Trees do “social distancing” too

Social distancing practiced by trees. I have from time to time while walking through a wooded area noticed the uppermost branches of certain tree species that don’t like to touch one another. Way up there in the tops of the trees they seem to be practicing social distancing. This phenomenon known as crown shyness or canopy shyness is when branches in the crown do not touch branches from other trees forming channel-like gaps in forest canopy. There are hypotheses it occurs in order to reduce the spread of harmful insects. Some believe spacing naturally occurs so trees can optimize light exposure for the process of photosynthesis in both their leaves and leaves of foliage on the forest floor. Others believe trees understand they sway in wind and in order to keep branches from breaking they keep a safe distance. Whatever the natural reason it is mostly accepted that crown shyness is an adaptive behavior. The most logical physiological explanation is that crown shyness is simply the plant or tree’s natural shade avoidance response. Growing tips sensitive to light levels slow growing when nearing adjacent foliage due to the induced shade and competition for light. They become shy.


The canopy of the forest tells a story. The trees just like we as people apply adaptive behaviors to cope with the stressors of life. That we do it is no surprise. Why we do it is another story and varies from individual to individual. Our past and our potential does not have to define our story today. Like the trees of the forest we can stand tall and own our story as a part of the canopy of community. Others will benefit from our stories if we are all “truly in this together.”


Crown Shyness

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