The Mysterious Crown Shyness: A Fascinating and Puzzling Phenomenon of Trees Refusing to Touch

Crown shyness is a strange and fascinating phenomenon that occurs in certain species of trees, causing them to avoid touching each other inexplicably. This phenomenon is characterized by a distinct gap between the crowns of adjacent trees, creating a unique and visually striking pattern in the forest canopy.

When you gaze up at some tall trees, such as eucalyptus, Sitka spruce, and Japanese larch, you’ll notice something unusual: the highest branches don’t touch. This natural condition is known as “crown shyness,” and it causes rupture-like patterns in the forest canopy that appear to precisely delineate the trees’ beautiful silhouettes.

Crown shyness has been seen amongst trees of the same and distinct species in sites all over the world since scientists first started investigating the issue in the 1920s. Crown shyness appears to have the same look regardless of tree species or habitat, with gaps that resemble meandering channels, zig-zagging fractures, and winding rivers.

While no one knows for sure why specific trees behave in this way, a number of experts have proposed different theories. One theory is that it happens when tree branches (especially those in high-wind locations) collide with each other. Another theory is that it allows perennial plants to get the best possible light for photosynthesis. The most popular hypothesis, however, is that the gaps prevent invading insects from spreading.

Whatever the cause of this unique treetop occurrence, one thing is certain: crown shyness is a very photogenic condition!

Crown shyness causes crack-like spaces in the tree canopy, which is a natural occurrence.

via Wikimedia Commons
SL Chen / Shutterstock
via Wikimedia Commons

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