EnvironmentParks & Forests

The Walking Trees of Ecuador

The Walking Trees of Ecuador: Who Move Up to 20 Meters Per Year

There is a species of tree that supposedly has the ability to walk, and it can be found not only in the thick jungles of Ecuador but also in many other countries in South America. 

Many people, including tour guides and locals, refer to the Socratea exorrhiza as a “walking tree” because of its ability to orient itself towards the sun at different times of the year.

For decades, tour guides have been explaining to tourists that in order for these trees to live, they must continuously sprout new roots and very slowly shift. Is it even conceivable that trees could move about on their own? 

It would appear that tour operators and people in Ecuador have been talking about this legendary walking tree for quite some time, but is there any evidence that these trees actually move?

What kind of distances are the trees capable of walking? And what does that tell us about the lives of plants if the myth turns out to be true? We investigate the tale of the walking tree and ask many scientists if they have any evidence to support this urban legend.

The Socrateaa exorrhiza species

Cashapona is another name for the Socratea exorrhiza palm, which is commonly known as the Walking Palm. It belongs to the same family as palm trees and even has the same type of leaf. The rainforests of Central and South America’s tropical regions are home to this type of palm.green trees in the mountains

It has the potential to reach a height of roughly 25 meters and has a stem that is up to 16 centimeters in diameter. To put it another way, this tree is rather massive.

The roots of this tree are elevated on stilts, so they can be seen from a great distance away. This is one of the most interesting aspects of the tree. Beetles are responsible for pollinating the palm, and a wide variety of creatures feed on the palm’s seeds.

Physical Appearance

Socrateaa exorrhiza is a tall palm tree that can grow up to 25 meters (82 feet) in height. It has a slender trunk that is covered with rough, dark-brown bark. The leaves of this tree are pinnate, meaning that they are divided into numerous small leaflets arranged on either side of a central stalk. 

The leaves are green and glossy and can grow up to 3 meters (10 feet) in length. The tree also produces clusters of small flowers that are yellow in color and give rise to round black fruits.

Walking Ability

One of the fascinating aspects of Socrateaa exorrhiza is its ability to move. This tree can move up to 2-3 centimeters (0.79-1.18 inches) per day, which is slow but significant. The movement is caused by the tree’s specialized roots, which grow out of the trunk and into the ground at an angle. 

These roots provide stability and support but also enable the tree to move towards better-growing conditions, such as more sunlight or better soil. Over time, the old roots die off, and new ones take their place, causing the tree to “walk” in a new direction.

Ecological Importance

Socrateaa exorrhiza is an important species in the rainforest ecosystem. Its ability to move allows it to adapt to changing environmental conditions, such as changes in soil or light levels. This, in turn, helps to maintain biodiversity by providing a stable habitat for a variety of organisms. 

The tree’s large leaves also provide shade and shelter for a range of animals, including birds, insects, and monkeys. The fruits of the tree are an important food source for many animals, including bats, birds, and rodents.

Cultural Significance

Socrateaa exorrhiza has been an important plant in traditional medicine for many years. The bark of the tree has been used to treat a variety of ailments, including fever, malaria, and snake bites. 

In some cultures, the tree is also considered sacred and is used in religious ceremonies. The walking ability of the tree has also captured the imagination of many people, and it has become a symbol of resilience and adaptation.

Threats and Conservation

Like many rainforest species, Socrateaa exorrhiza is facing threats from habitat loss and fragmentation. The destruction of rainforest ecosystems for agriculture, logging, and other human activities is reducing the tree’s habitat and limiting their ability to move and adapt. 

Efforts are underway to conserve this species, including the creation of protected areas and the promotion of sustainable land use practices. Additionally, the walking ability of the tree has made it a popular ornamental plant, and it is now being grown in gardens and parks around the world.

Where exactly are these walking trees located?

There is a particular region in Ecuador that is known for having the highest concentration of these walking trees. The Sumaco Unesco Biosphere Reserve is a prime location for the study of biodiversity. 

It is there, around 100 kilometers to the southeast of Quito, where there are reported to be more walking trees than any other location in all of Ecuador. Quito is the capital city of Ecuador.Socratea exorrhiza Walking Tree

It may be difficult to get to the interior of this forest since it requires a lot of travel on foot or by mule on muddy roads, but the journey is well worth it because it is here that you will see tremendous biodiversity and Ecuador’s walking trees.

