.

Exporting the model as 3ds (or other formats) is an option, but then you get triangle meshes. I had to get the quadrangulate (or something rather) script off the web to convert the tris to quads (if I want to do smoothing for closeups) otherwise placing a turbosmooth on a triangle mesh makes it look horrible. Here, again, having some problems because some vertices/edges are not welded when you import the 3ds file. Of course you don't find this out until you try to texture and you find these odd seams.

They have a plugin for max (called xfrog 4) - which is at the alpha stages - so at this point it's really not usable. (The plugin is already available for C4D and Maya, but I'm a Max user so that really doesn't helping me.) The Xfrog 3.5 application has lot's of parameters which, in general, are pretty good. It's a shame it doesn't work well for max8. It can animate growth of the plants (or whatever you model) but again, it cannot be imported into max8. Supposedly it works with max5, but who uses max5!?

I think the hierarchical modeling approach is quite good. It allows you to create various weirdo plant models as well.

Until they come out with the xfrog 4 plugin for max, it might be worth just to get the premade models and use them. The 3.5 app is not too stable for max8 - which is a shame - because it looks quite a promising application.

- lot's of parameters
- easy learning curve
- models look very nice
- works well with VRay
- hierarchical drag/drop creation mode
- good growth animation system (but... see below)
- they have a good forum and people are quite helpful

- the 3.5 app is not quite stable when it comes to working with xfr files to/from max8
- there's no plugin for max8 yet
- animation cannot be imported to max8 (DUH!)
- no forum (but that's not application related)


It's a pitty they don't have a demo. I would not have bought Xfrog 3.5 if I could've tried OnyxTree first. It's a real beauty! They have various applications that model confiers, broadleaves, bamboos, flowers, etc. Only the bamboo can animate growth at this point, but the only way to export the growth sequence is a sequence of 3ds files. So if you want to have a 300 frame animation, you'll end up 300 3ds files that you need to import into max.

The individual applications are pretty good and their interface is similar (only the parameters are different). They have lot's of parameters to control various parts of the plant in question. It has a really good 3ds export feature where you can specify various options for each plant part, in order to reduce polycount - if you want. For example, you can adjust polycount separately for (in case of trees) the trunk, branches, boughs, twigs, etc. For exporting the leaves, there's a separate option to specify various curving/plate/face parameters (which is really excellent by the way), or you can specify to have just 1 blade that you can opacity map.

Creating various plants are really easy. It's basically just dragging scrollbar-like controls to adjust height, curvatures, angles, etc.

Some programs (like broadleaf, conifer) allows to animate wind. The wind controller have quite a few parameters, which is nice.

The exported models have already texture coordinates in place, so you can just throw on a bark or whatever texture, and it will follow the curvature of the model. If you have lot's of leaves, the exporter allows you to specify only to export - for example - the trunk, the main boughs and the leaves only. So you can skip the branch system and the twigs, which would be covered by the leaves and won't be visible anyway. This way you also save on the polys.

And of course there's a max plugin - Storm. This plug in itself, just reads various plant data that you have created with the applications. The plug allows you to adjust 3 viewport display modes - proxy, outline (or what the heck its called), and the full 3d plant. You can randomize each imported plant so they look slightly different. By default, the plugin uses the imported models' vertex color, for coloring - which you can set in the application that you used to create the model. However, you can also specify your own bitmap or procedural textures for each part (trunk, branches, etc, etc).

Another goodie, is that you can detach the leaves of a tree as subobjects, and you can replace them with any object of your own. This way, for example, you can create an xmas tree, and instead of the leaves, you'll have xmas lights on them, or something like that. You can see that in action on their website.

The plugin also have a built-in wind system, so after you turn it on, you can just click play and based on the (quite a few) wind parameters, your tree - or whatever plant - will blow in the wind right inside max. All you have to do is hit render.

For using dense vegetation, such as forests, using proxies is a must. Even though there are various ways to reduce polys in both the application, when you do the actual creation, AND at export time, you will still end up a few mill of polys for a forest. Onyx works well with VRay proxies - in case you use VRay.

- consistent interface between programs
- very easy to use
- very nice poly reducer interface/option for export
- vegetation looks very nice
- texture coordinates already in place
- wind system

- only the bamboo program can animate growth
- no demo!

08 August 2006, 09:13 PM
Great review of those products fluoride (member.php?u=170208) thanks for taking the time to write it up.

09 September 2006, 11:14 PM
I have been using NATfx for about 4 months now, and it has become my favorite! I have used RPC and Xfrog and NATfx works better for me. Its big plus is control and variety, since they sell 'seeds' you can have any, age, any season tree and each one is unique. You can also "prune" the trees to change the look and reduce polycounts. The latest release also has trunk modeling fetures so you can modify that too. Of course the ability to choose billboard, hybrid, volumetric or full 3d trees is handy too. The only thing I wish it had was a mass edit, I tend to clone and then have to go back and have NATfx regrow trees to get them to not look like clones. Also if you want to switch between tree modes you can only do that one at a time.

