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Why Do Palm Trees Lean? (Explained for Everyone)


It is a dream cliché, on postcards from hot countries, or advertisements for soap.


A small island, the ocean, the sun, sand as far as the eye can see… and on the edge of the beach, banana trees, coconut palms.


Invariably, the palm trees are leaning, always towards the waves. This is a double why.


Why do some palm species lean?

Certainly not because of the wind. Let’s imagine an island in the Pacific, where the southern breeze blows. All year round. The palms would then lean towards the north. So on the north-facing beaches, the palms will lean towards the water.


But on the opposite beaches, facing south, as the wind comes from the south, the palms would then lean inland. (Not to mention that on the east and west beaches, the palms should lean sideways, once to the right, once to the left…)


The explanation is brighter than that. In every sense of the word. And for good reason. Some species of palm trees have a special ability: the ability to orient themselves towards the light. This phenomenon, very slow, is called “phototropism”. It is governed by the plant’s hormones. If you place your ivy near a window, it will imperceptibly but methodically turn and direct its shoots in its direction.


This can take months. In comparison, the daily rotation of the sunflower acts as a weather vane.


Let’s go back to our palm tree on its beach. It seeks out the light rays that are essential for its growth. Those of the sun, of course. But also its reflections in the water. The ocean acts as a mirror. Result: by leaning, the plant captures the maximum amount of light.


Why do palm trees lean towards the sea?

The reason is actually quite logical, remember, palm trees lean to get more light, as explained above, this phenomenon is called “phototropism”.


The ocean acts as a mirror for light, so there is much more light coming from the sea than from a single building.


It is for the above reason that palm trees all lean towards the sea (it is possible to observe this phenomenon in some streets in Los Angeles).


How to prevent your palm tree from leaning?

There are 2 major cases:


  1. The palm tree leans to get more light

In this case, you must avoid straightening your palm tree at all costs. Indeed, if it is leaning, it is in order to capture more UV from the sun, for better growth. Straightening it would do anything but help it.


  1. The palm tree leans because of its own weight

In this case, you have to help your palm tree, the most common solution being to straighten it with a rope that is fixed to a fixed and solid support. We advise you to leave the palm tree attached to the rope for a minimum of 30 days.

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