Walking to survive

What precisely are these rumored “walking trees” claimed to be able to accomplish, then? It appears that the Socratea exorrhiza may travel up to 2 to 3 centimeters each day, which is equivalent to around 20 meters per year. How come it is moving? To survive.

It would appear that the tree would make its way towards sunshine and areas of stable soil in its quest to find the most nutrient-rich location in the forest. To remain alive, trees need access to sunshine and water, in addition to the abundant nutrients found in the surrounding soil.

The changing of the seasons and the shifting of the vegetation in the thick jungle will cause these trees to congregate in regions where there is a gap in the canopy of the surrounding trees. It is also believed that the tree moves in response to other trees falling on top of it in order to right itself and stand upright again.

How does it walk?

In the year 1980, John H. Bodlye was the first person to propose the idea that the unique roots of the Socratea exorrhiza are what enable the plant to walk. 

According to Bodley, if a tree knocks over a palm, the palm will generate new vertical stilt roots to the right itself while its old roots decay away. This happens as the tree’s original roots rot away.

Peter Vrsansky, a palaeobiologist who conducted a study on these walking trees while he was stationed in the Unesco Sumaco Biosphere Reserve, vouches for the veracity of this idea and asserts that the tree is able to move because of its extensive root system.

According to Vrsansky, when the soil erodes, the trees generate new roots, which enable them to locate new ground that is more stable.

After the new roots become established in the soil, the old roots begin to rise gradually from the ground, which enables the tree to adjust to its new location. The entire procedure takes a couple of years, on average, to complete.

The Hypothesis Under Analysis

In spite of the fact that the concept of Ecuador’s walking trees is rather astounding, many scientists have attempted to disprove this hypothesis. In 2012, an article published by Live Science asserted that the narrative of the walking palm tree simply isn’t real. 

The post stated that the only movement the tree experiences is that which is caused by the wind and that the roots remain in the same spot for the entirety of the tree’s existence.

Gerardo Avalos, who oversees the Center for Sustainable Development Studies in Costa Rica, is in agreement with this viewpoint. 

A top authority on the Socratea exorrhiza species, Avalos, is the one who discovered that the tree in question is unable to walk after conducting extensive research on the subject.

So, Why Are the Roots So Long?

It’s possible that the palm tree’s ability to survive is still in some way related to the length of its roots. It has been hypothesized that the length of the roots might be a means by which the tree can grow higher than other trees in the forest without having to expand the diameter of the tree’s stem in order to do this.Trees Roots

The palm tree’s roots provide it with a great deal of stability, which in turn enables it to develop its height more rapidly. 

Because the tree does not need to spend as much biomass on the roots that are above ground as it would on the roots that are beneath, it is able to direct more of its energy towards growing tall above ground.

Where does the myth come from?

It all starts from the bottom! It would suggest that the origin of the tale is in the peculiar appearance of these trees, which make them look as if they were plucked straight from the pages of a fantasy novel. 

It is hard to believe that a tree might genuinely move in response to light from the canopy above it. 

But, the sight of the tree’s above-ground roots appears to have stoked the fire of the tour guide’s imagination. And we are obligated to acknowledge that the concept of a walking tree is quite intriguing to us.

Even if a great number of experts in the field have debunked the hypothesis, we’ll let our readers decide for themselves whether or not they wish to believe in these gigantic walking palm palms.

Added Bits of Knowledge

Did you know that the Sumaco Biosphere Reserve, which is protected by Unesco, is a veritable mecca for flora and fauna of the region? 

The walking palm tree may be found there. There are over 500 different kinds of birds and 51 different species of big animals in certain parts of the reserve.

In addition to these, the biosphere reserve is home to over 600 species of butterflies, 64 species of reptiles, 61 species of amphibians, and over 6,000 kinds of plants. There are several trees in the conservation area that are several hundred years old.


Socrateaa exorrhiza is a fascinating and unique species of palm tree that has captured the imagination of people around the world. Its ability to move and adapt to changing environmental conditions makes it an important species in the rainforest ecosystem, and efforts are underway to conserve it for future generations.

The Walking Trees of Ecuador Forest

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