The ‘Escape from the Woods Effect’ in Trees

Have a look at the trees at the edge of any woodland and you’ll notice that the branches appear to grow away from the wood itself. But why?

The reason is light. All tree branches grow towards light because of a botanical process called phototropism. This is why isolated trees are ‘heavier’ on their southern side – in the northern hemisphere most of our light comes from the south.

At the edge of any wood the trees are shaded on one side only and most light comes from the opposite direction, regardless of aspect. So it doesn’t matter if it is the north, south, east or west side of a woodland, the branches will grow away from the wood.

I call this tendency, the ‘escape from the woods’ effect.

It is similar, but slightly different to the ‘avenue effect‘, where trees grow in towards the light pouring into the gap caused by a track, path or avenue.

In the pictures above and below, the trees just behind the two in the foreground have been recently felled, allowing us to see the ‘escape from the woods’ effect more dramatically.

Picture Credits: Richard Edwards


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