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Blackwood Fractals

Blackwood Fractals

Anthony Davey

Category: Shows a Biological Concept

Winner of the People’s Choice Award

This image of a Blackwood tree (Acacia melanoxylon) exhibits the natural phenomenon called “Crown Shyness”, which describes the distinct gaps between the canopies of adjacent trees. It is believed to help prevent the spread of disease, parasites, insects and their larvae.
Scientists have been studying this since the 1920’s and many theories abound as to how it arises. The most prevalent suggests the tree’s new growth is able to discern direct sunlight from blue light and far red scattered light. IThe latter wavelengths are more prominent in reflected light from leaves from an adjacent tree, so being able to detect it allows the tree to arrest its growth in the direction of adjacent trees. Crown shyness may incidentally allow more light into the understorey and forest floor, enabling the growth of plants there that benefit fauna too, since these parts of the ecosystem are all connected.


This photograph was a finalist in Beaker Street’s annual Science Photography Prize. This highly-respected prize invites all Tasmanians to showcase the wonders of our extraordinary part of the world — which is teeming with science and scientists. Finalist images are displayed at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery during Beaker Street Festival each August, with great prizes on offer for Judges’ and People’s Choice winners.

The Beaker Street Science Photography Prize would not be possible without the support of Full Gamut, Tasmania’s premier fine art printers and long-time sponsor of this competition. Many thanks also go to Pennicott Wilderness Journeys, which donates a generous prize for the People’s Choice winner.