The so-called “walking palm” or Socratea exorrhiza is a tree from Central and South America that according to different versions could “walk” and stand up in certain situations: now, this myth seems to have been resolved under scientific criteria. According to the researchers, although the tree can grow quickly and create new roots to deal with the loss of stability, it does not actually move or walk.
For decades, stories have been known and transmitted in different American countries about the existence of a “walking tree” in the rainforests of Peru or Costa Rica, among other places. It is a palm known by the scientific name Socratea exorrhiza: this plant species is capable of deploying large roots on the surface in the form of “stilts”, a characteristic that gives an illusion of movement or displacement. Can it then be said that the tree “walks”?
In search of light
According to an article published in Science Alert, the myth began around 1980, when anthropologists John H. Bodley and Foley C. Benson detailed the incredible behavior of the plant in a scientific article. Bodley and Benson indicated that when felled by falling trees or branches, some palms in eastern Peru can “right up” and “walk” on the ground. Apparently, they would be able to escape from its germination pointsomething that contradicts the structure and way of obtaining nutrients that characterizes plant species.
Scientists indicated that palm trees They chased the light of the sun through the forest using a dozen roots that sprang from their elevated trunks: sometimes these roots are several meters above the ground. When they break off or rot, the newer “legs” can explore areas of land that are a little further away from their original location.
However, although some scientists have endorsed Bodley and Benson’s work, others have found a more rational explanation. In 2005, tropical ecologist and palm expert Gerardo Ávalos published a study in which he concluded that Socratea exorrhiza does not actually move away from its place of germination. In other words, does not “walk” or move.
More height and stability
Ávalos and his colleagues revealed that when the “walking palm” is knocked down for some reason, it may quickly grow new roots to cope with the loss of stability, but that does not mean it will move or change location. Consequently, the roots that emerge in height are ways of extending to monopolize light, looking for sites with greater access to this vital resource for any plant species.
In the same sense, Ávalos highlighted that the large stilt-shaped roots They take a long time to develop and grow. Therefore, this time frame would be impossible to reconcile with the idea of such a rapid displacement. In 2007, another study on this mysterious species reached the same conclusion as Ávalos and his team.
Beyond this, a big question still remains: why does the “walking palm” develop those roots in the form of stilts or “legs” of great extension if it is not to move? Different researchers have argued that in dense tropical forests, the “stilt” roots of Socratea exorrhiza allow the species to more easily increase its height and stabilitywithout the need to develop a thicker trunk.