Photo of snowy Sussex woodland trail Photo of snowy Sussex woodland trail

How to Find Your Way with Tree Leaves

A sun leaf and shade leaf from a Black poplar tree

Earlier I showed how it is possible to find your way using the colour of tree leaves.

Now I’d like to show you how to make a compass by looking at the size of tree leaves.

Trees have two main types of leaf: sun leaves and shade leaves.

Sun leaves are more common on the sunnier southern side of trees and on the outermost twigs on all sides. (Northern Hemisphere).

Shade leaves are more common on the northern side and on the inner branches on all sides.

The picture above shows a sun leaf (L) taken from the south side of the tree and a shade leaf (R) taken from the north side of the trunk.

This size difference has nothing to do with seasonal growth. These two leaves were taken in late July from the same Black poplar tree (Populus nigra). They were only a few metres apart.

(By the way, Black poplar trees are found near water and when I found this one near Gothenburg, Sweden, I knew I would find a stream nearby.)

For more infomation on using trees to navigate please check out my books. They include more than 20 methods for using trees to find your way.

You might also enjoy:

Why the Coconut Palm Points to the Sea

How to Navigate with Lombardy Poplars