It appears that trees have been practicing ‘social distancing’ way before us humans, but as usual, we haven’t been paying enough attention to nature. Okay, jokes and irony aside, ‘crown shyness’ might just be one of the most photogenic nature phenomenons.
Crown shyness, also known as canopy disengagement is an amazing natural phenomenon where the crowns of trees appear to avoid each other. Where observed, the canopies of trees form a mosaic of leaves and branches with distinct gaps between each crown.
It was first officially described in the 1920s and is something you might never have noticed before. The term “Tree Shyness” was first coined in the 1950s by the botanist Maxwell R. Jacobs.
So, without further ado, here are some great examples of crown shyness in nature.
Crown shyness is thought to occur for various reasons:
- Insects and/or disease – It is thought by some botanists that trees have evolved this strategy to prevent the ease of spread of insects and pathogenic bacteria and fungi through tree canopies. The idea is that by leaving a gap between the canopies of each tree, there are no bridges between adult trees to spread them.
- Photosynthesis – Others believe that the very process of photosynthesis causes this phenomenon. When part of a tree’s canopy is shaded by a neighboring tree, the shaded tree stops growing in that area/direction thereby creating a gap.
- Injury to the tree – As trees tend to sway in the wind they will inevitably collide with other trees if close enough. This will break twigs and branches which disrupts the tree’s canopy and, therefore, creating gaps between neighboring trees.
- Allelopathy – This is the hypothesis that neighboring trees actually “talk” to one another using chemical compounds. If true, each tree “tells” other trees that it is there, causing them to stop growing in that particular direction.
Like with anything in the natural world, it is quite likely a combination of all of these hypotheses.
Bonus Video: This video helps you visualize how much trees sway in the wind
TRUST THE NATURE || Crown shyness is a phenomenon in which the crowns of fully grown trees do not touch, forming channel-like gaps, seen here from above. 🌳 pic.twitter.com/uWSVJDjAPK
— Balaji Duraisamy (@balajidtweets) April 8, 2020
As one hypothesis for crown shyness occurring is physical damage from collisions, this short video clearly demonstrates how much trees actually move in the wind.