While the 1.7 update did in fact change the Minecraft world, I don't think new biomes should be ruled out as plausible new ideas. One potential candidate for a new biome is a Heath, similar to the well known British Moors, Heaths are an interesting piece of geography. Heaths, unlike most moors, are seen outside of the United Kingdom, they are a diversified habitat found in north and west Europe, the Americas, Australia, New Zealand, Madagascar, and New Guinea.
Basically, a heath would be somewhat similar to to a plains biome, generally flat, with podzol ground cover (Learn why podzol would generate here). Yes, I do realize that podzol is currently unique to the Mega Taiga biome; however, realistically speaking, podzol occurs in numerous different locations, including heathland. Despite it's uncommonness, podzol is practically just a re-texture of mycellium, as they perform the same thing (Allow mushrooms to be grown in sunlight).
There are several notable differences between these biomes: for instance, though scarce, trees do spawn here, in the forms of birch and spruce, having a tree spawning system similar to the tundra biome. Another distinct characteristic that grow only on heaths would be Heathers, which are a flowering shrub (Concept of heathers explained later in this post), and other shrubs (Also explained later). These small plants would grow along with the regular tall grass.
As heaths do not typically retain them, water sources will normally not generate in this biome.
Like other flat biomes, villages do have the ability to spawn here. (Perhaps with different colored wood used on housing to add uniqueness?)
(To see more information about real heaths, click here.)
In the desert, one may notice dead shrubs throughout the biome. It only seems logical that these have living counterparts. These plants would grow naturally on the heath biome (It is possible these could grow in Plains and other biomes as well).
On the heath, these would have a dull green (like spruce leaves) color to them, but would be formed more like the dead shrub, rather than a sapling.
Other than for decorative/aesthetic purposes, one potential use could be for them to drop 0-2 sticks when broken with anything except shears. (On a side note, the 0-2 stick drop could also logically be applied to dead shrubs, as both are made of wood.)
With the use of shears, a living shrub can be dropped as an item and re-planted on any dirt or grass block.
Note: The idea of a "living shrub" has been mentioned previously in a suggestion; however my concept of a living shrub, and the other person's have clear differences, making our ideas separate. A link to the "living shrub" thread is provided here.
As mentioned earlier, a heather is a flowering shrub, commonly used in gardening and landscaping, grows naturally on heaths (hence the heath in HEATHer).
As such, the heather would grow only in heathland biomes; however, heathers can be re-planted in any biome on a dirt block.
Though this would be an aesthetic addition, I have research a reasonable use for heathers in Minecraft, heather tea.
Heathers have long been made into an herbal tea to cure a variety of health complications, including aiding in the removal of toxins from the body. As such, when used, heather tea would cure poisoning.
Now, you may ask: "But we already have milk to cure poison, why do we need something else that does the same thing?" The answer is simple: Milk is contained in buckets, which cannot be stacked (buckets of milk that is); however, heather tea can be stacked, as it is placed in glass bottles.
Heather tea would be made by brewing a heather with a bucket of water to produce 3 bottles of heather tea (via brewing stand).
How does this balance out? Heathers are a less common ingredient than milk, and are thus more time consuming to obtain. In contrast, heather tea can be carried in larger amounts, without taking up extra inventory space.
A valid alternative to having players compete between using milk or heather tea, is to give milk a different, more logical use, allowing heather tea to take its place. (Though this is up to preference, either way seems balanced in my view.)
A heather would have purple flowers, and when crafted, give two purple dye, adding another use to heathers. (Currently purple dye can only be obtained by crafting rose red and lapis lazuli).
Yes but there should be more distinction from the plains. half support, like most others. perhaps you could make a pic for us to see of the heathers: are they going to be like dead bushes, just green I'm colour?
I am currently working on this; however, I have no artistic skills in order to make a Minecraft-like image of such things. The shrub and the heather would be separate entities, only the "living shrub" would be the dark green plant, whereas the heather would be a flowering shrub, the best image I can provide of this would be real photos at the present.
As for what the living shrubs would appear to be, they would be shaped and the same height as dead shrubs; however, they would have leaves and such, they would not be a dead bush dyed dark green.