Can Trees Walk?

January 29, 2024
David Sunnyside

Unlike the Ents from JRR Tolkien’s epic Lord of the Rings saga, tree behemoths that stalked Middle-earth in search for sunlight and soil, most trees stay firmly planted and rooted in one place. But a remarkable species of palm tree found in the jungles of Latin America known as Socratea exorrhiza does something quite different: it can walk.

It’s not really walking as humans understand it, since trees don’t actually have the ability to move their own bodies on their own, but the plant can slowly shift its position over time. This is usually caused by the tree’s roots growing and pushing it in a specific direction, as the roots seek out sunshine or areas of more stable soil.

A number of tourists visiting rainforests in Ecuador have reported seeing the mysterious “walking palms.” While many of these visitors have been astonished, there is actually a scientific basis to the phenomenon. The trees, which are also known as stilt roots, are able to move thanks to their long and sturdy roots that sprout from the base of the trunk and take root in the soil around them. When these roots are pulled on by the current of air, they can supposedly sidestep their way through the forest, traveling two or three centimeters each day.

The idea that a tree can walk has been around for a while, although there is no real scientific evidence supporting it. As a December 2009 issue of Skeptical Inquirer pointed out, several studies have been published that debunk the theory of plant-based locomotion.

David Sunnyside
Co-founder of Urban Splatter • Digital Marketer • Engineer • Meditator
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