The following is an attempt to answer the questions. “Why do branches never touch each other?”    “How do they know where to grow so as to avoid other branches?”  The answer may be electric fields.   The accepted answer is that the direction of growth is determined by gravity and light.   I agree that this does happen but I have a hard time understanding how gravity and light can cause the fine structure in the placement of branches.   The fact that the direction of growth is determined by gravity and light is not enough.   There has to be something else at work here.  

 Lighting is not the only source of electricity occurring in nature.    There is a very small natural electric current running from the sky to the ground.   It's magnitude is about 200 volts per meter and its current  is about 1 Pica Amp per square meter.    It appears this current is linked with lighting in that it is the return current from the lighting storms that are more or less constantly occurring somewhere on earth.    
This electric current together with storms is termed atmospheric electricity.   It appears that it changes on a 24 hour bases and always peaks at about the same time GMT regardless of where it is measured.    The book Atmospheric Electricity by J.Alan Chalmers describes this effect in depth.

It is possible that this field contributes to the growth and disease resistance  of plants.    There have been many experiments where this field has been modified or simulated by various means usually with positive results.  The electroculture  links at the end of this article describe various experiments that have been done.    

While the accepted reason for the sharp needles on cactus  and other plants growing in arid conditions is to prevent them from being eaten by animals I question this explanation.    I think there is a real possibility that all plants conduct these tiny currents of electricity into the air.  In moist conditions the evaporation of water from the leaves of these plants may act as a method to connect these plants to the atmospheric fields.  Indeed one method of measuring these fields is to use a water dropper to make a connection to the atmosphere.  

In the case of cactus plants I think it is reasonable to suspect that the sharp points are there to increase the electric current  between the plant and the dry desert atmosphere.  
(The plant if course is very moist but this moisture is contained inside a very tough shell to prevent evaporation. )   In support of this I would like to point out that the plants do not need  protection from animals as there are so few animals in the desert.  Also  there are many animals that have no problem eating plants with thorns.  I have observed goats eating thistle plants that were so covered in spines you could not hold any part in your hand yet the goats devoured it with relish.  Similarly deer are known to invade rosebushes to the dismay of many growers.     Also there seems to exist a increase in plants with spines as we move from wet areas into very dry growing conditions.  

I would also like to put forth the hypothesis that plants may use this electric field to determine which direction to grow in. 

In some cases there are two identical trees growing close together.   The interesting thing is that they somehow know not to infringe on each others space.  Their branches will spread out on the side away from the neighbor and will be restricted on the neighboring side.     It is difficult for me to assume this un-symmetrical  branching is solely due to the light the tree is exposed to.   It is not possible for the branches to have a fine structure solely by the action of light.   Indeed even in a heavily wooded forest the branches never touch each other.   One possible explanation for this is that electrostatic fields are somehow used by the plant to determine which direction to grow in.  

Here is a picture of a tree that was planted very close to a house.  All branches developed on the left side of the tree or away from the house.  After many years the house was moved and what resulted might be described as half a tree.    The empty side now is sprouting very small branches as it starts to
expand into space that it was unable to fill for many years.  

half tree

The following picture is of a maple tree next to a cedar tree.  Here the maple tree infringes into the space of the cedar and the cedar does not grow in the area used by the maple.


  These examples point out that light is not the only thing that determines the direction of plant growth.    It may be that an additional influence is from natural electric fields.    

All of this and more has been looked at before.    The sources at the end of this article list some research in this field.   The Book offered  as a free Nook download is a treasure of experiments carried out before 1900 with results of not  only increased crop yields but better sweeter fruit.     About 1930 the electroculture methods were replaced by chemicals but now it seems chemicals have run their course and it is time to revisit this technology.    

This is a method of photography where a living object like a leaf is placed on a photographic plate which is placed on a metal plate.    When the metal plate is connected to a source of high voltage electricity a image is formed on the plate.  This image shows a corona  discharge along the outline of the leaf.    Many paranormal effects are  attributed to this process but it may be simply explained by the conductivity of moisture in the leaf and the presence of sharp points on the edge of the leaf.

What this effect really shows is that there exists a series of sharp points on the edge on the leaf and that these points are coupled to the moisture within the leaf.    It may be that these points are used by the plant to conduct tiny electric currents to the atmosphere. 

This effect has also been observed with coins but those used have a serrated edges which approximates the effects of the sharp points on leaf.  



University College London


Classic Text


Book, Free NOOK Download