You’ve probably seen photos or aerial footage in movies of crown shyness in trees, but may have never really known what it is or why it is. Maybe you’ve even walked through a forest where light hits the ground between each tree easily where crown shyness has taken over the trees above you, and still maybe never knew that crown shyness mattered and has been researched for years. This educational article breaks down what crown shyness is and what research says about it now.

What is Crown Shyness

Crown shyness is a phenomenon with tree tops where trees don’t touch each other’s limbs and leaves in growth, but instead stay apart. They create geometric lines that are all unique and individualized to each tree. The leaves and limbs stop growing to their potential width so that there are gaps, often letting light reach the forest floor. The separation is referred to as an island by some.

Where does it happen

Crown shyness isn’t limited to specific tree species or even regions in the world. Therefore, research has spanned through decades and across different regions.

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Why it happens

Researchers have come to two main consensuses for the phenomenon. The first conclusion is that light, which creates photosynthesis in trees for growth. If light is an issue and there is competition between trees to get light, then shyness crown may occur. Plants and trees are connected, so shyness crown could be a way of trees allowing light to reach the smaller plants below.

One article says, “Whether by accident or by design, crown shyness functions as a form of truce between competitors with limited options.”

The other decided upon, logical explanation for shyness crown that research explains is the prevention of disease and invasive species. Plants may sense the insects and diseases with other nearby trees and plants and be able to prevent spread naturally by stopping growth and creating the gaps between their leaves.

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Why does it matter

The next time you’re walking through the woods and see distinct lines of the sky between the treetops, you’ll know that the trees are experiencing crown shyness. Now, you’re more informed of another interesting part of trees and nature and how they work together to create lasting life on earth. As always, if you have any questions or concerns about trees, feel free to contact us using our online messaging form. Cutting Edge Tree Professionals is here to help you!