Which Country Has Exotic Trees That Walk As They Grow?
Deep in the forests of Ecuador, and throughout rain forests in the surrounding regions, you’ll find a rather strange palm tree, the Socratea exorrhiza, or, Walking Palm. It grows up to 25 meters in height and is most notable for the cone-like array of stilt roots around its lower trunk.
Although stilt roots aren’t unique to Walking Palms (they’re found on several tree species in tropical forests around the world), what is particularly unique about the Walking Palm’s root system is that it allows the palms to, well, “walk” in a sense.
Typically, trees have stilt roots to compensate for nutrient poor soil as the stilt roots can spread over and down into the surface of the soil and get at the nutrient rich top layer without wasting energy burrowing down into the nutrient-poor substrate. In the case of the Walking Palm, however, the roots allow the tree to not only tap into surface nutrients, but to slowly move as well.
In response to stress like soil erosion or the pressure of another tree moving into their space (or falling against them), the Walking Palm will shift its roots every so minutely, day by day, until it is relocated in a better position. It might takes years, but the trees are capable of moving meters from their previous location–up to 20 meters from their point of germination (there are some scientists who dispute this claim though).
Image courtesy of Ruestz.