15 Examples of the Magnificent Phenomenon of Crown Shyness

Crown shyness might just be one of the most photogenic things in nature. Here are a few reasons why.
Christopher McFadden

Have you ever heard of something called crown shyness? If not you are about to have your mind blown.


What is crown shyness?

Crown shyness, also known as canopy disengagement is an amazing natural phenomenon where the crowns of trees appear to avoid each other. Where observed, the canopies of trees form a mosaic of leaves and branches with distinct gaps between each crown. 

It was first officially described in the 1920s and is something you might never have noticed before. The term "Tree Shyness" was first coined in the 1950s by the botanist Maxwell R. Jacobs

Crown shyness is thought to occur for various reasons: 

  • Insects and/or disease - It is thought by some botanists that trees have evolved this strategy to prevent the ease of spread of insects and pathogenic bacteria and fungi through tree canopies. The idea is that by leaving a gap between the canopies of each tree, there are no bridges between adult trees to spread them.
  • Photosynthesis - Others believe that the very process of photosynthesis causes this phenomenon. When part of a tree's canopy is shaded by a neighboring tree, the shaded tree stops growing in that area/direction thereby creating a gap.
  • Injury to the tree - As trees tend to sway in the wind they will inevitably collide with other trees if close enough. This will break twigs and branches which disrupts the tree's canopy and, therefore, creating gaps between neighboring trees.
  • Allelopathy - This is the hypothesis that neighboring trees actually "talk" to one another using chemical compounds. If true, each tree "tells" other trees that it is there, causing them to stop growing in that particular direction. 

Like with anything in the natural world, it is quite likely a combination of all of these hypotheses.

What are some amazing examples of tree crown shyness?

So, without further ado, here are some great examples of crown shyness in nature. This list is far from exhaustive and is in no particular order.

1. This image of the canopy of Borneo Camphor trees is amazing

crown shyness camphor
Source: Patrice78500/Wikimedia Commons

This image of the canopy of a D. aromatica (Borneo camphor tree) really exemplifies this amazing natural phenomenon. You can clearly see the extent to which crown shyness can occur in nature.  

2. Pine trees love to avoid each other too

Pine trees are another species of trees that tend to exhibit crown shyness. This image very clearly demonstrates this incredible phenomenon.

3. Here is another amazing example of crown shyness

This amazing photograph also clearly shows crown shyness very clearly indeed.

4. This video helps you visualize how much trees sway in the wind

As one hypothesis for crown shyness occurring is physical damage from collisions, this short video clearly demonstrates how much trees actually move in the wind. 

5. Another beautiful example of crown shyness

This is yet another amazing photograph of crown shyness in the wild. Truly stunning. 

6. Even trees practice physical distancing, apparently

This image really does show the extent to which some species of trees practice physical distancing. 

7. Here are some more amazing examples of crown shyness

We could study pictures like this for hours. 

8. This video shows trees in the wind from below

Here is another clear example of why crown shyness is a thing. You can really appreciate the "logic" behind leaving gaps between tree canopies here. 

9. This image almost seems photoshopped

Here is yet another striking example of crown shyness. It almost doesn't seem real. 

10. This shot of trees during autumn shows crown shyness is really similar to art

This image really does look like something an artist would dream up. Except it is 100% created by nature.

11. The phenomenon might be even more impressive in wintertime

Crown shyness might be even more impressive when the trees have lost their leaves for the winter. 

12. Here's another example of crown shyness at winter

Really amazing. 

13. This one is cool

A very, very nice example of crown shyness. 

14. Here is another amazing example of crown shyness

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Crown shyness #crownshyness

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This one almost seems like something from a dream.

15. This one might be our particular favorite

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“Crown shyness“ ou “Timidez das árvores“ ou “Timidez da copa“ é um fenômeno observado em algumas espécies arbóreas, em que as copas das árvores não se tocam, formando um dossel com lacunas. O fenômeno é mais prevalente entre as árvores da mesma espécie. Existem muitas hipóteses sobre o porquê a timidez das árvores é um comportamento adaptativo. Algumas pesquisas sugerem que ela pode inibir a disseminação de larvas de insetos que se alimentam de folhas. Outras dizem que é um mecanismo para evitar a sobreposição das copas e, dessa forma, garantir que mais folhas fiquem expostas à luz solar. Em Canela - RS é possível observar esse fenômeno de pertinho no @parquedassequoias , que é um “Museu aberto de Coníferas“, vale a pena a visita! . . "Crown shyness" or "Tree shyness" is a phenomenon observed in some tree species, in which the tree tops do not touch, forming a canopy with gaps. The phenomenon is more prevalent among trees of the same species. There are many hypotheses about why crown shyness is an adaptive behavior. Some research suggests that it may inhibit the spread of insect larvae that feed on leaves. Others say it is a mechanism to prevent overlapping of the crowns and ensure that more leaves are exposed to sunlight. In Canela - RS it is possible to observe this phenomena at @parquedassequoias , which is an "Open Museum of Conifers", well worth the visit! . . . . . #crownshyness #sequoia #bbcbrasil #suafoto #tree_captures #tree_brilliance #tree_magic #yourshotphotographer #canela #ig_canela_gramado #tree #nikonnofilter #canelars #ig_riograndedosul_ #doleitorzh #riograndedosul #turismonosul #melhor_riograndedosul #suldomeubrasil #serragaucha #nature #hugs_for_trees

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And finally, this one might just be our favorite among these beautiful shots. 

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