The Secret Life of Trees: How Canopy Shyness Keeps the Peace

There's a method to the madness of how trees spread their foliage. | By Anush Shetty  
Tree Festival
Photo: Anush Shetty

Trees face stiff competition from their neighbours­ for sunlight. At the same time, they make sure that they don’t rub each other the wrong way. They maintain a narrow space between themselves around their canopies. For a novice, this gap might appear quite artificial, something that has been trimmed for the sake of prettiness. The mathematics of this narrow band is fairly accurate, with the breadth being almost the same all around the canopy.

Only very recently, I learnt that there is a term for it: canopy shyness. Scientific, yes, but the term does more justice to the poetic and the aesthetic essence of this phenomenon. It is an affectionate word, infusing a fresh perspective to the way we see tree canopies.

I imagine a map in the sky with large tracts of green cover and rivers running in-between. I call it the “geography of trees”. In Bengaluru, the city where I live, rain trees with their gigantic canopies provide much needed shade, creating a gorgeous map in the sky.

But are canopies generally shy? The short answer is: yes. The next time you take a walk, make sure you look up at the tree canopies to see how shy they are. They will be probably glowing in the fresh light or giggling with the breeze. Make sure you smile back.

canopy shyness

Look up and notice the breathing space between the branches. Photos: Anush Shetty


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