Sometimes trees need some personal space, and will grow leaving space between trees. It’s called crown shyness and it creates amazing visual effects.
The phenomenon is also known as canopy disengagement, canopy shyness, or intercrown spacing. It largely happens when the crowns some tree species don’t grow into each other. The space between the canopies form cut-outs that create interesting patterns. According to Wikipedia, although crown shyness can occur between different species, it is most prevalent in trees of the same species.
Researchers are not quite sure why this happens. Research from the University of Alberta suggests it stops canopies from colliding in the wind. The study reads: “This loss of leaf area decreases productivity of the tree, and the onset of crown shyness in older/taller stand signals the decline in overall stand productivity.” Another common theory suggests the space could stop leaf-eating insect larvae from spreading to neighbouring trees.
Although crown shyness isn’t a new concept, author Robert Macfarlane recently repopularised the term when he Tweeted crown shyness as his words of the day. Check it out:
Word(s) of the day: “crown shyness” – phenomenon whereby individual tree crowns avoid overlap or touch, forming striking canopy patterns. pic.twitter.com/BA38kXBdA0
— Robert Macfarlane (@RobGMacfarlane) August 9, 2017