Crop circles are a staple of the conspiracy theory crowd, with the artistic creations in cereal fields often attributed to UFO landings, or intricate forms of Alien communication. So imagine the excitement some must’ve felt when photos of incredible geometric designs emerged in a forest in Japan recently, not from some squashed wheat, but from large, mature Japanese cedar trees.
What kind of extra-terrestrial sorcery is this? Sadly, for those who want to believe, there is a perfectly innocent, yet still interesting explanation that originates firmly here on planet Earth.
Back in 1973 scientists began a project in ‘experimental forestry,’ with the aim of learning about the spacing of trees and its effect on growth. They planted circles of cedars near Nichinan City in Miyazaki Prefecture, with smaller inner circles expanding incrementally into larger radiuses to create 10 perfect rings.
As you can see in the photo below, the experiment seems to show clear results. The concave shape suggests that the outer circles of least density promote a higher growth, with the tree size getting steadily smaller as the density increases.
Makes sense right? More space equals less competition for resources such as water and sunlight, so it’s easier for these outer trees to grow bigger and stronger while those on the inside fight it out amongst themselves.
According to a document from Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, the eventual height difference between the smallest trees at the center and the tallest trees on the outer ring was over 5 meters.
The trees are due to be harvested soon, with the experiment drawing to a close. But such is the interest in this unexpectedly beautiful result there remains the possibility that these giant ‘crop circles’ could be preserved, and perhaps even become a tourist attraction in the future!