Plants are important objects in virtual environments. High complexity of shape structure is found in plant communities. Level of detail (LOD) of plant geometric models becomes important for interactive forest rendering. We emphasize three major problems in current research: the time consumption in LOD model construction and extraction, the balance between visual effect and data compression, and the time consumption in the communication between Central Processing Unit (CPU) and Graphics Processing Unit (GPU). We present a new foliage simplification framework for LOD model and forest rendering. By an uneven subdivision of the tree crown volume, the cost for LOD model construction is drastically reduced. With a GPU-oriented design of LOD storage structure for foliage, the costly hierarchical traversal of a binary tree is replaced by a sequential lookup of an array. The structure also decreases the communication between the CPU and the GPU in rendering. In addition, Leaf density is introduced to adapt compression to the local distribution of leaves, so that more visually relevant details are kept. According to foliage nature (broad leaves or needles), higher compression are finally reached using mixed polygon/line models. This framework is implemented on virtual scenes of simulated trees with high detail. Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.