It seems expesnive but they have good support and since you can make an unlimited variety of trees from one seed you really don't need to buy a ton of plants. Another big plus is they normal mapping works in Mental Ray! Also has features like wind and LOD control.


09 September 2006, 04:00 AM
This thread has been a valuable read for me. I am looking for a good plug to create foilage for an animation that is now in the pre-production stage. It is about the history and the processing of coffee...a 7 minute film. So the coffee tree is the focus and many scenes will contain full aerial shots of orchards. I will incorporate matte 2d paintings where I can but I need something that can billboard and something that has a wind effect.

Natfx sadly does not have a coffee tree in it's library. And they charge $1000 to $1500 to create a tree and only take orders with a minimum of 5 trees. We have a sizeable budget, but this is over the top for us.

Are there any programs that allow for the custom creation of billboards for 3ds max? Also we will be using max9 when it comes out in october and I need to make sure there will be compatibility with it...Bionatics assured us of compaibility within days of max's release.

Are there any other plant programs that offer billboarding...and have an editor like xfrog if they don't have an existing coffee tree in their library?

Thanks for all the input on this thread and for any advice you can offer me.


09 September 2006, 07:40 AM
I guess it depends what animation you are going to do.

Xfrog does nice growth animations, but cannot be imported to max (unless you use max5). As I mentioned above, OnyxTree does not do growth animation - unless you painfully want to adjust your tree, export it as 3ds, then repeat the processs for each frame - ouch.

However, Onyx does nice wind animations. The TreeStorm plugin allows you to create wind right inside max. With TreeStorm, you cannot edit the plants. It can only import plant data. If you have the application (such as Broadleaf, or Conifer) along with TreeStorm, then you can make changes in the app, and import it with the plug.

The plug doesn't do billboarding, but it allows 3 previews within the max viewport:
1. Symbol ( - will display the plant using 20 polygons.
2. Envelope ( - will display the general outline of the tree.
3. Detail ( - full preview.

As you can see in the interface, the "Tree..." button under the "Choose" rollout allows you to select and import your tree.

Pressing the "Adjust..." button in the "Polygons" rollout allows you to adjust the polycount of various parts of the tree. Click to see interface. (

If you have many trees in the view, you can adjust the "Seed" value to make the individual trees unique.

In the "Wind" rollout, the "Presets..." button allows you to load a saved wind preset file. The wind preset file can be created/saved either in an application (Broadleaf, Conifer, etc), or by pressing the "Adjust..." button, which will bring up the wind interface. Click to see. ( As you can see there are plenty of parameters for wind and/or gust. Once you set your wind/gust, you can (ideally) press play and see it right in max. I said "ideally" cuz viewing the tree (even only one) in full preview mode is very slow if you have a high poly tree. But rendering is a breeze.

Finally, you can see a short 10 seconds animation of a tree in gust, rendered with just the plain scanline renderer using the tree's default colors (eg. no textures have applied). DivX codec required. Download here. (

PS: one thing I might add about the coffee tree... Dunno if Xfrog have a coffee tree in their library, but Onyx doesn't. However, Onyx has a very detailed parameter interface where you can model any part with millimeter precision - in case if you are into botany. So if you know how a coffee tree looks like... shouldn't be too hard. However, Xfrog I think gives you more freedom in modelling, so that you can create pretty much any weird plant-like thing, whereas Onyx is more based on real facts. However, it is possible to create some interesting plants in Onyx, too.

09 September 2006, 06:45 PM
Thanks Les, very detailed response. I have been emailing an xfrog rep, very nice and after all of the dialog he recommended I not use xfrog unless I switched to Maya or Cinema4d. This is not to say that xfrog 4.x for max will not work great, but right now with the deadline for my project, I appreciated his saying it was not great using 3.5 with max. Got to give him kudos for his honesty/integrity.

I am now seeing if Bionatics will create the coffee tree for me in a price range I can afford.

Thanks again for the response.

09 September 2006, 09:49 PM
Xfrog already has a coffee tree model in their library. And the library comes with various model versions (3ds, obj, etc):

09 September 2006, 11:50 PM
I am aware of the coffee tree in the tropical library, but thanks for bringing it up as I might not have seen it. The problem is that it has no beans on the branches. Xfrog said they would modify it to suit our needs...but after numerous email exchanges with them, their last email was to warn me that the compatibility with max was not that good.

I have not discounted that this still might be an avenue I have to take, but that is where it sits until I hear from them again. Once more, thanks for your response here. Very much appreciated.

10 October 2006, 02:32 PM
Hello ...

Can I add Groundwiz 1.2 to the list ??? $180 US

No need for Vue Xstream if you know how to create atmosphers.

