One of my favourite perspectives for photographing trees is looking up, way up, because a tall tree silhouetted against the sky is majestic. In winter their uppermost bare branches create beautiful patterns in the sky that look sculptural to me. Some trees, though, create sculptural bare spaces in the summer, too, through a phenomenon known as “crown shyness.”
If you look up toward certain types of towering trees—including eucalyptus, Sitka spruce, and Japanese larch—you may notice a unique phenomenon: the uppermost branches don’t touch. Known as “crown shyness,” this natural occurrence results in rupture-like patterns in the forest canopy that seem to perfectly outline the trees’ striking silhouettes.
Numerous scientists have been studying crown shyness since the 1920’s and several theories have been put forward, but no one knows for certain what causes it.
One possibility is that it occurs when the branches of trees (particularly those in areas with high winds) bump into each other. Another suggested explanation is that it enables the perennial plants to receive optimal light for photosynthesis. Perhaps the most prominent theory, however, is that the gaps prevent the proliferation of invasive insects.
My favourite theory is the one that postulates the trees are trying to avoid bumping into one another. It seems so polite and I can imagine woody conversations along the lines of “oops – so sorry old chap – didn’t mean to crowd you. I’ll just move over here.”
I think it’s stunning and hope I get a chance to see it someday. If you’re lucky enough see it, please take a photo and share.
Here’s one last photo from the story, but I encourage you to check out the full story and look at all the photos. The link is below.
The full story and more photos are at: My Modern Met
My thanks to rq for sending this story my way.