How Did It Know?

How do branches know where to grow? This is the question that puzzled me one day as I observed a tree in my backyard.


It is a river birch tree set in the corner near the house. There are three trunks, two that grow straight and tall, but this one came close to the roof and as it grew it shifted. It continued to shift until it passed the corner of the roof, then it continued on its straight and narrow path. It never touched the house with the trunk. How did it know to be slightly out of reach of the roof? Why didn’t it grow and hit the roof?

This got me to looking as I walked along my usual road.

Why did this trunk all of a sudden bend to the right, there was not a single thing around it. Why did it do this?


Like a snake it slithered up from the trunk. It found its way around this object from man. It continued to wind and creep its way to the top of the pole. How did it know that it could grow all around and continue?



Branches reach out to hug some unseen presence while the trunk of its neighbor zigzags its way, creating a dance as it moves up.


A friend sent me a photo of a tree she walks by. She said this tree is navigating life as it twists and turns. How does it know when to twist?

raegan tree

16 thoughts on “How Did It Know?

  1. Once again you have captured so much in your pictures and your words. I sit hear looking out at the trees in our backyard and am now pondering why some are leaning, some are straight, some intertwine with others. So much to think about. Thanks for our nature walk!

  2. I have said it before, but once again is good too. I love your nature passion and your questions and your process that you share with us in words and pictures. I don’t think deeply about nature so I am walking with you…okay?

  3. Wow, those are awesome photos to illustrate your wonderings! 🙂 I love the twisty, coily one at the bottom! I really need to take some lessons on “noticing” from you! Maybe this summer I will try to take more walks with my camera. 🙂

  4. I love trees! I saw a picture of a tree once that had almost a deep right angle the story with it said Native Americans used to tie the trees down to make the bends as markers of territory or direction. Just fascinating. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Tam says:

    Never thought of this before except when a tree grows next to a taller tree and goes crooked, trying to reach its full potential/height. “All living creatures, great and small.” Enjoyed the interesting photos. I will look at tree differently now. Thank you. Oh, I will be meeting with Ruth in the late afternoon one of those days to meet you and Linda. I’m a fan of all writing stars.

  6. Amazing photographs…and how like you to pause, notice, and ask the question: How do branches know where to grow? I think I need to be more like trees….

  7. I always enjoy your posts and pictures. You have a very calming, charming way of seeing the world; seeing many things that others would pass by without noticing. Thanks for sharing your noticings today…and when you find out why the trees do this, let us know!

  8. I have a tree here at the corner of my house, too, Elsie, up & over! I do love your photos of your walks-always a pleasure! I think this calls for a little research! Thank you!

  9. Ramona says:

    Elsie, I love these photos of trees. You’ve shown us that our world is full of things worth noticing. I can’t wait to share this post today with my students.

Thanks for taking time to comment.

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