Navigation technology has been proceeding for hundreds of years. Before smartphone apps, we had a map and also a compass. Before map and compass, we had tools that i couldn’t even begin to describe with monster names like “astrolabes,” “octants,” “sextants,” and something referred to as the “black staff” (doesn’t the sound intimidating?). However even without those tools, people used and observed things in the natural world roughly them to get where they were going. 

We can also use points in the natural people to number out where North, South, East, and also West are, and these space things the you can discover in your very own backyard, neighborhood, or regional parks. Check out these techniques to see if you notification any patterns and then compare your findings with a compass:





Trees will thrive their branches in the direction that receives the most sun. This method that trees will have more branches ~ above the south encountering side because it is exposed to the most sunlight throughout the day.

You are watching: What side of the tree does moss grow on


Mosses will prosper on any hard surface, including the sides of trees, yet they prefer to grow on North-facing surfaces due to the fact that they choose the darker, much more humid environment. If you don’t see any moss cultivation on trees, also check on rocks. Mosses love to prosper on tough surfaces, therefore trees and also rocks space perfect dwellings for them.


After you check for moss, look around the base of some trees because that ant hills. Ants will develop their colonies so the they space exposed come the most sunlight, i beg your pardon is normally facing south. The exposure to sunlight offers them with an ext heat and much better insulation for their underground colony.


Vegetation and Undergrowth


As stated before, things that challenge south obtain the most sunlight which is vital for tree growth. If you room in the woods and see a patch of thick, luscious vegetation, that is probably on a southward encountering slope.


Around the go trail in ~ Lake Lynn (a great City the Raleigh park come visit, if you haven’t already), there are a couple of blackberry bushes located right turn off the follow in many spots. If friend take notice of the bushes, friend will watch that castle all have actually red berries, but specific bushes have some berries the are beginning to ripen and also turn black. This is because those bushes face…you can probably guess in ~ this point…south! Fruit bushes, trees, and vines that challenge south start to ripen earlier than the very same plants that are dealing with the various other directions.

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Big Dipper

Using the stars to uncover directions deserve to be a tiny tricky. There is one star in the sky that always points North, i m sorry is why it has the nickname, “The north Star.” yet how deserve to you choose it the end from all the various other stars in the night sky? This ( method makes it a small easier because it is every based around the huge Dipper, which is one of the most easily identifiable star trends in the night sky.

Of course, there are always going to it is in variations in nature, and these techniques are not as reputable as a compass. Moss doesn’t just grow dealing with north, trees have actually branches pointing in all directions, and also plants won’t die if lock are encountering North, East, or West. But, observing and checking these points can help you an alert patterns in the organic world. They will also give girlfriend a glimpse right into how complicated it was for people that live long back to navigate without tools. Although they might be imperfect tools, an imperfect tool is better than no device at all if friend ever uncover yourself in one emergency.

Check the end the video clip below to discover a small about how compasses work and see exactly how you deserve to make your very own compass through items you probably already have in your house! 

Interested in learning much more about compasses and orienteering? keep your eye out for next issue of the Nature link to learn exactly how compasses work, what orienteering is, and also how friend can construct your very own compass with products you have the right to find approximately your house!

Department: Parks, Recreation and cultural Resources related Services: Nature Parks, Preserves, and Programs



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