Why do so many of the straight palm trees lean towards the ocean?


You can picture it now…a beautiful beach in the Bahamas, the crystal clear water rolling, back and forth, the sun beating down on you, the sound of parrots in the distance, a margarita in hand – sounds idyllic, doesn’t it? And it is, until you try and take a photo of the sea and realize there is a load of palm tree leaves in your way. So why do so many of the straight palm trees lean towards the ocean and ultimately into our view?!


They’re in competition

As we all know from our science lessons as kids, plants and trees need light to photosynthesise (and basically not die). Palm trees are no different. Whenever you see palm trees on the beach, you’ll probably notice there isn’t just one of them. They are usually clumped together – which can make photosynthesising a problem. Although palm trees normally grow upwards, the other trees block their direct sunlight, so they have to bend themselves into strange angles to avoid being shaded. The largest area of unobstructed light is over the ocean, so they lean towards the sea.

The wind

It’s no secret that it’s normally windier on the coast than it is inland – and sometimes the strongest of trees can’t even withstand the high winds from the ocean. A constant battery of wind will often cause the tree to bend permanently, and it may even uproot the tree from the soil or the sand, causing it to lean with the wind. In this case, the wind is blowing towards the ocean and causing the palm tree to lean with it.


Seed Dispersal

There are many variations of the palm tree – one of them being the coconut tree. Of course, we all know what grows on a coconut tree, but have you ever wondered why they lean towards the ocean? The answer is all to do with seed dispersal. If the tree is leaning towards the ocean, the nuts will fall into the water and are then washed away and carried by the current to a new resting spot where they will begin to grow. It can often take a while for the nut to wash up on the shore again, but Coconuts can survive in the water for several months.

The ground is less stable

Palm Trees often settle down on beaches, in the sand. As a base, sand is less stable than the likes of soil or clay. Because of this, the roots can move about more freely than if they were planted in soil (just think of the palm trees in Los Angeles, they are nearly always straight as they are planted in soil). Although the palm trees never become uprooted as they have evolved over thousands of years to withstand life on a beach, they still have the ability to move around – especially if they have a strong wind acting against them.