The myth of the walking palm tree

Sara B

Deep in the rain forest of South and Central America, there is a myth that trees can walk. The legend was not proven true, as the way, the ancient stories told the story, but instead in a scientific explanation.

Scientists have discovered one tree known to move, called the ¨walking¨ palm tree. So yes, one tree in the jungle does move; it does not wander around the forest as some people have speculated for years.

The socratea exorrhiza, a palm tree native to Central and South America, can walk or move up to 20 meters per year. The tree walks from shade to sun by growing roots in the direction the tree wants to travel; the old roots lift in the air and die. Giving the appearance of ¨walking¨

The roots on the tree are unique and known as slit roots. EJH Corner hypothesized the origins were developed for the swampy weather of the rainforest. However, there has been no scientific proof of why the slits exist.

In 1980 John H Bodley suggested the roots grow that way for the tree to walk ¨ away from germination¨. Also, allowing the tree to move if something falls on top of it, and it can ¨walk¨ to a new location.

The tree's look has led to many stories and tall tales deep in the jungles, as the roots look as if the tree can pick up at any moment and walk off.

A paleobiologist from the Earth Science Institute of the Slovak Academy of Sciences Bratislava named Peter Vransky called this belief of the walking tree a myth.

¨Stating that the walking palm has a higher root system growing outwards and as the soil erodes, the tree grows new, long roots that find new and more solid ground, sometimes up to 20m.

The tree moving toward more solid soil and sunlight can take years, some also state that slit roots allow the tree to grow taller without increasing the trunk's diameter. However none of the theories have been confirmed, the tree remaining a ¨miracle¨.

So if you expect to go into the jungle and see the trees walking around at night, unfortunately, that will not be the case.

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I share legends, myths, and bizarre history, sometimes news. Living nomadically since 2018, currently in Colombia.

Pasadena, CA

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