I'm writing a proposal that contrasts systems with two different geometries. I'm looking for a word or short phrase (preferably non-technical), that would describe one of the geometries, which is space analogous to the space under a forest canopy and among the trees plus the gaps in the canopy and clearings, i.e. all the air space in the forest.

For comparison, the other system I'm describing is the vertebrate circulatory system, which can be described as a tree of vessels.

Some words I've considered are anastomosing and reticulum/reticulated but both words miss some aspects of the system I'm trying to describe (the clearings/gaps in the canopy) and also describe some parts of the system I'm contrasting it with (the vascular system).

  • 1
    There's glade/gladed, but I'm not sure it works for you. There's also arbor, the same.
    – stevesliva
    Jan 18 '17 at 4:09
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    Anecdotally there is a german childrens song going like this: What trees must they be, Where the big elephants go for a walk, Without bumping against them? Right are the trees, left are the trees, And in between are the spaces in between, Where the big elephants go for a walk Without bumping against them!
    – skymningen
    Jan 18 '17 at 13:34
  • 2
    Can we get an example sentence for this word? I'm curious if you're looking for something more clinical or more poetic. Jan 18 '17 at 15:20
  • 2
    Not an answer, but if you're curious.. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crown_shyness
    – TsSkTo
    Jan 18 '17 at 19:47
  • Shouldn't this be asked on a forestry or biology site?
    – Martin F
    Jan 18 '17 at 20:18

The word "interstice" comes to mind. I'm a biology graduate and we referred to the space between the body's tissues as the interstitial space.


(noun) usually interstices ; An intervening space, especially a very small one

"sunshine filtered through the interstices of the arching trees"

  • This is close. It suggests one important features of the geometry – interconnected voids, as among sand grains – but not the structure of those voids and their connections. Might be the best I can do though.
    – Mike V
    Jan 19 '17 at 11:34
  • 5
    Oh, yeah - there is also it's adverb: "Interstitial" - as in "interstitial fluid", or "interstitial space" (albeit a little redundant). .
    – Brad
    Jan 19 '17 at 15:33

There is a concept in graphic design known as negative space which I think covers your intended meaning perfectly - Wikipedia has a decent article on it.

  • This is too generic on its own, but maybe as a phrase "a space like the negative space of a forest" would work.
    – Mike V
    Jan 21 '17 at 23:35

How about "interspace"?

a space between things.
"the narrow interspaces between cells"

I think in all its simplicity "void" would also work well for your purpose.

  • This seems to be the generic word for space between things. Probably works well with everything.
    – Trilarion
    Jan 18 '17 at 16:23
  • This is too generic: could describe any geometry.
    – Mike V
    Jan 21 '17 at 23:31
  • While I agree with your accepted answer, I don't actually think the definition of interstice, describes geometry any clearer than interspace.
    – visibleman
    Jan 23 '17 at 1:23

How about the word "clearing"?

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    A clearing describes a portion of a forest that lacks trees, no?
    – jpmc26
    Jan 19 '17 at 1:04
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    @jpmc26 you are right. A clearing is "an open space in a forest, especially one cleared for cultivation." So this answer is not suitable here. -1
    – NVZ
    Jan 19 '17 at 5:31
  • @NVZ Your definition relies on some knowledge about forests, though. If taken literally, it would fit to the description: Every space in the forest which is not used by a tree. Jan 19 '17 at 7:50
  • @AlexanderKosubek I see what you mean. But this site has a policy that answers should be definitive, not just based on opinions. This answer is of poor quality. So the -1 stays. P.S. It's not my definition. It's from Oxford Dict.
    – NVZ
    Jan 19 '17 at 7:53
  • @NVZ Sorry, the definition you provided, then. - I don't want to argue about the quality of this answer, I just wanted to point out that one could mistake "clearing" for a fitting answer, even considering the definition! Jan 19 '17 at 8:15

The space between the trees is most commonly known as the forest floor, then above that is the understorey layer & above that the canopy layer.

Reference: Wikipedia

  • That typically describes the plants, etc. in that space, not the space itself; or am I mistaken?
    – Mike V
    Jan 21 '17 at 23:36

How about interarboreal space?


arboreal: Relating to trees.

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