When Plan A doesn’t work out, ya go to Plan B.

But trees can do you one better, alright?

So, here’s a young dipterocarp, humming along contentedly in the quiet understorey, everything going according to plan, when one fine day, one of the big trees in the canopy is struck by lightening and falls over. All of a sudden, a big gap opens up and there is an abundance of light.

Light, which is so important to a plant’s growth.

The dipterocarp has to react to this change quickly. If it doesn’t, the gap could grow over, or another tree could push it out of the running. Either way, it’s a matter of life and death.

To absorb as much light as possible, as quickly as possible, the young dipterocarp has to expand its surface area to the maximum extent possible. Recall that trees absorb light at their surface.

And so, the dipterocarp has a growth spurt. Not just upwards towards the light, however. It also starts to reiterate itself.

Reiteration is a technical term for when the tree repeats its basic architectural model over and over again. It’s different from branching, which occurs according to the original architectural plan. The reiteration by contrast is off plan.

How can you tell a reiteration apart from a branch?

At the lower levels of the tree, the girth of the reiterated complex is wide like a trunk rather than a branch.

The higher up the tree grows, the more light it gets and the more reiterations. With each new wave of reiterations, more growth tissue is created in the tree, which in turn increases the tree’s longevity.

All of this is a fancy way of saying, when conditions are fickle, the dipterocarp makes the best of it by reiterating itself over and over again, each reiteration adapting to the ever-changing environment.

Reiteration is different from cloning, though, because the reiteration is not identical to the original tree. Remember, it’s off plan.

To put it in human terms, imagine if every time you messed up, you could will into existence an improved version of yourself to continue to live your best life under new circumstances. And when that version couldn’t handle the slog anymore, it would create yet another version, and so on. Only, all those versions were literally part of you.