Boquila trifoliolata is a vine which lives in temperate rainforests in Chile and Argentina. It looks pretty unexciting, but that's just what the plant wants you to think!

This plant will mimic the leaves of any tree it grows on, or even mimic leaves which happen to be nearby. No one knows how it does this.

The vine doesn't need any physical contact to do this. Some botanists think it can "smell" and recognise nearby plants. More outlandishly, others wonder if it might have rudimentary vision.

The idea of plant vision isn't quite as ridiculous as it may first seem.

Some cyanobacteria can "see" by using their entire single-celled bodies to focus light. A little like tiny swimming eyeballs. The idea that higher plants could contain similar structures (called "ocelli") has been hypothesised by botanists for some time. Among others, Francis Darwin (the son of Charles Darwin).

Here's an article from Scientific American with more info:
scientificamerican.com/article

So plants may be watching you with a collection of tiny, tiny cell-sized eyes.

Watching you, but probably not judging you.

Probably.

A possibly related phenomenon is called crown shyness – certain species of trees will very politely avoid overshadowing each other in a forest canopy, leaving gaps between each others' branches.

Mostly trees of the same species will do this, but different species of tree have been observed doing this too.

Again, no one's entirely sure how the trees do this, and some botanists are probably arguing about it somewhere right now.

@InvaderXan I believe I've seen a similar 'crown shyness' behaviour in some Rain Trees at a local park here in Singapore (Pasir Ris Park). Here's a photo I took when I happened to stare and noticed the gaps between the trees.

@sohkamyung
Oh nice! Yeah, that definitely looks like the same thing! What kind of trees are those...?

@InvaderXan @sohkamyung I'm thinking that one of the ways in which this could be done is by having the trees avoid growing into the shade.

It would also suggest that trees closer to the equator would have a slightly better success at this, since the sun only moves along a single line in the sky.

In what parts of the world do we see this effect? Singapore is 1 degree north, which aligns with this hypothesis.

@loke @InvaderXan @sohkamyung I have a picture of the same phenomenon with trees in the Presidio here in San Francisco, so it's not just an equatorial thing. Unfortunately not sure what kind of trees they are - some sort of pine tree?

@tsturm @loke @sohkamyung
Nice shot! I realise I'm not entirely sure how many tree species do this, where they grow, and what kind of trees they are exactly. So far, the trees I've seen with crown shyness don't seem to have much in common, which is rather interesting!

@daylight @tsturm @InvaderXan @sohkamyung Possibly. But my hypothesis was based on the fact that the sun follows a more straight path across the sky over the course of a year compared to other latitudes.

If I was correct, then the trees would have a harder time to grow that way when they are moved further north.

My hypothesis seems to be less and less likely.

@loke @tsturm @InvaderXan @sohkamyung trees are really cool because the shape and adaptations have been reevolved so many times, that like, they ould all do it for totally different reasons / mechanis,s

Sign in to participate in the conversation
mastodon.cloud

Everyone is welcome as long as you follow our code of conduct! Thank you. Mastodon.cloud is maintained by Sujitech, LLC.