- Marco.

10 October 2006, 10:03 PM
i find speed tree very very proffesional and helpfull

06 June 2007, 11:12 PM
Okay, so this is a pretty old thread but I thought I'd bump it up and see what opinions are out there currently.

I've used them all, even ones not listed here (I was beta on a number of products that have since died :>). I think one of the dividing lines is between animation and stills -- almost any of the products can produce fantastic stills, but in a production environment many are useless. To me anytime a frame takes more than 30 seconds we're in big trouble for our weekly schedule, and some of these products work in *minutes* even with fast dual processors. That's not something we can afford.

Speaking of which... I'd also be interested in what others experiences are insofar as render farms go. Many of these plugins either don't work across the network or have onerous license requirements.

In any case, I'll say that currently Speedtree 4 is my favorite -- it's fast and reasonably good looking. I'm *very* interested in VUE 6 Xstream and want to see how fast it might be. Biggest con I can see right now is the tree library is extremely limited, and there aren't even many add on trees available from folks. Speedtree has huge libraries, but they are costly and you can't buy individual trees. Making your own is easy, but making GOOD ones takes more talent than I have, apparently.

Onyx is a waste when it comes to production animation, IMHO. And Tree (does anyone remember that one?) was beautiful but lost by the wayside.

06 June 2007, 01:17 PM
hi guys

does anyone know a plugin that let u make trees or plants grow up?

thank u

06 June 2007, 09:49 AM
bionatics does

06 June 2007, 11:27 AM
I'm currently using onyx for animations with out any problems - treestorm for wind as well :) The map handling in Natfx and easy nat is atrocious - it picks up the filename whicih makes it a pain with incremental saves and distributed rendering etc.

06 June 2007, 11:54 AM
that's good to read. thanks
I was about to purchase bionatics. damnit. need to use my render farm so it has to be able to do that. will do some more testing. I'm afraid that xfrog is going to deliver too heavy models.

08 August 2007, 10:27 PM
I just purchased GroundWiz, the full version with unlimited render nodes.

The software works faily well, although there were some issues we ran into setting up our own billboard panels.

I basically remade a terrain in 2 days that had taken me 2 weeks, not to mention the huge image maps.

We went with GroundWiz because the tutorials were very good, they have a lite version, and they would allow me to create my own tree panels from my extensive library of trees.

The problem is in the render server/render node setup. If you install the render node software on a workstation (all of us use our worksations as render nodes at night right?) you need to have the server running to have max start.

There is a lot more on this subject but I have emailed the company support and want to give them a chance to respond before I say anything too harsh.

I couldn't install the server portion because they have to email you the auth. code.
Suffice it to say, I have something I need to have done in the morning, and luckily I can just get it rendered in low rez enough to show my client tomorrow.

Anyone else using it in a production environment?


Support replied to my email (they are to be commended for their promptness).
basically I was correct in assuming you need to have a network connection to the server to run Max after the instal of the render node program.

You can remove the .dlt file from the plugins directory which will let max start.

We have a server machine we run to handle backburner (which the license server will run on as well) but don't run it or our Render Farm unless we have work for it.

So.... As a stand alone app for making great terrains and filling it with trees Groundwiz gets a 9 (out of 10) from me as to power and viewport performance.

08 August 2007, 03:22 AM
We have recently swithched our farm and workstations to 64 bit. High poly trees are no longer
a rendering problem for us. We use Onyx, and sometimes Vue Xstream. I personally really like Onyx.
I LOVE the fact that the trees have geometry leaves. I avoid opacity mapped leaves at all cost. Mental Ray chews through the polys very quickly. We just finished up the first completed
project with the 64 bit OS. We had over 20,000 high poly trees/bushes/flowers/etc. There
were over 100 buildings. We had animated low poly people, med poly cars, playground equipment, etc. Render times were under 20 mins/frame after the FG calcs.


04 April 2008, 01:46 PM
So, after all these posts and test I wonder what would be the winner in this race for the best tree plugin for max to do large scenes?

I have had experiences with xfrog, vue and onyx. I think onyx is my choice over all that i have used. It works well with vray proxies, it very easy to custimize what ever tree, plant, flower or bamboo. I would like to see some of you guys post your work flows for other programs to see if there are easier ways of generating good 3d trees without having to have a monster system or render farm.

06 June 2008, 09:05 AM
To choose the winner still early! :)
In world CG there was a new product! GrowFX - the new system of plants modeling and animating for 3D Studio Max. (

06 June 2008, 02:45 PM
To choose the winner still early! :)
In world CG there was a new product! GrowFX - the new system of plants modeling and animating for 3D Studio Max. (
Вот бы у вас еще демка адекватная была :) С той что на сайте - поработать не получилось.

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