Can you judge a tree by its branch?

branching architectureThe old saying goes, “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” but when it comes to a tree, you might want to judge it by its cover, particularly its branching pattern, the relationship between the size and shape of its branches. This is also referred to as branching architecture and was the subject of a recent study led by researcher Lisa Patrick Bentley.

In the press release, “One Tree’s Architecture Reveals Secrets of a Forest,” reports, “Just by looking at a tree’s branching pattern, it turns out, scientists can gather clues about how it functions – for example how much carbon dioxide it exchanges with the atmosphere or how much water transpires through its leaves – regardless of the tree’s shape or species.” Based on UA ecology professor Brian Enquist’s 1998 theory, this study has been a long time coming.

The study is an incredible breakthrough, as it helps to prove that branching patterns allow scientists and researchers a more bird’s eye view, so to speak, at how trees affects different ecosystems. Additionally, branching patterns shed light on water loss within trees as well as the relationship between forests and atmosphere. In other words, you can make predictions regarding a tree’s behavior (and ultimately, the ecosystem as a whole) just by analyzing its branching pattern.

Bentley, along with her team, worked with five different species, including the piñon pine tree and maple tree and discovered Enquist’s theory to be correct. What other things can you derive from a tree’s branching pattern? Next time you’re in your backyard, be sure to check out your trees’ branching patterns, you may learn a little more about your backyard and maybe…even yourself. What do you think?

So as you prepare to order Cold Stream Farm evergreens in preparation for the fall, consider their branches and think of all the predictions you’ll be able to make. You can be like a tree psychic!

*Image courtesy of Mereuta Andrei