Imagine laying with your back on the ground in a tall forest looking up at the canopy of leaves formed by the trees. What would you expect to see?
Most of us imagine a tangled mess of intertwining branches, blocking most of the sun. But nature, it turns out, often does things differently.
?There is a phenomenon where the tops of trees grow in a fashion so as not to touch each other. This has been observed with many species, such as black mangrove trees, camphor trees, eucalyptus, Sitka spruce, and Japanese larch.
?The outstretched branches, contrary to expectations, don’t crowd into each other’s spaces and there are gaps between the crowns of the full-grown trees.
?From the vantage point of an aerial view taken high in the sky looking down on the forest, the trees look like they shy away from each other, and the gaps running through the canopy can look like a river. This is called “crown shyness.”
Cool Theories – Can Trees Talk?
Crown shyness is most frequently observed in trees of the same species and age, though it can occur amongst trees of different species as well. It was first observed in the 1920s, however scientists still don’t have an agreed explanation as to why it happens.
Several potential explanations have been put forward.
?Trees “talk” to each other through chemical compounds through which trees sense the presence of neighbours and stop growing in their particular direction.
?Tree buds have light receptors allowing them to sense if they are growing into space occupied by another tree. They stop growing to avoid getting too close and to optimize exposure to sunlight.
?Trees have evolved this way in order to resist insects, bacteria and fungi, which can spread through canopies.
?Twigs and branches collide and break off as trees sway in the wind, thereby making gaps.
?Which is true? Maybe all!
Check out this amazing video of crown shyness.