Food ForestsGeneralPlant SystemsSoil BiologyTrees

How Fractal Patterns Perpetuate Through a Tree, and Then a Forest

How the same fractal pattern found in a tree is perpetuated throughout its home forest. Fascinating information for permaculture design. From the documentary, Fractals – Hunting the Hidden Dimension.


  1. What might this mean for how we plant trees? Has anyone any ideas how this could be practically applied in developing a food forest?

    1. I would guess that if you were to figure out what type of forest garden you were creating (eg temperate/ tropical etc) and if you could establish the density of the ‘original’ type of forest, that you could calculate the ‘ideal’ ratio of canopy: sub-canopy: shrub etc… To maximise the amount of carbon converted into food forest… Make sense?

    2. @John – That is exactly what I was thinking. If we’re planting a forest will our smaller trees influence the branching of larger trees (that take longer to reach their height but we’re planting at the same time)?

      It’s an interesting concept and one that could presumably be easily studied by looking at existing food forests especially densely packed mature food forests. Very exciting stuff if it is the case.

  2. Fascinating. My next question though is…since this is a rainforest is a fractal programming present in new saplings before they emerge, giving rise to the underlying order this video points out. Or is it like a fractal communication between the trees as they grow, to adapt to the existing fractal order? Or maybe it’s neither? Could do our heads in just thinking about it.

    1. It could be a simple matter that in naturally occurring forest the sunlight availability is what causes it or it could be that there is a level of communication that we don’t quite understand.

  3. Lots to think about here. Key point is in an old forest you have a few old trees and progressively larger number of smaller trees. This reflects a steady rate of tree mortality and growth. This is true of both temperate and tropical forests. So for permaculture this gives a guideline on what would be the ideal number of trees or shrubs in each size class, so then when an old dominant tree dies it is quickly replaced by smaller trees. This should allow for regular harvest and mortality but with little change in overall forest structure

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